Creating Strong Readers – Facing Literacy Challenges in Today’s Classroom
But educators who come in with a strategic plan, an ability to gauge a student’s reading level and exposure to real-life solutions, can have a leg up, said Monica Nagy, a professor in Concordia University-Portland’s online Master of Education program.
Nagy is principal at Windmill Springs in San Jose, California. She holds a PhD and has taught Concordia Portland’s “Current Issues in Literacy,” which is part of the MEd in Reading Interventionist program.
Strategies and leveling
Two of the most basic, but often overlooked, skills for teachers are English language development strategies and leveling, Nagy said.
The strategy includes things like attaching pictures to words and mastering phonetics.
Leveling, or finding the learner’s reading level, ensures that reading materials and instruction actually help the student grow.
“I would definitely say that making sure that you are, as a teacher, aware of your students’ level is important,” Nagy said. “You’d be amazed by how many people don’t know that.”
Leveling is done through assessment testing. There is an array of tests available to teachers.
Once a planned approach and assessment tools are developed or selected, the next barrier teachers often face are second-language learners.
These students may or may not read in English, and they may or may not read in their first language. They may not know their letters or recognize the English words for something.
They are also students whose parents may not be able to expose them to reading in English.
“Home support can very much be an issue, a challenge,” Nagy said.
Having a hands-on plan for dealing with these issues empowers teachers to tackle the challenge.
Nagy’s school, a K-8 school where most of the students also speak either Spanish or Vietnamese, attempts to provide the missing home support, with one-on-one reading time, for example.
A teacher with a second-language learner may read with one student while others work in small groups. A student who needs additional support can spend extra time in school, either before or after classes. And, in some cases, older students help the younger ones through a buddy system focused on reading.
“Try to offer an intervention,” Nagy recommends. Having a plan to propel students forward helps them get further along.
The most important thing any teacher can do, Nagy said, is being prepared.
“Teach your expertise,” she said. “Learn as much as you can about reading.”