Are you making these common mistakes when teaching reading in K-2?
Let’s make sure we’re avoiding these ten common mistakes!
Mistake #1 – Neglecting phonemic awareness instruction
For years I thought a “hit or miss” approach to phonological and phonemic awareness was sufficient. Throw in some songs throughout the day, clap the syllables in our names, rhyme a bit, and play beginning sound games … that should cover it, right?
For some kids, yes. This may be enough. Likely, these children come from a language-rich background and have been read to since they were babies.
But explicit phonological and phonemic awareness instruction is helpful for everyone, and (as researchers are telling us) often the MISSING LINK for kids who struggle to read … even for struggling readers who do come from a literacy-rich background with parents who read to them every day.
Give a solid foundation right from the beginning with daily phonological and phonemic awareness instruction. It needn’t take more than ten minutes, and you’ll be amazed at how much your students learn! If you have the budget for it, Heggerty has a high quality and affordable phonemic awareness curriculum. You can also get a free, quality program at Reading Done Right.
Mistake #2 – Misunderstanding phonics
I’m sorry to say it, but I misunderstood the role of phonics for years.
Until very recently, in fact.
I saw phonics as just one tool kids could use as they approached words. I believed kids should also use picture clues and “what would make sense” to solve the words in their leveled readers.
Fast forward a number of months and LOTS of study of the science of reading, and now I believe differently.
Systematic, explicit phonics instruction is KEY for early readers. Not because we want reading to be boring, but because they absolutely must learn to focus on print as they attach sounds to letters (phonemes to graphemes) and decode words.
This is what kids need to do to map words into their permanent sight word vocabulary.
(It’s called orthographic mapping, but I’ll spare you details for now!)
Mistake #3 – Waiting to teach comprehension
Now I know that those simple decodable books that we give our beginning readers don’t offer much in the way of teaching comprehension. (And even if you’re using predictable leveled books, you have to admit that they’re not very deep either.)
But we still need to teach it.
A great way to focus on comprehension is through shared reading and quality, interactive read-alouds.
Mistake #4 – We spend too much time teaching the whole group.
Whole group teaching is important. It’s when we teach on-grade level material to the whole class.
We teach phonemic awareness explicitly, we teach phonics explicitly, and we teach reading comprehension through interactive read alouds.
But we accelerate our students’ learning by teaching them in small, needs-based groups.
Mistake #5 – Not giving our students time to read on their own
Too often we spend most of our reading time teaching students about reading instead of giving them time to read.
While early readers don’t need long lengths of time to do this (10-15 minutes may be sufficient), we must schedule the time.
Reading independently may get tiresome for brand-new readers, but we need to find fun ways to give them independent reading practice with their decodable texts. Consider making buddy reading part of your daily routine.
Mistake #6 – We keep our students busy instead of having them do meaningful literacy activities.
It’s important to differentiate by teaching students in small, needs-based groups and one-on-one. But what’s the rest of the class doing?
Do you know why I think this is?
I think it’s because we’re exhausted. Switching out learning centers day after day, week after week, month after month, is burning both us – and our laminators – out. What we really need is authentic, meaningful literacy activities that don’t require hours and hours of prep every weekend. (You can get started with these ideas!)
Mistake #7 – We don’t use assessment to inform our instruction.
Let’s talk traditional assessment: Read the story. Answer the questions. Take a test at the end of the unit. Get a report card grade.
Checking on understanding is important. But assessment is so much more. We can give a variety of informal assessments to see what our learners know from day to day – and adjust our teaching based on what we learn.
Mistake #8 – We think we can find the perfect curriculum for teaching reading.
Teachers have been looking for the perfect reading curriculum – and publishers have been trying to create it – for decades.
But we haven’t found one because it doesn’t and won’t exist.
No matter how great your reading curriculum is, you will need to supplement. Keep your eyes open for where and when that might be.
Mistake #9 – We forget our ultimate goal.
We get caught up in reading skills and strategies. We get so overcome with checking things off our list and moving children through reading levels, that we forget that our ultimate goal is twofold.
Yes, we want our students to be proficient readers. But we also want them to become life-long readers.
Mistake #10 – We wear ourselves out.
I’m with you here – in fact, I can’t tell you how many late nights I spent at school (not to mention all those hours on the weekends) my first few years of teaching reading.
I knew I needed a different approach if I was going to meet the needs of all my first and second grade readers. But I felt like a hamster on a wheel – running, running, running … and getting nowhere.
Since I spent all my spare time trying to find the solution to meeting a group of diverse readers, I wore myself out. I couldn’t bring my best energy and self to the classroom because I wasn’t getting enough sleep!
I want better for you.
That’s why I teamed up with my colleague, Becky Spence of This Reading Mama, to create a comprehensive online course for K-2 reading teachers.
It’s called Teaching Every Reader.
When you join us, you will …
- Pinpoint exactly what your students need to learn with our easy-to-use assessments.
- Accelerate student learning through small, needs-based groups.
- Meet students exactly where they are through dynamic one-on-one conferences.
- Keep the rest of the class learning with year-long, easily-differentiated centers.
- Save hours (and hours!) of time with over 100 brand-new, low prep student activities.
Best of all … you’ll stop teaching to the middle, and start teaching everyone.