Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

STELLAR is no longer a new word in Singapore primary schools. But do you know what students do in their lower primary English STELLAR lessons?

Have you heard about the Shared Book Approach (SBA) used in STELLAR?

I taught Primary 1 and 2 classes many years ago when STELLAR was still a new initiative in some schools. Honestly, I enjoyed teaching English using the STELLAR strategies. Most of my students found English lessons to be more fun and interesting too, because of STELLAR.

STELLAR is started with a vision to develop in children a love for reading and for them to have a strong foundation in the English Language.

Lower Primary English STELLAR

There are three primary strategies used in the STELLAR Programme:

  • The Shared Book Approach (SBA)
  • The Modified Language Experience Approach (MLEA)
  • Learning Centres (LC)

What is the Shared Book Approach (SBA)?

The Shared Book Approach (SBA) is one of the three strategies used in the STELLAR Programme.

During a shared reading session, the English teacher reads a storybook (known as a big book in STELLAR classrooms) to the students. Students get to engage in oral discussions with the teacher and their classmates.

In its most basic form, the SBA is similar to what a child would experience when his parent(s) or other caregivers read to him at home. Research shows that children who have an adult read to them frequently from young are known to have better reading and cognitive skills later on in life.

The Shared Book Approach in Lower Primary

In Primary 1 and 2 English STELLAR lessons, teachers make use of big books during the shared reading sessions. The big books are simply a bigger version of some story books titles, picked by MOE to be used in the STELLAR Programme. These titles are supposed to be interesting, although I personally found some to be rather dry and boring. Each title usually lasts two weeks. During these two weeks, students engage in various learning activities and other follow-up activities such as art and craft that are related to the theme of the big book title.

Read on to find out what teachers do with the big books during SBA. I am sharing from my personal experience.

The First Reading

The teacher starts by introducing the new big book to the class. Students and teacher talk about the title, cover illustrations and predict what the story is going to be about.

The teacher then reads the story through once, stopping for prediction, asking students to predict the story as it progresses.

The purpose of this First Reading is simply to read for understanding and enjoyment.

The Second Reading

During the next lesson, the teacher will read the same big book to the class a second time. This time, students already know what the story is about, so there will not be any more prediction. Instead, the teacher focuses on specific language items, sentence structures, punctuation, phonics, grammar and vocabulary found in the story. The purpose now is to explicitly teach students the selected grammar and vocabulary items related to the story.

This is where we find the main difference between a STELLAR lesson and a conventional English lesson before STELLAR came along.

In the past, students learnt grammar and vocabulary mainly from dry and boring textbooks. The grammar rules and vocabulary taught were segmented and isolated. We had to memorise the rules and be drilled by doing page after page of exercises on each grammar rule.

With STELLAR, grammar and vocabulary is now being taught in context, through the big books. Children get to see how the words are being used in the story. They get to ask questions, listen and discuss. It is a whole new approach to teaching grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, phonics and other components of English.

What’s the Big Deal about the Shared Book Approach?

Personally, I like the Shared Book Approach. I have noticed that my students were generally excited whenever it was time to introduce a new big book in class. They were more engaged. There was a great deal of reading, listening and speaking. Sometimes, there would be much laughter as we discussed and talked about the story.

Most children enjoy listening to a story and being read to. For children who have not experienced being read to regularly at home, the Shared Book Approach is great because they get to enjoy listening to a story and reading storybooks together with their teachers and peers in class.