What Teachers Need to Know for Informed Reading Instruction
Research results and teaching practice indicate that the best instruction is explicit, systematic, sequential, active, and engaging. Effective teaching emphasizes discovery and understanding, and is aided by frequent opportunities to practice spelling, writing, and reading skills in meaningful contexts.
Teachers must be given a foundation of the theoretical and scientific underpinnings for understanding literacy development.
Teachers must understand the content of instruction, the linguistic units of speech and print, and be able to apply the content to designing teaching activities and giving students corrective feedback.
Therefore, teachers must be taught the structure of the English writing system and its relationship to sounds and meaning. They must learn the English speech sound system, including how speech sounds are produced. They must have a knowledge of semantic patterns (or morphemic patterns) such as prefixes, suffixes, and roots, as well as knowledge of grammatical and text structures.
Teachers need supervised experience with one-on-one instruction and with larger groups. They should have experience with learners who are diverse in age and level of proficiency, and opportunities to observe peer models at work.
Teachers must practice translating the knowledge of how children learn to read into relevant activities. They need opportunities to team teach, to consult with a mentor, and to participate in dialogues with fellow professionals.
Teachers and other professionals face a serious responsibility to help children become successful readers, but at the present most Schools of Education are not providing teachers with an important body of knowledge and techniques currently available that would help teachers accomplish this task.
The myth that one does not need to know much to teach reading must be dispelled. State Departments of Education need to mandate the training described in this paper for teacher certification.
Universities need to update/change their training programs to include the content recommended.
Federal and State Agencies need to provide funding to develop model training programs that could serve as blueprints for other training facilities and as centers for re-training the trainers (university faculty).
The teaching of reading has been subject to enormous swings based on various ideologies, clearly to the detriment of children. The pendulum approach to reading instruction should be discarded and this informed approach, based on solid research evidence, should be the highest educational priority. The investment now in teacher education will stem the tide of illiteracy and educational failure.
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