Reading and writing are among the most critical things children need to learn to do fluidly, because literacy will impact their learning and ability to express themselves throughout their schooling—and life. As teachers, we need to know a lot about literacy, including a variety of ways to teach it to learners with varying experience, needs, and skills.
10 things teachers should know about literacy
I wonder if anything on this list will surprise you.
1. Literacy is more than reading. Many people think of reading when they hear the word literacy. Literacy refers to the ability to read, write, communicate, and comprehend.
2. Teaching literacy is a complex process. Exceptional teachers understand literacy processes and the developmental path of literacy development.
3. Exceptional teachers use a variety of evidence-based strategies to promote literacy. There are many ways to teach reading and writing that have come in and out of fashion. The bottom line is that it is important to pick programs based on current research evidence. Effective teachers use instructional methods that are explicit, cumulative, sequential, repetitive and systematic.
4. Students need to learn to love reading AND the mechanics. Encouraging a love of reading can promote motivation. Reading aloud and choosing engaging books are just two ways to help students enjoy reading.
5. Children need to have an understanding of print, not just what the letters are called. Students need to know how to hold a book and where to start on the page. They need to understand how to move across from left to right and top to bottom. They need to know that letters are what we use to represent sounds.
6. Learning to speak has ties to learning to read. Songs, word games, and word play can all be part of literacy instruction. Children with hearing, speech, or language delays may have reading struggles.
7. With the right support, struggling readers can excel. Understanding why a child is struggling allows teachers to choose evidence-based approaches that help a student get past stumbling blocks.
8. Exceptional literacy teachers know their students. What a student brings to the table when it comes to literacy really matters. Prior knowledge has a significant effect on reading, so teachers who know their students well, including their background, can help choose effective strategies for the child.
9. Learning reading and writing involves risks. Students have to try things and be willing to make mistakes when learning to read and write, or upleveling these skills. Creating a safe, supportive learning environment is critical to helping students take these risks. Note that a safe environment and high expectations can and should co-exist.
10. Games absolutely have a place in teaching literacy. Games are one of the many tools teachers have at their disposal for teaching literacy. Students often respond to games because they are fun or don’t feel like work, but well-constructed games give students the opportunity to practice and check skills.
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