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What I Learned About Teaching Literacy My First Year

I learned a lot about teaching literacy my first year and have continued to learn and hone my skills. I’m passionate about helping others teach literacy.

True Confession: My first year of teaching, I had no idea how to teach literacy.

I used word lists and memorization with students and took a haphazard approach to teaching literacy. I didn’t teach the skills or conceptual knowledge my students needed to read. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t very effective.

I hadn’t learned much about phonics in uni (in fact, there was kind of an anti-phonics attitude while I was learning to be a teacher), so I wasn’t using phonics to teach literacy even though I know now that we should.

Sharing what I’ve learned about teaching literacy

I learned a lot about teaching literacy my first year—and have continued to learn and hone my skills. Now I feel confident in my ability to help any student learn to read. And I’m quite passionate about helping others teach literacy.

Know the key literacy skills

Learning literacy is a process. Students do best with a sequential, cumulative, skills-based approach. Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about the three essential skills that kids need to know to learn to read and spell accurately. We looked more closely at all three:

Build fluency

Those three core skills help students decode words. As students develop their decoding skills, you’ll want to help them develop their reading fluency.

To read fluently, students need to be able to read accurately, quickly and expressively. Developing reading fluency is critical as it is related to comprehension.

One way to practice reading with more speed and accuracy is to choose a very short (100–200 words) passage. Have students read the passage. Then have them read it again more quickly. Continue repeated, faster reading until the student has met a pre-set benchmark.

Keep students motivated

Ideally, all students would love to read, but reading isn’t always fun or enjoyable for students. In addition to working the critical skill sets, set up your room and practices to help develop the joy of reading. For example, set up safe, cozy reading spaces or clear areas where students can focus without distraction. Read to students to engage them in stories.

Choose the right books for reluctant readers. Although many schools don’t have decodable reading books, they are worth exploring as they are focused on specific decoding skills.

And give your students reasons to read. If you have struggling readers and this feels impossible, don’t give up! It is amazing when a kiddo who has struggled and told you they “hate to read” asks if they can read more.

Keep it fun

Keep literacy learning fun by using phonics games. It’s even better when you can pair the right book with the right game.

Well chosen books and games focus on the specific skills and word parts students need to focus on.

Over the years, I’ve created a variety of games and activities that focus on CVC words and longer words, digraphs, specific sounds with many spellings, and more. I’ve put these together into The Complete Phonics Kit.

The individual items in the kit follow a systematic and structured approach to introducing sounds and spellings. The kit is suitable for students aged from 5 to 12 years and combines a range of individual, small group and whole class activities.

You can learn more about this 1100+ page kit (and get yours!) here.

I learned a lot about teaching literacy my first year and have continued to learn and hone my skills. I’m passionate about helping others teach literacy.

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