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How Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

Every teacher I have every met (bar a couple who really needed to work somewhere else) has wanted to do a good job for kids. Usually we enter the profession with the genuine desire to make a difference to children and contribute something positive to society. The caring nature of teaching means that we often invest deeply in our students and give of ourselves in countless ways. Practices come and practices go and we do our best to adjust to the ‘new way’. Teaching reading is no different. Practices have come and practices have gone, but the thing is that the ‘new way’ is not new. It’s been around for nearly two decades. Whether we have had poor initial teacher education, jurisdictions that have promoted ineffective methods or simply not having taught the early years for a while it is REALLY easy to find ourselves on the back foot when it comes to keeping up with reading instruction.

Question Mark, Labyrinth, Lost, Maze, Problem, Question

I have seen a number of teachers posting on Facebook lately about their desire to know more and do better. I applaud these brave souls for their commitment to their students. There is NO shame in saying, ‘Um, I don’t really feel confident in teaching reading. Can someone help me?” In fact, it is quite the opposite. Everyone should feel that they can put their hand up and ask for help. But where do you get that help? Pinterest, TpT and subscription sites might point you in the right direction if you’re lucky, but this can be hit and miss. There are loads of good books about reading instruction that are definitely worth a read, but who has the time or the brain capacity to read them and put it all together for yourself?

If you are a parent or teaching assistant it is even harder. You don’t necessarily have the background knowledge or experience to be able to process all of the information out there and know what it is that is supposed to be happening for your own children or the students you work with.

Never fear. I am here to help! Below, you will find a list of classroom practices that you might reflect on. You can print the list by downloading the PDF underneath. Think about what happens in the school you work in or your children’s school and highlight all that apply. You will then have a profile of your school’s (or your children’s school’s) practices.

It is important to note that very few schools will have every practice sitting in the evidence based column. Most are constrained in some way, often by the system requirement to complete benchmark assessments or the instruction to use particular readers because a lot of money has already been spent. Please do not beat yourself up about what you find when you complete the assessment. Here are three guiding questions to help you use the above list productively and without guilt:

  1. Where are you now?
  2. What is already working well?
  3. What is your next step (just one) to move even closer to evidence based practice?

Now that you know a little of what needs to happen, it is time to learn why these things are important and what they might look like in real life, with actual children. After the mid-year break I am running a Teach Along that covers all this and more. This Teach Along is perfect for parents, teaching assistants and any teacher (primary or high school) who is new to the science of reading. You can find out more here.

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