Reading is one of those fundamental skills that all students, regardless or interests or aptitudes, must acquire. The modern world is built on the written word, and kids who fail to gain strength in literacy will fail to thrive as adults.
While reading habits start in the home, teachers have a significant impact on how children approach reading — specifically when it comes to strategies for comprehension. Unfortunately, not all reading teachers are alike; many teachers do not impart the right tactics at the right time, causing many students to stagnate in their reading development and ultimately fail to acquire the reading skills they need.
If you want to be an excellent reading teacher, you need to have the right mindset and tools. Here’s a quick guide to the right resources for helping kids learn to read.
How the Best Teachers Think
Before you can deliver results similar to those of the best teachers, you might need to check your attitude and beliefs about students and reading. Specifically, it’s critical that you understand that all children are unique, especially when it comes to their development of reading and writing skills. Trying to impose identical education strategies on each child will not bring about success; in fact, in most cases, it will result in frustration on the part of teacher and student.
Good teachers know the important difference between authoritative and authoritarian teaching one is demonstrating effective control through listening and explaining, and the other is wielding unilateral control and demanding obedience without explanation. Acting authoritatively helps teachers reduce delinquent behavior in the classroom and function as role models, which students want to emulate. It’s vital that you remember the limits to your power and the usefulness of sharing power with your students. By lifting your kids up and empowering them with the right tools and techniques, everyone benefits.
The best teachers understand that every student is capable of growth — it’s just a matter of identifying learning styles and administering the proper teaching strategies. That’s why it is vital that teachers have a variety of ways to teach reading, which will give students many opportunities to gain the skills for success.
The Science of Teaching Reading
Unfortunately, too many grade school teachers are left to develop their own reading education strategies — and it should be no surprise that many get it wrong. Just as the acquisition of language, what many people call “learning to talk” follows a predictable pattern discovered through scientific study, the ability to read develops over a typical course. It’s important that teachers understand the patterns of learning reading and harness them in the classroom.
There are five components of early reading instruction:
Phonemic awareness. It’s imperative that early readers not only understand that words are composed of sounds but that they learn to recognize those sounds on paper. Teachers can help students identify phonemes common to English and manipulate phonemes using letters.
Phonics. Building on phonemic awareness, phonics breaks down words into combinations of letters, which make up phonemes. While phonics has fallen out of fashion in education, studies indicate that systematic phonics education can improve a student’s ability to sound out and spell words at the very beginning of reading acquisition.
Vocabulary. Students develop two separate vocabularies: an oral vocabulary, made of words they say, and a print vocabulary, which consists of words they can recognize written down. Unfortunately, if a student’s oral vocabulary is small, its more difficult to use phonics to decode a word. Thus, teachers must also include vocab-building strategies in their reading lesson plans.
Fluency. Over time, students should be able to read rapidly, accurately and with expression, which allows them to process the text to a greater degree. In Common Core, fluency is taught through close reading strategies, which teachers should study and adopt.
Comprehension. Determining the meaning of a text requires students not only to be capable of decoding the written words but also to think critically and apply reasoning techniques to the written text. Comprehension comes easier when texts are linked to kids’ field of knowledge, but teachers should be able to provide strategies to help students recall information, summarize and answer questions about provided texts.
Practising and providing explicit, systematic instruction in these components — which is to say incorporating each component into reading lessons to give students a well-rounded reading education — is what the best teachers do. If you want to give your kids the best chance at becoming strong, capable readers, you need to research scientifically proven strategies and apply them in your classroom.