Are You Teaching Reading the Wrong Way?

Literacy is the most important skill that elementary school students can learn. Without the ability to read, it will be very difficult for a student to succeed in other academic subjects. Because of this, teachers cannot afford to make mistakes during reading instruction. The stakes are just that high. Prison officials calculate the number of cells that they will need based on the number of children that cannot read on grade level by 3rd grade. Think about that for a moment.

Why do they do it? Because if you cannot read on grade level by 3rd grade, you are at a very high risk of falling behind academically. If you can not read the subject matter presented to you, chances are you won’t be able to succeed academically. You will never catch up, and eventually, you will probably drop out, and end up in the school to prison pipeline. All because your reading ability never quite caught up with your grade level.

How can teachers help?

Teachers who are “reading” this need to ask themselves, am I teaching reading the wrong way? If you are, you could be setting your students up for a lifetime for failure. To find out, answer these questions honestly, and use your responses to inform your practice.

Am I using a balanced approach?

A balanced approach is a pedagogical method that emphasizes different aspects of literacy instruction at different stages appropriate to students’ needs. It is important to realize that there is no one way to teach reading. So, if you are using a one size fits all approach, you need to stop immediately. Different students respond will to different methods and strategies. Also, students will pass through the various stages of literacy development at a pace that is developmentally appropriate for them.

Am I utilizing best practices?

Educators have been teaching students to read since humans began writing pictograms on cave walls. In modern times, we have researched and confirmed which methods of teaching reading work. Because of this, there are a multitude of methods, strategies, and resources that can be used for literacy instruction. The question is, have your methods of teaching reading been proven to work? If they have, keep up the good work. If they have not, consider researching evidence-based literacy practices and use those instead.

Is a bottom-up approach at the core of my reading instruction?

A bottom-up approach is a pedagogical method that emphasizes the subskills associated with reading and writing, as well as the testing for proficiency in those subskills. No matter what methods you use in literacy instruction, they need to be taught in the correct sequence to be effective. This simply means students learn the fundamentals first, then intermediate literacy skills, and then more advanced skills.

What did I miss? What questions should teachers ask themselves if they want to know if they are teaching reading the right way?

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