Becoming Real Readers

Kindergarten Through Grade Three

The mission of public schooling is to offer every child full and equal educational opportunity, regardless of the background, education, and income of their parents. To achieve this goal, no time is as precious or as fleeting as the first years of formal schooling. Research consistently shows that children who get off to a good start in reading rarely stumble. Those who fall behind tend to stay behind for the rest of their academic lives.

Supplementary tutoring and remedial instruction can help young readers who are doing poorly. But for all children indeed to have equal educational opportunity, then all children must have excellent curricula—right from the start—in their classrooms, from kindergarten through the primary grades. This chapter provides a view of children learning to read in kindergarten through third grade, using information from the latest research but made concrete through vignettes and activity examples. Our goal is to provide families and communities with a basis for understanding and helping out as teachers work with children who are becoming ”real” readers.

Individual Children

In any given classroom in America on any given day, there is a room filled with individual children who are likely to have very different educational strengths and weaknesses. All children simply do not learn everything at the same pace. Children also come to kindergarten and first grade with different kinds of preschool literacy experiences.

Most teachers are given a “scope and sequence” of curriculum skills that they should teach week by week—determined either by their districts or in



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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success Becoming Real Readers Kindergarten Through Grade Three The mission of public schooling is to offer every child full and equal educational opportunity, regardless of the background, education, and income of their parents. To achieve this goal, no time is as precious or as fleeting as the first years of formal schooling. Research consistently shows that children who get off to a good start in reading rarely stumble. Those who fall behind tend to stay behind for the rest of their academic lives. Supplementary tutoring and remedial instruction can help young readers who are doing poorly. But for all children indeed to have equal educational opportunity, then all children must have excellent curricula—right from the start—in their classrooms, from kindergarten through the primary grades. This chapter provides a view of children learning to read in kindergarten through third grade, using information from the latest research but made concrete through vignettes and activity examples. Our goal is to provide families and communities with a basis for understanding and helping out as teachers work with children who are becoming ”real” readers. Individual Children In any given classroom in America on any given day, there is a room filled with individual children who are likely to have very different educational strengths and weaknesses. All children simply do not learn everything at the same pace. Children also come to kindergarten and first grade with different kinds of preschool literacy experiences. Most teachers are given a “scope and sequence” of curriculum skills that they should teach week by week—determined either by their districts or in

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success High-Quality Teaching: One Classroom To become real readers, children in kindergarten and the early grades need well-integrated instruction that focuses on three core elements: (1) identifying words using sound-spelling correspondences and sight word recognition, (2) using previous knowledge, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies to read for meaning, and (3) reading with fluency. Good teachers help children master these skills with an engaging variety of activities. In Mr. Carter’s first grade reading class, each student has a personal basket of books, chosen to match his or her abilities and interests. Bulletin boards offer children word attack strategies, with lists of spelling patterns and rhymes. Each child has a journal filled with interesting writing. Because this is a high-poverty population, the district has made a conscious effort to create small classes. This class has only 18 children—a good thing, considering that the children come from an array of linguistic backgrounds and cultures, including Somalia, the Philippines, Guatemala, and Vietnam. The room is bright and engaging, with various displays: photos of insects, alphabet letters, days of the week, colors, a tape recorder, and a little horticulture center with seeds and plants growing in the

