How to Determine the Best Reading Program for Your Students
Reading is a pivotal skill that all students need in order to succeed in school and in life. There are a number of techniques and teaching styles that educators can employ to help their students achieve reading comprehension and competency. While there are many excellent and proven methods for helping students to succeed in reading, identifying the best reading program for your classroom can be challenging. More than likely, the best reading program for your class will be a combination of proven elements for success. What are these components for successfully teaching new readers?
Respect All Skill Levels
A typical classroom contains students at every level in terms of innate reading ability and skill level. Because of this, you should try to honor each child’s competency level and teach to them accordingly. One of the best ways to facilitate this is through creating appropriate groups comprised of students with similar reading levels and proficiency. Ideally, they will also have a similar learning style and benefit from the same basic teaching methods.
Group students appropriately after the beginning of the school year once initial assessments have been given. Try and keep students from feeling “labeled” based upon their skill level. Also, bear in mind that students might shift to different groups as the school year progresses. Be flexible and make sure that students are in the group that fits them best throughout the school year. You can also experiment with changing group structures from time to time as well; for example, try partnering your less proficient readers with stronger readers.
Reading for Context
One way that students can improve reading comprehension is by relating content that might be harder to understand with the other content around it that they do understand. Encourage your students to read in this way as they work to improve their proficiency as readers. Whether it’s just one word or several sentences, the context in which the material appears can help students to understand and integrate all of what they are reading.
Reading Out Loud
Having students read orally in class is a great way to help them enhance their reading ability while demonstrating what they are capable of. Students are then able to receive feedback from both you and other students. This effectively gets them out of their heads and interacting with both the material and you as the educator in a more constructive way.
Phonics and Phonemics
Students who are taught the basics of words via phonics and phonetics tend to improve in reading more rapidly than students who do not receive this sort of instruction. Phonics emphasizes learning how letters correspond to sounds in a word, and in turn how this relates to reading, sounding out words, spelling and understanding them. Reading exercises that focus on a single letter or a word at a time, like the word group “cat, mat, sat, splat,” are often used in phonics studies. Phonemics focuses on even more basic units of language. These units, sometimes called “phonemes,” are letters or letter groups that make up sound-elements within words. The letter “c” would be a phoneme, but so would “ck” and “ch.” This sort of instruction along with more general reading lessons can help students grasp and comprehend words from the inside out.
Regular vocabulary exercises can greatly enhance reading comprehension. Vocabulary-building can be as easy as having a “word of the day” written on the chalkboard each day along with its definition, and quizzing students periodically on past words of the day.
With technology advancing as it has, there are now a vast number of software programs that can be used in the classroom to help enhance the learning process. Reading is no exception. Click N’ READ Phonics, Be Smart Kids, TNT Reading and Reader Rabbit Reading Learning System are just some of the more popular programs available today.
Identifying the best reading program for your students is definitely more of an art than a science. All students learn differently, so try and be flexible as you implement your reading program. That said, the methods outlined here have a proven track record and can act as a solid foundation for reading education in your classroom.