How to Change Our Schools So That All Children Succeed - Part 4 - What We Know About Reading-Writing

When I last taught middle school, I taught a resource class reading and writing. Our Special Education Department purchased a new reading program which had an internet component. I liked the program, because it was done in small steps, easy to read, had many extra components with it and used reading materials that most of the kids enjoyed. In this part of my article on How to Change Schools So That All Children Succeed, I'm going to focus on reading and writing.

Reading and writing are thinking. In the past reading and writing lessons focused more on developing the skills than on developing children's knowledge and thinking abilities. Today, we understand the importance of teaching our children to read and write with thought behind it. When I taught reading to my students, we took the time to ask questions of the material we read. We searched for more information on the topic. We thought about the characters and asked questions of what we thought they would do next in the story. We debated issues on the various things we read. When asked to write on a topic dealing with our reading, we would have in depth conversations before my students would write. Some would try and write whatever I said, while others tried to put it in their own words. It is important to give students plenty of opportunities to read and write. Teachers need to give lots of examples for their students to be successful. All teaching needs to emphasize thinking, not just remembering. Engaging your child in thoughtful conversations about what they are reading, is important in helping them to write with more thoughtfulness. Find out what reading program your school is using. Ask your child questions about the books they are reading. Visit your child's school and sit in the classroom during the reading and writing lessons.

Prior knowledge plays an important role in reading comprehension and writing. The most important thing in determining how much a child will comprehend in their reading and how well they will communicate in their writing on any given topic, is how much prior knowledge they have. Children with limited prior knowledge will have difficulty with what they read and write on any specific topic. Help expose your child to various types of information. Help build their prior knowledge so that they are comfortable with their reading and writing assignments. Reading alone can build help to build prior knowledge. Your child needs to read a variety of print in order to build prior knowledge.

Children benefit from demonstration and instruction. Some children need more high quality instruction to learn to read and write. Teachers should demonstrate how to answer questions asked. Where to find the answer. The teaching activities of modeling, explaining, and demonstrating are major elements in helping all children learn to read and write. These activities are usually accomplished when a teacher reads aloud to his/her students, gives them a list of how to write a paper and then demonstrates with an example. Discusses a book or article with students injecting how they felt about the book or article. Good teachers will use a lot of demonstration in their instructions of any subject. Find out how your child's teacher teaches. Visit the classroom during instructional time.

Fluency in reading and spelling words is essential to reading and writing. The reading program I taught had a component dealing with spelling words that came from what we were reading. This is an important part of any reading program. Many students stumble over words they are not familiar with. Some students will try and pronounce the word phonetically, while others will just take a guess. Decoding and spelling abilities increase in direct proportion to the amount of successful reading and writing children do. A good teacher will pronounce a word for a student if they struggle with the word. They will also add words that too many students struggle with in the reading to their spelling list. Word fluency activities in classrooms should include lots of writing and easy reading as well as word manipulation and sorting activities.

Children need enormous opportunities to read and write real things. Sadly, there are an enormous amount of children who are not exposed to reading and writing at home. These children have the most difficult time with reading and writing. Easy access to books, magazines, and other reading materials is an important factor is developing readers and writers. Classrooms, along with the school library, should have large quantities of reading materials available for all students to browse, borrow or read when they finish an assignment. Most reading material in the classroom should be easy. If a child cannot read the material he/she is less likely to try reading again. Easy reading material develops fluency and provides practice in using good reading strategies.

There is no one best way to teach children to read and write. Because reading and writing are complex and children and teachers are different, there is no one easy way to teach reading and writing to all students. Teachers need to approach reading and writing using various methods. First you have to make sure your students can decode the words they are trying to read. Then you have to provide many different varieties of reading materials. Tap into prior knowledge. And finally, give plenty of opportunities to practice.

It takes time to teach reading and for the child learn to read. When parents and teachers work together they can help children become readers and writers.