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success sun. Activity centers around the classroom are well organized, containing puppets, stuffed animals, props, paints, paper, and plenty of writing materials. But what is most inspiring is watching Mr. Carter teach. For about two hours during reading period, he tirelessly keeps the children moving in an upbeat and energized pace from one interesting and valuable activity to the next. When reading period begins, the children get their personal baskets of books and sit at their tables reading independently. Mr. Carter also has them read in pairs—shoulder to shoulder—or in small groups in circles on the floor. During this time, he takes the opportunity to move around the classroom and provide personalized attention. With one child, he reviews the previous day’s word attack lesson. With a small group, he sits down on the floor and begins asking questions, helping them make meaningful connections between the literature and their own lives. Now it is time for today’s word attack lesson. The children put away their baskets and gather around Mr. Carter at the board. Each child sits on the floor holding a personal eraser board and magic marker. Clearly these new tools bring an aura of importance to the small hands holding them. Perhaps it is the authoritative thick marker, or the teacher-like power to erase. Perhaps it is the power of having one’s very own tableau. Beyond being fun, the boards also give children privacy to make mistakes and easily correct themselves. Mr. Carter begins by reading a sentence he has written on the board. Certain parts of the words are covered up. When he comes to the word “kind,” he says it aloud, but what the children see is k___. He asks them to provide the missing letters. After various responses, correct and incorrect, he reveals the correctly spelled “kind.” He then asks children to write the words “find” and “mind” on their boards. He proceeds doing a similar exercise with a number of words. Now it is time for a class read-aloud time, in which children sit in a circle for two books, one fiction and the other nonfiction. Because it happens to be the end of the school year, both books are related to the theme of summer vacation. The students are engaged and eager to participate. They sit in an orderly way, enthusiastically raising hands to answer questions instead of calling out. (This is protocol that Mr. Carter requires.) Mr. Carter pauses frequently, asking questions about the characters, plot, and meaning of the text. He also makes time for the children to ask some questions of their own. At the beginning of the second hour, Mr. Carter gives a writing assignment. The children are to write a letter to a friend, describing their plans or hopes for summer vacation. When they are finished, they go to the computers to illustrate something from their writing. If time allows, they will then move on to their journals. Because the classroom has only six computers, he breaks the students into rotating groups. Mr. Carter moves easily among groups, checking on his students’ progress. Some children at the computer need encouragement. They don’t know how to go about illustrating their writing. He talks through some options with them. When working with the children who are writing, he praises efforts to logically sound out new spellings—even if their final product is incorrect. But when he sees students misspell previously introduced words, such as “find” (taught that very day), he is sure to make a correction. Casually picking up a book or a word card, he says, “Remember the last time we saw this word in a book, it was spelled this way.” For a student who is having trouble with the writing assignment because she obviously didn’t understand the story, Mr. Carter retrieves the book and asks an aide to read it again to the child. For another child, whose discomfort with the mechanics of holding a pen and writing gets in the way of even beginning to write, he assists by taking dictation. For children who have successfully completed the assignment before the others, Mr. Carter sets up groups of two, encouraging them to take turns reading to one another and polishing their newly finished creations.

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success published reading programs. One major benefit of these materials is that they provide a year-long plan for instruction—an essential element for effective teaching. However, even the most well-equipped children may not move with equal ease through any preset sequence of lessons. Teachers must adapt and augment their lessons to meet the unique needs of every one of the individual children in their classrooms. Most children need a motivating introduction and a lot of repetition and practice in order for their emerging skills to become automatic. When children begin to read, they need the opportunity to read independently each day, choosing some texts themselves. These materials must be of high quality and of a difficulty level appropriate to the individual. Repeated readings of easy texts help children practice and assimilate what they’ve learned. Books that are more difficult give them a chance to move, and sometimes leap, ahead. Texts that appeal to their personal passions help them build a lifelong love of reading. School leadership is responsible for making sure that reading instruction is coherent, that is, there is a consistent approach across the grades and that the teachers in the later grades know what the teachers before them have done. We teach in small groups, whole group, and one on one—depending on the needs of the kids. We read literature to the whole class. Then, when we do reading instruction, we may put three children together who need the same thing. It’s about finding out what children know and moving to the unknown. Each child comes to school with a backpack. And in that backpack, each one has something different. Some have lots of experience with books and magnetic letters. Others have been living in an apartment with 15 people. What drives me to teach is watching what goes into those backpacks over the years. —Emelie Parker First grade teacher Bailey’s Elementary School Fairfax County, Virginia

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success The Kindergarten Challenge One major goal of kindergarten has always been to help children become comfortable in a formal classroom setting. Indeed, it is a major adjustment. Five-year-old children who enter kindergarten must learn how to sit quietly, to share, to listen, to communicate cooperatively, and to do what is asked. Even in the most individualized class, they must make do with far less personal attention than they probably are used to. Helping children meet this emotional and behavioral challenge is extremely important. But kindergarten must also prepare children to learn to read, and this must be a key priority. Children enter kindergarten with different preschool reading and writing experiences: some write with scribbling and others with letters; some have lots of storybooks in their past and recite them eagerly; for others, books seem pretty unfamiliar. Research consistently demonstrates that children need to enter first grade with good attitudes and knowledge about literacy. Otherwise, they will probably find first grade instruction inaccessible. What Must Be Accomplished—Goals of Kindergarten The delicate balance for the kindergarten teacher is to promote literacy in well-thought-out, appropriate ways. Two goals are paramount: When children leave kindergarten, they should have a solid familiarity with the structure and uses of print. They should know about the format of books and other print resources. They should be familiar with sentence-by-sentence, word-by-word, and sound-by-sound analysis of language. They should achieve basic phonemic awareness and the ability to recognize and write most of the letters of the alphabet. Kindergarten should help children get comfortable with learning from print, since much of their future education will depend on this. By the end of the year, kindergartners should have an interest in the types of language and knowledge that books can bring them. In this following section we present activities for kindergarteners. As for the earlier sets of activities, the main purpose is to illustrate the concepts underlying reading instruction in kindergarten. We expect that the individual activities included will be helpful for most children; however, they are not a substitute for a comprehensive curriculum.

