The Skill of Reading
As an English language arts teacher, perhaps the most important aspect is teaching reading comprehension. This is because reading is truly an essential skill for all people in all walks of life. Even in simple everyday tasks, a person relies heavily on reading skills. Street signs, personal emails, social media, the newspaper - reading any of these inaccurately can have dire consequences. In anything a person does in life, reading will be a part of it.
The trick with teaching reading comprehension is that it is so different from the other subjects. There is no one true answer like in a math problem. You can't simply teach one method, do a few practice problems, and then move on. Reading is a skill that constantly adapts and changes. There are so many types of reading materials and types of reading skills needed to comprehend the written word. This lesson will go through a step-by-step process to help you plan and execute reading lessons in the classroom.
Know the Standards
The first step for any reading teacher is to know the standards. Every state has different standards, which are the guidelines for what each student needs to be able to do by the end of the grade level. There are numerous reading standards, each with a different focus. To help us with this video lesson, we will use a standard from the state of Ohio for the 6th to 8th grade band level.
Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.
Looking at this example standard, as the teacher, you should immediately see some overall concepts you must teach. The terms 'theme', which is the message or moral of the story, 'setting', which is the time, place and social situation, and 'plot', which are the events in the story, need to be familiar to your students. For whatever piece of literature you decide to use in your class, you need to make sure to address those concepts in various lessons. Overall, you must find the important concepts you need to cover in your state's standards.
The second step after you analyze your standards is to determine the evidence that will prove the students have learned a particular skill. For our sample standard, you could ask yourself, 'What activity will demonstrate that a student understands the importance of the theme?' Note how this is just one small part of the whole standard.
Also, you must decide on your evidence before planning instruction. This helps to teach with the end in mind. For example, if you decide to focus on your students' learning theme, you can use analysis of fairy tales as evidence. Your students can be required to explain the theme for popular fairy tales. If they can do so accurately, then you have proof they understand theme. Once this is decided, then you will move onto planning your method of teaching theme.
Be creative with your evidence. Evidence can consist of a group activity, worksheet, free response, or even a graphic organizer, which is a visual method of sharing knowledge; anything that can prove student learning. Remember, evidence does not have to cover a whole standard or a whole unit.
Once you have your evidence in mind, you can start to plan your teaching strategies. Break down all your big idea concepts into individual lessons or even multi-day lessons. For example, for teaching plot, you must first spend at least a day teaching each part of a plot diagram. Then, while the class progresses through the novel, the students can complete the diagram with their thoughts and ideas. With this situation, you can bring up the plot structures once a week or so until the end of the novel. Then, a good way to close off the unit might be a cumulative lesson with students debating which part of the novel is which.
Part of planning your instruction needs to be spent on determining the resources and strategies you will use. What websites, videos, books, worksheets, supplies, etc. will you need? Will you use direct instruction, which is a more traditional way of presenting information? Or cooperative learning, which is group work? Or even self-directed learning, which is independent exploration?
You also need to plan for activities that will go along with the strategies you decided upon. For example, if you decide to use cooperative learning for teaching plot, you can create a group challenge where each team has to work with one part of the plot and teach it to the rest of the class.
Once you have planned out your lessons and instructional procedures, then you must determine how you will assess your students. Develop your assessments with the standard in mind. Remember, the second step called for evidence of learning a particular skill. Further assessments should expand upon those ideas. Identifying the correct theme in common fairy tales is a smaller skill. An expansion on that would be to have your students write a three-paragraph essay detailing the theme of the novel read in class using quotes from the story for support.
If you want to get away from the traditional quiz or exam as an assessment, try doing different activities or games. You can design some sort of team game or even individual games centering on the main concepts for the unit. Students can team up and try to stump other teams to earn points. Or you can have students complete unit projects instead of having a final test on the novel. You can develop criteria charts and rubrics, which are ways of outlining expectations to your students. Use this criteria to analyze student work. Provide feedback for students with suggestions for improvement. If need be, re-teach or revisit certain concepts that students struggle with. Any way you decide to assess, be sure it will show how the students have achieved the standard.
To review, reading is an essential skill your students need to constantly work on to improve. Everyone will use reading skills in their careers and personal lives. Helping students advance their comprehension of the written word is a central purpose of an English language arts teacher.
The first step to plan your teaching and execution of reading skills is to know the standards. Each state has different standards, which are guidelines for the information learned at each grade band. Analyze the standards for your class and break it down into the main ideas or concepts to be taught.
The second step is to determine the evidence that will prove your students have learned a particular skill. Create worksheets, activities, graphic organizers, or free response writing that can show your students have gained knowledge.
The third step is to plan your instruction. What type of teaching fits the main concepts in the standards? You can design lessons with direct instruction, cooperative learning, or self-directed learning. Depending on your reading unit, choose a variety of teaching strategies to reach different kinds of learners.
The final step is to create the assessment. You need some sort of way to evaluate your students' learning. Traditional quizzes and tests can be those assessments, or you can be more creative and design a final project or presentation. Whichever form of assessment you choose, be sure to create criteria charts and rubrics to show clear expectations for your students.
Follow these steps and you'll be sure to give your students the knowledge and reading skills they will need for the rest of their lives.
After watching this lesson, you should be able to:
- Explain why reading is such an important skill to have
- Describe four steps used to plan and execute reading lessons
- Recall the different types of instructional design and assessment methods