3 Literacy Teacher Skills to Improve

I am always working on growing in various areas to become a more effective literacy teacher.  There are three skills in which I am always striving to improve.

1.  Being a “Noticing” Teacher

It is important for a literacy teacher to be a careful observer of each of his/her students.  I work on not letting notetaking interfere with noticing the actions my students take.  I try to leave at least 5 minutes between each of my students/groups so that  I can take 2-3 minutes to jot down anything important that will help me with future planning.  I also use a lot of shorthand to capture what I notice.  If I am too caught up in taking notes or pulling out materials I may miss important behaviors that I need to interrupt such as:

  • eyes off text
  • any type of right to left behavior
  • a high-frequency word or letter confusion that I’ve noticed from previous lessons

Recently, I had a student who suddenly started to sound out known high-frequency words.  I needed to be a close observer so that I could anticipate when this might happen so that I could interrupt the behavior quickly and support my student with retrieving the known word.

Marie Clay writes on this topic of noticing throughout Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals.  She tells teachers to watch students carefully as if we were a scientist.

“To be able to detect how different the paths have to be for individual children we have to observe closely what the four-to-six year old is doing and what he is capable of…Careful monitoring is needed to assure that the child is not practising behaviors that will handicap his subsequent progress.  This emphasis on observing came from my work as a researcher rather than a teacher.  I had to step out of a teacher role and become much more like a scientist setting up a situation and recording precisely what happened.  When I write about observing children closely, this is what I mean.”  (page 11)

2.  Communication

I am always working on improving communication between myself and teachers/parents.  Teachers need to know how we have been supporting their student with learning to read.  They need to know what we are working on and what the child is able to do during their intervention time with us.  We need to know what the child has been successful with in their classroom and what they are working on.  We will want to know if they are transferring the reading behaviors they demonstrate with us to their classroom reading and writing.  Be on the lookout for a future post with suggestions on how to have on-going communication when everybody is so busy.

Parents also need to know how to best support their child at home.   I find it helpful to let parents know:

  • Other ways they can help their child figure out unknown words besides just “sounding it out”.
  • The benefits of regularly reading aloud to their child.
  • How to foster a love of reading through visits to the Public Library.
  • The many benefits of children rereading familiar books.

3.  Reading Research

It is essential that literacy teachers seek to read more about reading theory and the latest research on literacy topics.  Nell Duke and Nicole Martin wrote an informative article called 10 Things Every Literacy Educator Should Know About Research.   The article discusses the importance of understanding the different types of research and what research is and is not, and how to know if you can trust the findings of specific research.  I find that I am often questioned by teachers, parents, and administrators about my approach to reading and my opinion on various literacy topics.  I want anything I say to be backed up by what valid research shows.

I find that when I strengthen these areas I feel more informed and more effective.  What areas do you focus on to grow as a literacy teacher?

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