Working Smarter, Not Harder
What Teachers of Reading Need to Know and Be Able to Teach
In my 27+ years of involvement in public education, I have never met a teacher that did not care deeply about each and every one of his or her student’s reading skills. As a Special Education teacher within elementary, middle, and high school settings, I, along with my peers, spent countless hours and sleepless nights preparing and delivering lessons with the hope of improving students’ reading skills. As I worked harder, I watched my students’ reading skills improve at a frustratingly slow rate; however, their progress never completely reached the grade level for which they strove. In searching for the answers to student reading success, I was left with the continual feeling that there was something more that could be done. Yet, even with over two decades of experience and the title of M.Ed., I could not identify what was missing in my reading instruction. Having not learned what I needed to know in my first two degrees, I was determined not to let that same mistake happen again. Consequently, before I began my doctoral work, I queried numerous national reading experts in an attempt to identify what I needed to learn.
Over time, I came to understand that I had been missing a fundamental understanding of the scope and sequence of skills necessary to include within effective reading instruction. The often-quoted “five core components” of reading, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, are inarguably crucial components. Until I studied this field in an in-depth manner, however, it was not always clear to me exactly what skills should be included within these components. Along with this is the necessary knowledge of exactly what we mean by these components, how these skills are translated throughout the grade levels, and what components should be emphasized, with what intensity, for which students. This information has enabled me to “work smarter, not harder” to increase the reading skills of students. I share the following outlines of these skills in the hopes that you, too, can use this knowledge to improve student reading achievement. We can make a difference in the lives of so many students!
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