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Training Teachers on Differentiated Reading Instruction

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teachers should be fluent in differentiating instruction in reading. This lesson shows strategies for helping teachers use this technique and gives examples used in the classroom.

Differentiated Instruction for Reading

Teaching students to read is a complex task. Reading requires many skills, such as letter identification, awareness of sounds in speech, and decoding skills for emergent readers. Students progress to word identification, fluency, and comprehension. All of these skills are necessary to read successfully, and teachers need to be fluent with instruction every step of the way.

They should also recognize that although we can predict stages of development, when and how students will learn to read, not all students go through these stages at the same time or in the same way. In a typical first grade classroom, there will be students learning sound/symbol relationships alongside those reading complex text.

In order to make sure each student receives instruction that will promote growth, teachers need to differentiate instruction. To do this, teachers must be able to structure their instruction to include whole and small group learning as well as individual practice. Ms. Davis is a reading specialist, a specially trained educator who works with teachers on differentiating reading instruction. Let's see what strategies she gives her teachers about using differentiated instruction techniques in reading.

Integrating Reading Strategies

Ms. Davis is working with a new first-grade teacher, Debbie, on integrating reading strategies. This technique weaves instruction on reading strategies into her classroom based on student needs. Debbie needs to be able to teach Francis and Eleanor basic reading skills like letter identification or sound/symbol relationships. Billy and Taylor are ready for fluency instruction, and Katherine and Olivia are working on comprehension. In fact, most of the students in Debbie's classroom are at different stages of development. If she taught just one skill, many of her students wouldn't be challenged or would be lost.

Because of this, Ms. Davis is teaching Debbie how to balance her instructional practices, using different grouping methods to reach all students.

Whole Group Instruction

Debbie will teach all students at the same time using whole group instruction for many overarching skills, such as genres of books, as dictated by the district or school curriculum objectives. Ms. Davis shows Debbie how to run a whole group lesson by coming into her classroom and modeling how to gather students, directly instruct concepts, and use informal assessment methods, such as questioning and observations, to determine student understanding.

Small Group Instruction

Next, Ms. Davis shows Debbie how to organize small group instruction based on student needs. Debbie will know what skills her students need based on several sources, including informal assessments and formal assessments, diagnostic tests she gives to determine a student's developmental reading level. Ms. Davis shows Debbie how to administer and analyze the data from these assessments, then place students in the proper group according to the skill they most need.

Ms. Davis also tells Debbie that these groupings:

  • Are fluid - they can and will change often
  • Contain students who are all on the same reading level as well as some groupings of students on different levels but who need instruction on the same skill
  • Need to be closely monitored to determine student growth

After Debbie establishes small reading groups, Ms. Davis works with her to develop a schedule. Students who are below level will meet more often with Debbie, and those above level less. Each group will need books and resources on their specific reading level, and Debbie will plan instruction as well as keep ongoing informal assessment records. Ms. Davis shows Debbie how to create individual student folders to keep notes, running records, and other anecdotal notes, or informal notations, which she will use to plan future lessons.

Individual Instruction

Finally, Ms. Davis shows Debbie how to conduct a one-on-one reading lesson, teaching students individually. During this time of instruction, Debbie works with individual students and responds with appropriate instructional techniques. Olivia is working on comprehension, so Ms. Davis shows Debbie how to listen to Olivia read, ask questions, and give tips and resources on how to better understand what she read, like using sticky notes to track her questions.

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