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success Activities and Practices For Kindergartners In kindergarten, it is especially appropriate for instruction to be based in play activities. By singing songs and acting out stories and situations, children develop language skills, narrative abilities, and a comfort with using symbols, that is, the idea that one thing can “stand for” something else. These are key for learning to read. We describe a range of activities that teachers can use in their classrooms. Many of them incorporate play-based instruction. Book and Print Awareness To become successful readers, children must understand how books and print work. They should know the parts of a book and their functions and that the print on the page represents the words that can be read aloud. By kindergarten, they can begin to distinguish various forms and purposes of print, from personal letters and signs to storybooks and essays. Activities Do dictation activities to help kindergartners understand that any thing spoken can be written. You can turn this into a major bookmaking project, collecting oral stories that children dictate, illustrate, and share with one another. And you can do frequent short dictations, writing down children’s captions or titles for their artwork, or writing their shopping lists for pretend play. As part of these activities, help children notice various aspects of how print works: text is read from left to right and top to bottom; words are separated by spaces; the end of a line is not always the end of a thought. Phonological Awareness During the preschool years, most children spontaneously acquire some degree of ability to think about the sounds of spoken words, independent of their meanings: phonological awareness. In kindergarten, it is especially important to strengthen this initial insight, and especially to help children develop an awareness of the smallest meaningful units or phonemes that make up spoken words (a skill that is termed ”phonemic awareness”). This is a crucial step toward understanding the alphabetic principle (that phonemes are what letters stand for) and, ultimately, toward learning to read.

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success Activities Many of the activities described earlier for use with preschoolers (pages 47 and48) are also appropriate for kindergartners. Play the game SNAP using shared sounds. It’s an excellent time passer during long car rides. One player says two words. If they share a sound, the other players say “snap” and snap their fingers. If the two words don’t share a sound, everyone is quiet. Take turns. Begin with first sounds and go on to middle and final sounds when the child can do the first sound well. For example, Player 1 says, “ball and bat.” The others say, “SNAP!” for the first sound. Player 2 says, “sand and book.” Everyone is quiet. Next player says, “run and tan.” The others say, “SNAP!” for the last sound. Next player says, “seed and beach.” The others say, “SNAP!” for the middle sound. Be prepared for things to get a little silly. Tell children that you are going to play a listening game with them. Give out four blocks or some other tangible item, like card chips or beads, that can be used for counting phonemes. Remember to count sounds, not letters. These are spoken words, not written ones. Say a two-phoneme word, such as “row,” and ask the children to repeat it. Then say, “I can divide the word ‘row’ into two parts: ‘r ’ and ‘o’. Let’s make this block stand for the ‘o’ part. We need both blocks together, ‘r ’ and ‘o,’ to make ‘row’.” Have the children do this with their blocks. In this exercise, whenever you refer to a particular phoneme, touch the block that represents that segment. Next explain that a new word can be made by taking away the first block (the ‘r ’ part). Have everyone take away the first block, and ask what the remaining block “says,” namely the word “oh.” Then ask what will happen if the first block is put back. Help the children to realize that the blocks now represent the word “row” again.

