Part of this Blog has been taken from Teaching Treasures™ Four Methods to Teach Reading - you can read more abut their fantastic ideas here.
Should teaching literacy be prescriptive, following a detailed step by step process? This view of literacy instruction is almost ‘teacher proof’, which means that no matter who bad the teacher is, they cannot mess it up.
Is this best?
In situations where there are competent, well-trained teachers, this approach denies them important opportunities to exercise their professional ability and judgment in responding to the individual needs of students.
This blog is about trusting well trained teachers ability to use their professional judgement when it comes to various methods of teaching literacy.
I am often asked ‘what method do you use’ when it comes to teaching literacy skills to students.
Methods such as:
These are fantastic ways to encourage and support readers. However, I often feel as though parents want me to pick just one. Although it would be easier for me to label myself as a ‘phonics teacher’ - by doing so parents know exactly where I stand in a - “choose me and I’ll teach your kid to read by phonics” kind of way - I do believe I would not be doing their child justice, nor my skills as a teacher.
It is the same when discussing general teaching philosophies.
The constructivist philosophy of learning in which children are viewed as inherently active, self-regulating learners who construct knowledge for themselves, with little or no explicit decoding instruction works for some of my students. This focus urges the student to become empowered with the reading process. For them to celebrate their wins and bring that confidence with them into the next lesson. Sometimes I feel that as a tutor I am more of a facilitator, guiding learning, rather than driving it.
So am I a constructivist? Sometimes.
On the other hand, direct instruction approaches focus on explicit teaching of the structure and function of written and oral language in ways that allow children to reflect on and consciously manipulate the language. This involves an awareness of phonemes, syllables and morphology. I am aware that some students really need language broken down for them piece by piece, and for those students this approach would work best.
So when you ask me: Do I support phonics? Will I be working with flash cards? Do I support a direct instruction approach - my answer is yes, maybe, sometimes, it depends on the lesson, your child and the ‘mind space’ they find themselves in when we begin the lesson.
The point is that all of these methods and philosophies do not exist in order for teachers to neatly pick one and package it up as a learning program. They exist to remind teachers of the rich and varied ways we can go about teaching literacy - and the really good teachers are mindful of these ideas and adapt them accordingly depending on the learning needs of the student in front of them.
And you want those teachers to be supporting your child’s literacy development.
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