Spotlight on Literacy Education at Bank Street: An Interview with Melanie Bryon

Melanie Bryon headshotWe are excited to share deeper insights into the Bank Street approach through a new spotlight series featuring interviews with Bank Street School for Children educators on a variety of topics. Below, we are sharing an interview with Melanie Bryon, Lower School & Middle School Director of Student Support & Learning, School for Children, about literacy education at Bank Street and how we support students in the development of literacy skills, cultivating a love of reading and empowering student success.

Q: Can you briefly describe your role at Bank Street?
A: As the Director of Student Support & Learning, I work alongside teachers and families in supporting students at both the individual and grade-wide level. This involves engaging in the classroom, reviewing assessments with teachers, planning and implementing curriculum, and sharing new research in the fields of education, neuroscience, and cognitive science in ways that can integrate in our progressive curriculum and teaching practices.

Q: What is the Bank Street approach to literacy education?
A: Our instruction is designed to support children as they systematically build literacy skills and strategies, starting with phonemic awareness, which is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate sounds within spoken words. This builds into our phonics instruction with the programs Fundations and Heggerty, both of which allow students to put letters and sounds together to make words, and then, use those skills to read progressively more complex texts.

At Bank Street, children spend significant time building foundational literacy skills by speaking, listening, and exploring print. In our younger grades, students use language in playful ways and then start to develop an understanding of structured phonics as they establish a firm foundation for accurate reading and spelling. All of this work is supported by language-rich classrooms, where children interact with engaging books and share their ideas in a variety of ways. Additionally, we work with curricular material that matches our belief that children need to see themselves and their experiences reflected in books.

Q: What role does assessment play in literacy teaching and learning at Bank Street?
A: Bank Street educators constantly think about where children are in their literacy development and identify their next areas for growth. This is done through observation, discrete assessments that focus on a specific skill, and ongoing reflection on the work children are engaged in. This allows us to monitor for any misconceptions and gaps in understanding and provide the appropriate scaffolding to move children forward.

Q: How does the School for Children connect students to books and foster a love of reading and writing
A: Reading and writing flow throughout the day at Bank Street. Children learn skills through explicit instruction and then are encouraged to use these developing skills in authentic ways across subject areas during the school day. For example, younger children might be writing to label a structure they have built in the block area. As they get older, students engage in thoughtful conversations around text they have read, sharing insights, discussing various perspectives, and developing critical thinking skills.

Q: What role does technology play in enhancing the literacy learning experience?
A: We are closely following the research on technology’s influence on learning, in particular the differences between online and print-based reading. We feel strongly at this point that children’s exposure to digital material should be limited in the younger grades as brains and neural pathways are being developed. As children grow, we use technology in thoughtful ways when necessary.

Register for one of our upcoming open houses to learn more about other aspects of Bank Street’s program and our powerful approach to teaching and learning.