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success Next explain that another word can be made by adding a new block in front of the “r.” This new block stands for “g,” so when “g” and “r” and “o” are put together, we get the word “grow.” Next, ask the children to add a block after the “o”; this new block stands for “n.” Help them to understand that the four blocks now represent the four phonemes in “groan.” Finally, have them remove the “n” block, leaving “grow” again. After this introduction, tell children that you now want three blocks to stand for a different word, “lamb.” So now the first block is for the “l” part, the second block is for the “a” part, and the third block is for the “m” part. Now ask, “If I want to make the word “am,” should I take away one of the blocks or should I add another block? (Answer: take away the first block.) And if I want to make the word “lamb” again, what must I do? (Answer: put it back.) And if I want to make the word “lamp,” what should I do? (Answer: add a new block after the “m”.) Repeat this exercise, sometimes first giving a word that requires removing a phoneme, and sometimes one that requires adding a new phoneme. Here are some words you can use: Starting words Words requiring removal Words requiring addition late ate plate gray ray great pin in spin (or pinch) tore or store rice ice price care air scare rain ray train bad add band goat go ghost mall all small

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success Do a listening game in which you have children blend your pronunciation of onset (the first part of a syllable) and rime (the ending part) into a meaningful one syllable target word. Tell children that you are going to say a word broken into parts and that you need them to put the word back together. Begin by saying simple words aloud, pausing between the onset and the rime. At first, vary the onset and keep the same rime: r … an m … an f … an Then keep the onset and vary the rime. For example, m … an m … ice m … ix Expand the activity by saying a word and asking children to provide another that ends with the same sound—i.e., rhymes. Language, Comprehension, and Response to Text Texts can give us great ideas, entertaining stories, knowledge, information, and countless other riches. But children who lack vocabulary and a useful repertoire of general knowledge can barely take the first step toward the most basic understanding of the texts they encounter. How can they understand a science book about volcanoes, a fairy tale about silkworms, or a short story about Inuits if they don’t understand the words “volcanoes,” “silkworms,” or “Inuits”? What if they know nothing of mountains, caterpillars, or snow and cold climates? Kindergartners need the chance to build their general background knowledge and language if they are to understand and profit from the texts they will encounter. Another important factor in understanding text is interest. Children need to be interested in books and print, if they are going to read enough to get good at it. One important goal of kindergarten is to motivate children to relate to books and print as a meaningful and worthwhile part of their lives. Rich classroom discussions, thoughtful question-and-answer periods, fun, engaging activities connected to texts, high-quality storybook readings—all these have an important place in helping children move, day by day, toward understanding what they read, enjoying it, and becoming real readers.

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success Activities Help children develop the knowledge and vocabulary they will need to become successful readers. Take children on excursions and field trips to interesting places that will give them new domains of knowledge and vocabulary. For example, a class visit to a farm can be introduced and followed with rich class discussion about food and farming, in which you and the children use new words and concepts, such as “tractor,” “milking,” “plow,” “fields,” “planting.” Also, elicit individual conversations in which children have a chance to describe what they have seen.

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success new vocabulary and language. They are also using resources to get the information they need (e.g., table of contents, index, dictionary, and available technology). Increasingly in the third grade, children are learning to read and learn from nonfiction texts. They are summarizing major points and discussing details. They can distinguish cause and effect. They can identify the main idea and supporting details of a text. With information and reasoning, they are examining the bases of hypotheses and opinions. As roots, prefixes, and suffixes are taught in class, they are learning how to take words apart to infer their meanings. Not only are they now able to identify specific words or wordings that are causing them difficulties, they are increasingly able to use comprehension strategies and surrounding information in the text to infer or enrich their understanding of a new word or concept. Spelling and Writing Third graders should be producing a variety of written work, such as critical essays, reports, and their own “published” books. Their writing is now beginning to take on sophisticated language patterns, such as elaborate descriptions, figurative language, and dialogue. When producing reports, they are able to combine and write information from multiple sources, but they often need help in paraphrasing and, certainly, in giving credit for sources. During class sharing periods, they are presenting and discussing one another ’s writing with helpful suggestions and responses. With assistance, they are reviewing, editing, revising, and clarifying their own writing, including attention to spelling, mechanics, and presentation. Previously studied words and spelling patterns appear correctly in their finished products. Accomplishments of the Second and Third Grade Student Sets of accomplishments that the successful learner should exhibit by the end of second and third grades are shown in the following tables. Because of their importance, we present them in full as published in Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (National Academy Press, 1998). Again, these lists are neither exhaustive nor incontestable, but they do capture many highlights of the course of literacy acquisition. Although the timing of these accomplishments will vary among children, they are the sorts of things that should be in place before entering the next grade.

