Reading instruction and developing reading skills are so important, especially in the primary grades. It lays down the foundation for a child’s education. Considering this, teachers must know which reading strategies work and which do not!
Strategies to Forget that are Ineffective
The following reading strategies are ineffective for student learning and should be avoided:
Independent Reading without Purpose or Plan
There is research to support independent reading, such as SSR (Silent Sustained Reading) and DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) when done correctly and with a purpose. It is important that students read independently; however, this is not beneficial to students if they are not reading texts on their level and if there is no accountability for what students are reading during these times. To make independent reading worth being on a classroom schedule, it must include coaching from the teacher on which texts students should select and feedback and discussion between the teacher and student.
Poorly Differentiated Spelling Words
Frequently, teachers give out a blanket assignment of spelling words for the entire class for the week on Monday. Then, students are expected to study and remember these spelling words for a test on Friday. This is not helpful to students who are not reading phonetically to tackle such terms. Instead, teachers who expose students to weekly word lists that correlate with word patterns based on student readiness levels will get the best results regarding spelling and retention of spelling words and patterns.
Round Robin Reading
Round Robin, sometimes called Popcorn Reading, is not an effective reading strategy. It can cause embarrassment to students who struggle with reading, cause them to be less focused on the content of the text, and instead focused on the text that they will need to read once it is their turn to read aloud.
Naming Reading Groups with Telling Names
It’s important to remember that students are intuitive and pick up on things as simple as the names of classroom reading groups. If, for example, the slower readers in the class are named “The Sloths,” it will not be long before some of the students catch on to the correlation between the name and the group’s makeup. Nothing squashes motivation to read like being in a reading group titled something remotely negative.
All Group, All the Time
Are there times when whole group instruction is needed in reading? Absolutely. It does, however, need to be brief and meaningful to all students. Full group instruction in the form of mini lessons that preface small, guided reading groups can be a beneficial way to address reading themes and objectives with the entire class.
Effective Strategies to Use Instead
What strategies do work? There are many to choose from. The internet is full of suggested lessons, activities, and strategies that will help students become better readers. Some of the strategies below are options to choose from instead of the ineffective strategies discussed.
Motivate, Motivate, Motivate!
Creating a love of reading is often an important step in increasing reading proficiency. Students who are in love with reading will read more and become more motivated to do so. Teachers can motivate students in numerous ways. Some of these ways include: helping students track their reading progress, making reading fun with theme days and reading celebrations (both in the classroom and school-wide), and sharing their love for reading and journey to becoming a successful reader.
Word Work is what it sounds like, working with words. It is a time for students to work hands-on with spelling patterns on their level. Students may sort words in specific word patterns and explore word meanings in these patterns. Word Work helps students remember word spellings and patterns in a long-term timeframe and can help students become more fluent readers.
Small Group Differentiation
Most educators know that small group instruction is key in increasing students reading levels in their classrooms. When students can meet with a small group of students, they can pinpoint what skills students are struggling with and guide them through the process of tackling unknown words and comprehension issues. During small group reading instruction, teachers must guide students through text on their specific reading level and help them navigate the text by teaching strategies to attack unknown words.
The basics of a good, guided reading lesson include ‘prior to’ reading activities (prediction, vocabulary), ‘during’ reading activities (listening to students read, guiding students through text, etc.), and ‘after’ reading activities (summarizing the text). By providing students with solid, consistent small group reading instruction, teachers are sure to increase their students’ reading levels.
Modeling is very important in regard to reading instruction. When teachers read aloud to students, they introduce students to vocabulary that they cannot access on lower reading levels. They are also modeling fluent and expressive reading, as well as a love for reading.
As educators know, time in the classroom is precious. Knowing this, teachers must select strategies that are most effective and beneficial to students. Consider reflecting on your reading practice and incorporating strategies that are proven to work.
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