Teach in Reading Classrooms
Trying to teach in reading classrooms is something that can be challenging with all of the different information out there. First off, I am so happy that it is finally summer. I can sit back, breathe and celebrate making it through the school year and if you are a teacher, or you teach your own children, you should too!
Most of you may know that this was my first year back in the classroom full time. It was a tough decision, but I was soooooo ready to get back into the groove of teaching and what I wanted more than anything is to finally teach reading the right way.
Before stepping back into my own classroom, I had done a lot of previous research and created resources for my son on a journey to teach him (at the very least), the foundation of reading so I was very excited to implement the Science of Reading (SOR) in my classroom. I also just really wanted to make an impact on how to teach in reading classrooms now that I knew what to do.
It was disappointing to learn that the curriculum I was required to teach taught cueing. I knew as soon as I was told to teach it, that I wouldn’t do it. I also knew if I wasn’t going to do it that I needed a plan. The plan was developing as the school year went on, but now that it is over, I want to share the 5 things that worked for me. These things will help teach in reading classrooms (or homes) , even if your school is not up to speed yet!
5 Ways to Teach Reading In Your Classroom
1 . Stay Informed
I am listing this as the top thing that will make your life easier because this one thing will make everything else on this list a piece of cake. When I say stay informed, I mean DO YOUR RESEARCH and GET TRAINED. There is so much research out there ( and I am not talking about Instagram pages). I mean actual research studies, books written by experts and research-based training. I love Instagram pages and blogs too, but do not just settle for what other people are telling you.Start looking into research and training for yourself.
The two trainings I recommend are Orton Gillingham Training through IMSE and LETRS training through LEXIA. I am currently trained in Orton and halfway through my LETRS training. LETRS alone will give you the information you need to have a successful year, but it is not a curriculum so you will have to use your knowledge to find what works. Those are both expensive trainings so if your school is not providing it, or reimbursing you, you can look into books.
Books you should check out this summer to inform yourself before heading back to school in the fall- Equipped for Reading Success, Shifting the balance, Speech to Print etc. This link pulls up a few of the titles on Amazon.
2. Assess Beyond requirements
If your school is not up to speed and they still use a cueing curriculum, I am certain that they will be assessing using a leveling system. Most schools that still teach cueing, will likely use DRA-2. I found out early in the year that I was going to have to do some additional assessments so that I could find out the information that I truly needed to know to meet my students where they were.
Assessments you can try
First off, even in second grade, I wanted to know their phonological skills. The test I administered was the PAST test and this is where you can find it for free. I recommended doing this for any student K-3. If they are struggling with reading this could likely be a cause so no harm in knowing.
I also issued a spelling inventory as a screener to every child. Here is the book, but you can find the assessment by just searching it online. This not only gave me a glimpse into their spelling, but also their handwriting (because this is also something I will teach for students that need it in second grade). Handwriting should be a focus of instruction in earlier grades. I would not issue this inventory to younger students that are not aware of how sounds relate to letters yet.
In addition to the spelling inventory, I used Acadience Benchmark Materials (specifically NWF) as a screener to check in on word reading skills.
If students did well on those assessments, I stop there for that child. If a child does not do well on one of those assessments I like to dig a little deeper with a full phonics diagnostic assessment. This gives me more information to follow up on or confirm any suspicions that I may have about their errors.
3. Teach Explicitly based on the child’s needs
Now that you will have done extra assessing you will have information that you should use to inform your teaching. I looked through the data to see what students had phonological processing needs, word reading and decoding needs, fluency needs, or comprehension needs. Knowing this helps me know what I need to plan for each student. If there are similarities, I group those students together and I address their needs in small groups. Everyone gets instruction in all components of reading. Their assessment results tell me what to provide intervention in.
4. Find activities that can add additional practice
At this point, you will know your students’ needs. . There are many places to find activities. Sometimes, I have even found activities in Target. Teachers Pay Teachers has activities from many sellers that are fun and engaging. You just have to know what to buy.
5. Use a proven curriculum (as a guide)
We all know that one curriculum can not address every need and will not have every component needed to teach effectively. I like having some sort of curriculum as a guide. Use a curriculum backed by science as your guide and supplement what’s missing. I used Core Knowledge (CKLA) for their scope and sequence and decodable readers. CKLA also has a background knowledge (language comprehension) curriculum.
What I used
I used Orton for my small group format and practice activities that included activities I purchased from IMSE because I did not love the way CKLA handled small groups. I used some Haggerty for phonemic awareness, but supplemented with my resources or others that I found. What you will need to supplement will depend on your students’ needs and your preferences. You can read more about how I used CKLA and Haggerty in this blog post!
I hope you found these 5 things helpful!