Reading Instruction: Why Knowing HOW You Teach Matters

Updated: Mar 29, 2019

Years ago, I had an experience that has forever shaped my direction and fueled my passion as an educator, and more specifically, as a reading teacher.  

I had a first-grade student who was an average reader. He didn't struggle, nor did he soar. He met each benchmark and finished the year at the appropriate level for an end-of-first grade student. The next year, our school implemented an assessment and monitoring tool for phonics development. Imagine my surprise when his second grade teacher came to me and asked if he had ever struggled in reading. I told her, no; in fact, he had finished right on target. He was on-target for her as well in all assessments... until she administered that phonics assessment, and oh, my did the weaknesses show up then! She couldn't believe it, either; it wasn't "expected" of that child, based on the other data she had collected. But sure enough, there were some huge gaps in his reading development.

I was floored. And absolutely mortified. How had I missed that?

But then again, how would I have known? I did not have an assessment tool that would measure my students' abilities to decode syllables, isolated by specific types of syllables and patterns. I didn't have extensive knowledge about what phonics instruction really should look like, or how to interweave it into other areas of reading instruction as well. Honestly, folks, I didn't know that much about it. We had a curriculum, and that curriculum provided a basic phonics skill on which we focused each week. I tried to pick up little tips for teaching those phonics skills along the way... But that was it.

So, I missed that child... And who knows how many others?

Never again.

From that point on, I made it my personal mission to learn everything I could about phonics instruction and how to really teach about this thing we call the English language. In fact, for the next five years, I exclusively provided multi-sensory phonics instruction to students with dyslexic tendencies. I started with formal professional development through the Institute for MultiSensory Education and the Literacy and Writing Teacher Professional Development Training. Beyond that, I have consistently done personal book studies, been mentored by other really good phonics teachers, listened to podcasts, engaged in weekly Twitter chats, followed blogs... you name it. I have been determined to do this thing the right way.