Welcome to Teacher Talk, where our authors 'talk' early literacy with teachers. You'll find practical classroom strategies and tips from real educators, as well as personal stories and innovative approaches to improving your teaching practice.
- Grouping students for guided reading first requires that teachers ‘know their students.’ Teachers assess their students, using the tools they know—letter/sound checks, a fluency passage, a benchmarking kit. Yet somehow, when teachers put the students together, the grouping just doesn’t seem to be quite ‘right.’ Something is missing—and the missing piece is teacher observation. Teacher observation is key in grouping students for guided reading.
- Building literacy with paired texts is an exciting concept in guided reading instruction. Through intentional pairing of texts, teachers present students with opportunities to develop literacy in considerable ways.
- There’s no way around it—when selecting leveled books for guided reading instruction, sooner or later you’re going to have to consider levels. For some teachers, leveled books can create a false sense of security, as if the top of the scale is equivalent to a high-stakes test. For others, it leads to distrust in their own judgement about what books to use with their students. Understanding how leveled texts are created can help teachers use leveled books more securely and authentically during guided reading instruction.
- All writers will at some stage have difficulty getting started writing. Skilled writers, as well as young students who are learning to write, can develop “writer’s block”. Writer Kerrie Shanahan explores how teachers can help their students overcome this frustrating problem and get ready to write. She includes quick tips for students to avoid “writer’s block”.
- Every child should have the opportunity to read accurately. Susan Hill draws our attention to an article in which the authors list this as one of the six elements of reading instruction that every child should experience every day. Susan notes that it is exhausting for struggling readers to always be reading too-challenging texts and provides a link for you to read this worthwhile article.
- Recently, early literacy author Jenny Feely received an email about a young student who brought the same book home from school every day. This favorite book was Jenny’s book, Stay Away!, about poisonous animals. Delighted by a young reader’s response to her book, Jenny reflects on the importance of allowing children to choose what they read in order to discover what they like.
- Learning to spell enhances students’ reading and writing, but the rules for spelling are very complex, and can produce frustration in the classroom. As teacher and writer Jenny Feely notes, at times even highly literate adults struggle with spelling. Jenny suggests ways teachers can appease students’ concerns about spelling, and includes some helpful spelling tips. She reminds us that although the many layers of the English language do make it harder to spell, they also provide us with a rich vocabulary.
- Early intervention for students with reading difficulties is widely recognised as making a significant difference in the long-term reading abilities of children. Research indicates that 95 per cent of children who have difficulty learning to read can reach grade level if they receive specialised help early on. As a literacy researcher, but also as a volunteer tutor giving one-to-one instruction, Susan Hill describes her recent involvement in a successful early intervention.
- Talking about the letters and sounds that make up words helps improve reading and writing skills. On a recent visit to a foundation-level classrooom, author and teacher Kerrie Shanahan discovers students confidently using technical terms such as phonemes, digraphs and syllables. This experience is a reminder of how young students are able to understand and appropriately use technical terms to support their learning.
- The importance of reading aloud to children from birth has been well established by research. Recalling a surprising encounter with teenagers enjoying a read-aloud, teacher and writer Jenny Feely implores us to remember that enjoying a read-aloud is a lifelong experience that reinforces the joy of reading and provides memorable experiences with great books.