Even if a school is fortunate enough to have an excellent reading curriculum in place, several other factors play a large role in whether students will be able to meet their reading objectives.
Students are more likely to meet reading objectives when their teachers:
- Manage the classroom
- Differentiate instruction and group students
- Work with parents
- Help struggling readers
Manage the Classroom
Classroom management is the hallmark of an accomplished teacher. The teacher who is skilled in this factor plans instruction and allows for contingencies so that students are not surprised if an issue arises. They know precisely what to expect that their teacher will do. Skilled classroom managers plan their lessons and arrange their classrooms in such ways that students are able to achieve maximum productivity and engage with the material. While students might fuss a bit about a teacher's strictness, most students will acknowledge that they would much rather be in a classroom that is well-managed than one in which students are permitted to run roughshod over their teacher (and each other). One way to know whether a teacher is an effective classroom manager is to take a look at whether there are processes and procedures in place. For example, do students know what to do when they return to class after being absent, in terms of conferring with the teacher without disrupting the rest of the class in order to secure their missed work? Is there a specific procedure for students who need to leave the classroom to go to the restroom? Effective classroom managers plan for these kinds of situations and train their students in how to manage them as well.
Differentiate Instruction and Group Students
Effective teachers use groups to provide instruction to students of varying skill levels. Sometimes the groups are of similar abilities, and other times they are mixed, depending on the purpose of the group work. There is more research to support effective use of small-group learning than there is for any other instructional technique. Grouping gives the teacher the means by which to differentiate reading instruction according to students' ability levels. Ineffective teachers "teach to the middle," not providing alternatives for students with high ability and skill levels or for those students who struggle. It is particularly critical in teaching reading that the teacher is able to differentiate instruction for students of diverse skills and abilities.
Work with Parents
Another mark of an effective reading teacher is one who works well with parents. Accomplished teachers don't wait until a student is failing before contacting Mom and Dad. They let parents know at the beginning of the school year that they will communicate regularly, outside of scheduled progress reports and report cards, if a student shows signs of struggling. Then they follow through. Email has made it much easier for teachers and parents to communicate, and the effective teacher understands the importance of timely notification so that parents can support the classroom efforts.
Help Struggling Readers
Finally, the clearest indication of whether a reading teacher is effective is obvious—does the teacher utilize a variety of research-based instructional strategies to teach students how to read? Does the teacher engage the parents in conversations about their child's reading skills? Does the teacher provide activities and strategies that the parent(s) can use at home to support the work done in class? Is the teacher aware of each child's reading level and has the teacher devised instruction to address those varying skill levels?
How do you apply these concepts in your classroom?