During STELLAR lessons, pupils are encouraged to engage in discussions with their teacher and classmates.
"Maybe he slipped out of his room to watch football while his parents were sleeping."
"Then he would get a headache the next day!"
Looking at a picture shown to them during an English lesson, Primary Five pupils from Northland Primary School were eager to share their predictions of the story, justify their comments and build on each other's ideas. After which, they would receive a copy of the actual excerpt from the story, Ten by Shamini Flint. They would read, jot down key points and then review their predictions in pairs.
This method of retelling a story is a reading comprehension strategy used at upper primary level, which engages pupils in a range of language and cognitive processes as they apply major skills such as listening, reading, speaking and writing. It is one method of the holistic approach recommended by the STrategies for English Language Learning And Reading (STELLAR) programme, developed and based on research and pedagogical approaches.
"The STELLAR approach has made the learning of English very fun and when pupils enjoy the lessons, they learn better," says Mrs Siti Ardah Hazry, who teaches English to Primary 5 pupils of Northland Primary School.
According to the results from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2011, Singapore emerged among the top few internationally. Our marked progress over the years is indicative of the effectiveness of the STELLAR programme, which was introduced for the lower primary level since 2006 and rolled out islandwide since 2010.
Singapore students were ranked among the top few internationally and improvements were observed across all abilities in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2011. The study was carried out among randomly selected Primary 4 students from all primary schools.
STELLAR at the Upper Primary Level
STELLAR is being implemented at the upper primary level this year, as an extension of the current lower primary programme. For pupils, the curriculum progression from lower to upper primary will be more gradual and easier to follow. As Mrs Hazry explains, "In upper primary, there is less scaffolding, which means less guidance and demonstrations from teachers. They are required to read on their own, and are taught to use comprehension strategies, such as retelling, to understand the text."
Mrs Siti Ardah Hazry uses STELLAR materials, such as the image of the child watching soccer, to guide Primary Five pupils through the "retelling" strategy.
During discussions, pupils learn to speak confidently and amicably when giving and receiving opinions. Peer assessments also motivate them to reflect on their ideas, resulting in greater maturity when they write.
"The use of STELLAR is more authentic and effective. The children are able to see how the grammatical item or vocabulary word is used in a real context, and then apply it in their writing," notes Mrs Hazry, as she explained how children pick up on strategies used in the books they read.
This skill based teaching programme reveals the explicit thinking process of pupils, enabling teachers to better assess the weaknesses and strengths of each student and work from there.
STELLAR at Home
Parents can encourage the good practices promoted in school to create a fuller learning environment, regardless of the language spoken at home.
"Once, my daughter, Zoe, came home and was able to string her words into a story based on a series of pictures and key words discussed during a STELLAR class. I was quite impressed because I was struggling to help her with comprehension and composition," said Mrs Jay Ang, who now follows the STELLAR recommendation to encourage reading as a foundation for English.
Mrs Jay Ang, a parent, encourages her daughter, Zoe to read and brings her to the library regularly.
She brings Zoe to the library regularly to borrow books, in support of the school-based Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading (USSR) programme, which promotes a culture of reading in Northland Primary School. For parents who are unsure of what books to choose, they can refer to the Joy of Reading 2, a list of age-appropriate books available in our public libraries.
"I'm very happy that now, she's on autopilot when it comes to reading!"
Parents can also use STELLAR strategies at home, or encourage their children to try out the language games found on the STELLAR website. For lower primary children, parents can read with them and get them to predict what happens next, or test their understanding with questions.
The strategy of predicting brings more meaning and purpose to reading, as the child becomes curious about what comes next. When the process of predicting is internalised, they will begin to prompt themselves to read to learn.
For upper primary pupils, parents can encourage thinking skills by reviewing and discussing the book after their child has read it.
*Find out more about the STELLAR programme at http://www.stellarliteracy.sg.