There is no magic bullet when it comes to teaching literacy, but we do know that a good teacher is more effective than any one program or strategy. Richard Allington is an American scholar and researcher who has written more than 100 articles and several books about “reading, learning disabilities and effective instruction in classroom settings.” In one of his articles, he explains the six traits for teaching literacy well:
- Time: spend more time on reading and writing.
- Text: have lots of books for children to read.
- Teach: actively teach useful strategies.
- Talk: let students talk about how and what they are learning.
- Task: give students longer assignments to build stamina, instead of short tasks.
- Test: make sure to assess children during the project and not just on a one-time test.
Improving Your Literacy Instruction
One of the best ways to learn more about teaching literacy is to earn a master’s degree in literacy. In your own classroom, you can address real student issues using the knowledge you gained from the master’s degree in literacy program. When teachers struggle with challenges such as divided time in the classroom or small classroom libraries, they often have no one to turn to. In a program designed for teaching literacy, teachers can built their own support systems.
Practical Strategies for Teaching Reading
When considering the most successful tactics for teaching literacy, a teacher should focus on modeling great literacy strategies throughout the day. Young children look to their teachers as models for how to behave and think. Teachers should talk about what they are doing and thinking as they read aloud. In this way, they are explicitly teaching thinking about thinking (also called metacognition). Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, shares other ways to improve literacy instruction:
- Dedicate classroom time for reading every single day.
- Allow children to self-select their books.
- Ensure students have a plan for what they will be reading and why.
- Teach children that reading preferences are okay but that they should also explore new topics.
Practical Strategies for Teaching Writing
Effective writing instruction results in children who can produce clear, understandable writing for different purposes. If teachers expect children to accomplish this, they must explain the purpose for writing and how to achieve it. When teaching literacy, it is important to model for children as much as possible. Teachers who are pursuing a master’s degree in literacy can learn about the three main forms of writing: informative, narrative and persuasive. They can also learn how to create a variety of interesting and engaging lessons to practice these forms of writing. A critical strategy for writing teachers is to give students enough time every day to write. The more students practice, the more independent they will become.
Literacy is a gift teacher pass to their students. Teachers who facilitate learning through a love of literature and writing can create a joyful experience for children early on. Together, teachers and students can become a learning community that shares a love of language and communication.
Learn more about the UT Arlington online M.Ed. in literacy studies.
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