17 Oct

I raised four children (three of them stepchildren), and now I’m a grandma. I just moved from my mountain home to Eugene, Oregon, to be with my kids. In the midst of chaos, I started writing this blog, babysitting a toddler and teaching a third grader. I like to think I am like Cher on her Farewell Tour, and she was great. Many of you probably still remember me from a school visit, seminar, keynote or hanging out with you.

People have been arguing about the best ways to teach reading for over a hundred years. There are myths to debunk and research to reflect on. Theory to practice is what I care most about. By teaching the fundamental building blocks of reading, we are on the road to great results.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” (Anonymous)

Where we’re going now is Common Core. It’s doable, but it’s at a high skill level while many of our kids don’t know the basics, the beginnings of the journey.

My latest work offers you a roadmap to excellence from how to coach a reader, plan a lesson and instruct sequential patterns for spelling, phonics and comprehension.

Here are my underlying beliefs for anyone teaching someone else to read.

  • Start at the beginning. What does your student already know?
  • How your child holds the book matters. Instead of flat down, hold it up or cupped in your child’s hand or on a typing bookstand. It helps focus. The student can see more of the page at a time; it may better neck posture.
  • Avoid teaching new or struggling readers nonsense words.
  • Use correct models. Model everything. Teach everything at least three times in three ways. Learning styles count.
  • Use a variety of reading materials—age appropriate and interest intense. No interest = no learning.
  • For new writers, teach upper and lower case at the same time.
  • Avoid D’Nealian handwriting, unless transitioning to cursive. Book print more closely resembles manuscript. Focus on sticks instead of curves—this way, writing reinforces reading.
  • Teach everything in sequence, whether phonics or comprehension skills. Use a lot of repetition.
  • Use inventive spelling sparingly and transition to correct spelling by the end of the third grade (otherwise it is hard to un-teach it). Use correct spelling models as early as possible, after first level.
  • Follow a sequential phonics sequence. Many scripted programs miss patterns and do not offer enough practice.
  • Classics (core literature) are important to teach, and not just excerpts or anthologies. The joy of reading is a great gift.
  • Use dictionaries—online and traditional.
  • Take a Book Walk to boost comprehension. Make predictions, summarize. Check for understanding.

My mini-lessons offer lessons within lessons and are a road map to excellence. By teaching in short increments of fifteen to twenty minutes, you not only overcome the challenges of ADD labels, but also actually create a higher teaching order, including an opener, middle, close and extension.

With media bombarding us in short bursts or increments, this closely resembles the significant impact of the mini-lesson. There is an art and craft of teaching reading, which I hope to simplify for you. I’m excited to hear your stories. Share this blog with your friends.

Since every child learns best, differently, no one reading program or method works equally well. How many ways to teach spelling? What vocabulary boosters really work? How to boost reading comprehension? What visual aspects are key? How to boost fluency? Stay tuned for pit stops on the way. Every child can be a great reader.



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