Find Good Schools and Good Teachers

It's important to recognize what good schools look like. The quality of your child's school has a huge impact on his or her learning.

Good schools and good teachers do the following:

  • Conduct ongoing assessments to determine whether students are making progress
  • Change students' reading group placements during the year based on the ongoing assessment results
  • Teach phonemic awareness and phonics in small groups
  • Use a variety of teaching methods to keep children motivated and excited
  • Use a variety of interventions to ensure that all children succeed

The teaching of reading in particular requires skilled and caring teachers who know how to deliver research-based reading instruction. Talk with your child's teacher and ask two important questions:

  1. Do you provide explicit instruction to the students?
  2. Is your instruction based on a recent assessment?

Then observe a reading lesson. A good lesson will focus on one or more of these elements:

  • Phonemic awareness

    Are the students playing games with the sounds in spoken words? For example, "Sun, sock, and sand all start with s. What is another word that begins with that sound?"

  • Phonics

    Do small groups of students work with letters and sounds? Do you see reading materials that contain the letters and sounds they're studying?

  • Fluency

    Once kids begin to read books, are they reading and rereading familiar books and poems? Does the teacher listen to the students read aloud?

  • Vocabulary

    Are the students talking with each other and the teacher? Does the teacher share interesting words?

  • Comprehension

    Does the teacher teach strategies to help kids understand what they read? Are students encouraged to ask and answer questions about what they've read?

Reading Rockets (2009)


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This sounds great, but what if you just don't have access to 'good teachers and good schools'? Since I live outside of the US (in China) I have to be parent and teacher for my 3 year old and I have no idea where to start. I don't want her to have to learn ESL English when we finally get back to the states, but where can I find something more concrete?

I see nothing here about enthusiasm. For me, when it comes to literacy, nothing is more important than a teacher who is consistently and genuinely enthusiastic about the miracle of sharing language, of using it to be anybody and to go anywhere and, most important, to relate to others and to the human experience. When this key element of enthusiasm gets lost in the particulars of phonics, phonemes, and assessment, then the heart of the matter - using language to FEEL, to relate - becomes invisible. Children will please adults by learning sounds and letters, but they will not love language unless they see us loving it first.

As a teacher I like this article, but I feel these tasks show a younger elementary reading class. How about including what you would see in a 5th grade reading lesson?

How fortunate we are, both of our kids have great teachers and good enviroment!

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"Books are a uniquely portable magic." —

Stephen King