Bullimbal School uses a balanced literacy approach to literacy teaching in all classrooms, based on information outlined in “Research-Based Practices for Creating Access to the General Curriculum in Reading and Literacy for Students with Significant Intellectual Disabilities” Erickson, Hanser, Hatch and Sanders (2009).
At Bullimbal School there are a mix of students who are emergent or conventional literacy learners.
For emergent literacy learners we understand that there is a set of skills which lead to later literacy success. Our emergent literacy instruction specifically targets these skill areas. A typical emergent literacy program will include these components, based on the Building Blocks model, Hall & Williams (2001):
For conventional literacy learners, we understand that there are different areas of literacy instruction which may prevent them from reading with comprehension at one level higher. Our conventional balanced literacy instruction works to ensure that each student gets input in each of these areas based on the Four Blocks approach, Cunningham, Hall and Sigmon, (1999):
We recognise that the ‘Big Six’ components of reading are an important model of balanced literacy instruction for conventional readers and that many aspects of the Big Six are also appropriate for emergent readers.
The Big Six are:
Oral Language – this is targeted explicitly every day with our Priority of Effective Communicators and our communication interventions.
Phonological Awareness – this is targeted explicitly for emergent literacy learners in the letters and sounds block and for conventional literacy learners in the working with words block. It is also targeted incidentally through many other literacy and language activities as we are aware that this is often an area that many students with complex communication needs struggle with.
Phonics – this is targeted explicitly for conventional literacy learners in the working with words block.
Vocabulary – again this is targeted as part of the school’s priority of Effective Communicators. It is also targeted explicitly in shared reading and incidentally in all other literacy blocks for both emergent and conventional literacy learners.
Fluency – this is targeted explicitly for conventional literacy learners in the self-selected reading block.
Comprehension – this is targeted explicitly for conventional literacy learners in the reading comprehension block.
We also conduct annual literacy assessments which help guide our teaching. We have deliberately included both literacy and language on the diagrams above as we recognise that good literacy instruction has a positive outcome on language development – and that language development has a positive outcome on literacy development.
Please note: some students are transitional in their skill level which means they have consolidated most of their emergent literacy understandings and are ready for conventional instruction.
For more information see: