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.
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.
But we accelerate our students’ learning by teaching them in small, needs-based groups.
Mistake #5 – Not giving our students time to practice reading
Too often we spend most of our reading time teaching students about reading instead of giving them time to read.
Give your students lots of practice reading word lists, phrases, and connected text.
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!)
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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.
I highly recommend Acadience Reading for benchmark assessment and progress monitoring.
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.
In the past I was so overcome with the desire to help my students love reading that I was afraid to do explicit teaching. I thought it might bore them and turn them off to reading.
But as Anita Archer has said, “Success breeds motivation.”
It’s wonderful if our students learn to love reading … but our number one goal is to teach them to read.
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!
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