Effective literacy teaching practices in Portugal
A study in first grade
Keywords:first grade, reading achievement, reading instruction, teaching practices
This article examines the effect of literacy teaching practices on the reading ability of first grade pupils in Portuguese, a semi-transparent orthography. First grade teachers (N = 267) self-reported their literacy teaching practices through a questionnaire. Hierarchical cluster analysis revealed three groups with different practices—Language experience, Phonic and Balanced teachers. Eight teachers from each group were randomly selected for classroom observation (N = 24) to deepen the information concerning their practices namely to analyse classroom management procedures and materials used. The reading abilities of their pupils were assessed at the beginning and end of first grade (N =465) through two tasks: word reading and comprehension. Multivariate analysis of covariance, controlling for mother's educational levels, showed that pupils under balanced teachers had better results than pupils under the other two groups which had equivalent performances. These results are in line with those described in the English literature, pointing out that the key word to describe successful literacy teaching practices is balance. Balance of classroom management procedures, from more teacher-centred to more pupils-centred; balance of different types of reading materials, from more authentic materials to materials designed to work specific skills; and balance of explicit instruction in grapheme-phoneme correspondences with reading and writing authentic texts.