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success Second Grade Accomplishments Reads and comprehends both fiction and nonfiction that is appropriately designed for grade level. Accurately decodes orthographically regular, multisyllable words and nonsense words (e.g., capital, Kalamazoo). Uses knowledge of print-sound mappings to sound out unknown words. Accurately reads many irregularly spelled words and such spelling patterns as diphthongs, special vowel spellings, and common word endings. Reads and comprehends both fiction and nonfiction that is appropriately designed for the grade. Shows evidence of expanding language repertory, including increasing use of more formal language registers. Reads voluntarily for interest and own purposes. Rereads sentences when meaning is not clear. Interprets information from diagrams, charts, and graphs. Recalls facts and details of texts. Reads nonfiction materials for answers to specific questions or for specific purposes. Takes part in creative responses to texts such as dramatizations, oral presentations, fantasy play, etc. Discusses similarities in characters and events across stories. Connects and compares information across nonfiction selections. Poses possible answers to how, why, and what-if questions. Correctly spells previously studied words and spelling patterns in own writing. Represents the complete sound of a word when spelling independently. Shows sensitivity to using formal language patterns in place of oral language patterns at appropriate spots in own writing (e.g., de-contextualizing sentences, conventions for quoted speech, literary language forms, proper verb forms). Makes reasonable judgments about what to include in written products. Productively discusses ways to clarify and refine own writing and that of others. With assistance, adds use of conferencing, revision, and editing processes to clarify and refine own writing to the steps of the expected parts of the writing process. Given organizational help, writes informative, well-structured reports. Attends to spelling, mechanics, and presentation for final products. Produces a variety of types of compositions (e.g., stories, reports, correspondence).

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success Third Grade Accomplishments Reads aloud with fluency and comprehension any text that is appropriately designed for grade level. Uses letter-sound correspondence knowledge and structural analysis to decode words. Reads and comprehends both fiction and nonfiction that is appropriately designed for grade level. Reads longer fictional selections and chapter books independently. Takes part in creative responses to texts such as dramatizations, oral presentations, fantasy play, etc. Can point to or clearly identify specific words or wordings that are causing comprehension difficulties. Summarizes major points from fiction and nonfiction texts. In interpreting fiction, discusses underlying theme or message. Asks how, why, and what-if questions in interpreting nonfiction texts. In interpreting nonfiction, distinguishes cause and effect, fact and opinion, main idea and supporting details. Uses information and reasoning to examine bases of hypotheses and opinions. Infers word meaning from taught roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Correctly spells previously studied words and spelling patterns in own writing. Begins to incorporate literacy words and language patterns in own writing (e.g., elaborates descriptions; uses figurative wording). With some guidance, uses all aspects of the writing process in producing own compositions and reports. Combines information from multiple sources in writing reports. With assistance, suggests and implements editing and revision to clarify and refine own writing. Presents and discusses own writing with other students and responds helpfully to other students’ compositions. Independently reviews work for spelling, mechanics, and presentation. Produces a variety of written work (e.g., literature response, reports,“published” books, semantic maps) in a variety of formats including multimedia forms.

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success Computers in Classrooms and at Home Recent advances in computer technology offer new support for reading instruction. Digitized and high-quality synthetic speech has been incorporated into programs focusing on phonological awareness and issues related to emergent literacy. These include letter-name and letter-sound knowledge, phonological decoding, spelling, and support for word decoding and comprehension while reading and writing stories. Computer speech, along with interesting graphics, animation, and speech recording, has supported the development of programs that are entertaining and motivating for both prereaders and beginning readers. Talking books, widely distributed on CD-ROM, are among the most popular programs that claim to improve children’s reading. Book pages are presented on the computer screen, and children can select the whole text or specific words and phrases to be read aloud by the computer. The most popular products include many clever animations that are highly entertaining to children, perhaps so much so that they distract from the task of reading; children can often access the animations without paying any attention to the print. Storybook software displays storybooks on the screen. The programs come not only with software but also with ordinary printed material available for use without a computer. Some are stand-alone titles, such as Living Books and Discuss books. Others are parts of larger sets, such as IBM’s Stories and More and Josten’s Dragontales. Multimedia writing tools motivate children to talk with each other about their composing acts and their final compositions. Children integrate previously prepared background illustrations, their own drawings, and writing into either stand-alone papers or multimedia slide shows. IBM’s Writing to Read program set the stage for classroom use of comprehensive literacy software programs for use in beginning reading instruction. The development of comprehensive literacy software for preprimary and primary-grade literacy has been accelerating, together with the more recent surge in the power/cost ratio of desktop computers. Comprehensive literacy software programs that have been developed more recently and for which systematic evaluation has begun include Foundations in Learning by Breakthrough to Literacy, Early Reading Program by Waterford, and the Little Planet Literacy Series by Young Children’s Literacy Project.

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success Software In recent years the consumer and school markets have become deluged with software products for children—products of dramatically varying quality. Following are examples of highly rated programs for children in the beginning elementary school years. These were rated for content, user friendliness, adult management features, strength of support materials, and value for the cost, rather than being examined for outcomes on children’s learning. Program Brief Description The Treehouse The program addresses a number of skill areas. In terms of literacy, one activity is the construction of sentences with characters acting out the sentence upon completion. Reader Rabbit 2 Provides young readers with practice in alphabetizing, rhyming, identifying long and short vowel sounds, and creating compound words. My Own Stories Provides students with word-processing, color graphics, sound effects, and music for use in creating their own stories. Stories can be printed.

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success Excellence in Primary Grade Teaching—A Career-Long Process Excellent teaching is one of the most effective means in preventing reading difficulties. A recent study of more than 1,000 school districts found that every additional dollar spent on developing the qualifications of teachers netted improvements in student achievement greater than any other use of school resources. Yet districts currently spend less than one half of one percent of their resources on staff development. Teacher education must be viewed in a new way: as a career-long undertaking, rather than something that is completed with the receipt of a bachelor ’s or

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success master ’s degree. Even the best undergraduate or graduate education program cannot fully prepare teachers for the complex process of teaching reading and the diverse needs they will face in their classrooms. Reading is a complex process and to deal with it, teachers must have a strong background in cognitive behavioral and social sciences as well as in the humanities. Specific pedagogical knowledge and skills must be built from this base. Primary grade teachers must know a great deal about children’s development, how they learn, and what they can do. They must be able to see students’ strengths and weaknesses. They must plan good lessons to help students progress. And they must have a huge array of teaching techniques in their toolboxes in order to meet the vastly different needs of their students. In addition to all this, they must have content knowledge in literature, math, and science. Teachers need to be knowledgeable about the scientific foundations of reading. Beyond this, a critical component in the preparation of primary grade teachers before they begin their careers is supervised, relevant, field experience in which they receive ongoing guidance and feedback. A principal goal of this experience is to achieve the ability to integrate and apply the knowledge learned in practice. Collaborative support by the teacher preparation institution and the field placement supervising teacher is essential. A critical component for novice teachers is the support of mentor teachers with excellent records of success in teaching reading that results in improved student outcomes. It is absolutely essential that teachers at all grade levels understand the course of literacy development and the role of instruction in optimizing it. State certification requirements and teacher education curricula should be changed to incorporate this knowledge base, including, at a minimum: information about language development as it relates to literacy; information about the relationship between early literacy behavior and conventional reading; information about the features of an alphabetic writing system and other writing systems; information about both phonology and morphology in relation to spelling; information about comprehension and its dependence on other aspects of reading and on language skills; information about phonological awareness, orthographic awareness, and writing development; procedures for ongoing, in-class assessment of children’s reading abilities; information on how to interpret and modify instruction according to norm-referenced and individually referenced assessment outcomes, including both formal and informal in-class assessments and progress-monitoring measures used by specialists;

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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success information about the learning and curricular needs of diverse learners (students with disabilities, with limited English proficiency, with English language dialect differences); in settings in which children are learning to read in a language other than English, an understanding of—as well as strategies and techniques for—teaching children to read in that language and information about bilingual language and literacy development; information on the design features and requirements of a reading curriculum; information about how teachers apply research judiciously to their practice, how to update their research knowledge, and how to influence research agendas, including teacher-researcher collaborations; and information about how to maintain and promote motivation to read and positive attitudes toward reading. Thorough teacher education is essential; even so, teachers cannot possibly be fully prepared before the first day on the job. School districts should do more to encourage the ongoing, career-long development of teachers. Young teachers need support from mentor teachers as they develop. Experienced teachers should receive periodic training opportunities. Beyond traditional workshops, districts and schools should consider teacher research projects, discussion groups, school-university partnerships, and ways to encourage individual teacher efforts toward improvement (e.g., certification by the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards). In addition, schools should identify, reward, and acknowledge teachers who are highly effective, from the preschool level up.

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