How to Improve Your Ability to Teach Reading

African American female teacher writing on a white board.
Learning the Best Ways to Teach Reading is a Great Career Booster for Teachers

Do you struggle with how to teach reading? Do your skills need a boost or a refresh? 

Want to learn how to help struggling readers? Do you know how to challenge the gifted students in your classroom?

Are you able to raise the level of rigor in your content classroom? These are just some of the challenges that teachers face in today’s classrooms.

There is no time like the present to fill your professional knowledge cup with solid professional development that can help you improve your teaching skills and boost student achievement. 

Refreshing your skills gives you the energy and confidence to make a difference with your students! I am often asked for advice on classes for teachers who aren’t interested in structured degree programs although they still want to improve their classroom skills.

I recommend taking a look at the online course catalog of my friends at Teach N Kids Learn, Inc. for some hands-on, minds-on courses.

Professional Development on How to Teaching Reading and More

Teach and Kids Learn, Inc. is a national training corporation providing high-quality training to teachers since 2009.

It has partnerships with several state departments of education and large school districts around the United States. Partnerships include Michigan, Georgia, Hawaii, California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio to name just a few places where TKL enrolls many teachers. The mission of Teach and Kids Learn is to ensure that teachers receive high-quality professional development that sparks a passion for teaching and learning.

You can learn more about some of the excellent courses they offer at: Teach N Kids

TKL’s courses are practical, hands-on learning experiences designed to meet the needs of practicing educators. Each course helps you learn solid, research-based strategies and techniques that are proven to work in the classroom.

Over 98% of teachers who have taken TKL courses say that they would highly recommend TKL’s self-paced courses to their colleagues.

The course fee is reasonable. Courses are self-paced and can be taken during a semester or as a fast-track, mini-course.

Many states and school districts will award professional growth credit or Graduate credits for course completion.  Check the FAQ page or call them to learn more about options for your state or district.

In addition to courses in reading instruction, TKL also offers courses in many other content areas. For example, there are courses in writing, math instruction, classroom management, PBL or STEM.

You can learn how to work with special needs students who have ADHD, Learning Disabilities, or Autism Spectrum Disorder in the general classroom.

Other classes that you may like include: Increasing Student Engagement: Motivating Students; Engaging Parents in Support of Learning; Kid’s Yoga and Mindfulness; Providing Feedback; Supporting Students with Childhood Trauma, Teaching Mathematics with Rigor; Avoiding Burnout and many more.

Who Teaches Classes for TLK?

All of the instructors who develop and teach professional development courses for TKL are seasoned educators. They all have extensive experience in their content areas and in delivering high-quality professional development.

Since TKL began, I have worked with them as a course developer and “guest instructor” from time to time. I often answer questions that students have while taking any of the courses that I have created.

In keeping with full disclosure, as a freelance course designer, I am paid a small royalty for each student who enrolls in any of the courses that I have created for TLK.

I do not receive royalties for courses developed by other experts nor am I an employee of TKL. I offer this reference only as a consideration for teachers who want to improve their own professional development and skills.

If you want to strengthen your knowledge about teaching reading, you may be interested in the following courses:

Building Academic Vocabulary;

Complex Textual Reading Made Easy;

Addressing Attention Deficits in the General Education Classroom:

Supporting Our Students Through Childhood Trauma;

And finally, my newest course: News and Media Literacy: Fact or Fiction? Research in the Era of Misinformation, Bias and Fake News

To learn more about how to teach reading and any other areas of interest, check out the courses available from my friends at:

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If you are a new school instructional coach, check out my course:

Coaching Heroes and Champions

Effective Vocabulary Instruction

If we want to know more about effective vocabulary instruction, there are two important concepts to understand.

The first is how to help students add new words to their personal lexicon to increase the size of their overall vocabulary. Readers will not understand what they read unless they can recognize and understand the words they are reading.

According to Biemiller (2005), “Teaching Vocabulary will not guarantee success in reading, just as learning to read words will not guarantee success in reading. However, lacking either adequate word identification skills or adequate vocabulary will ensure failure.”

Word cloud of vocabulary words
Words All Around Us Increase Vocabulary

Helping Students Grow their Vocabularies

We learn words most often during our every day life experiences.

For example, a young child learns the word and the concept of “hot” by touching a hot surface and hearing his mother say, “No! Hot!.” After the tears subside, the child has a clear and memorable link to both the word as well as the concept of “hot. They have added a new word to their vocabulary.

People also learn words through movies, television, and listening to conversations in their daily environment.

Snow, Burns and Griffin (1998) state that from elementary through high school, students learn approximately 7 words per day or somewhere around 2,700 to 3,000 per year.

People also learn new words by listening to and reading books. Researchers found that repeated reading of a story resulted in higher averaged gains in vocabulary in young children.

When a story was read more than once, the students made an average gain of 12% more vocabulary words than children who only heard the story read once. (Biemiller & Boote, 2006; Coyne, Simmons, Kame’enui, & Stoolmiller, 2004).

While rereading texts take additional time, the researchers say that the additional learning that takes place with repeated reading is worth the time – especially for students who struggle with learning to read.

The more our students read, the better they become at reading and the larger their vocabularies become.

What are Other Effective Vocabulary Instructional Methods?

Reading aloud to students is also a good way to expand student vocabulary. When listening to someone read, students are able to process vocabulary several levels above what they might be able to read and understand on their own.

Reading aloud to students in all content areas should be a daily experience. Not only is this good for our higher performing students but this oral language exposure is absolutely vital for our struggling readers or English-Language Learners.

Another good way to encourage vocabulary development is to pique student curiosity and interest in new words. Word walls in all grades and content areas can help call attention to special vocabulary that students need to be successful in the classroom.

Collecting and featuring interesting words on a bulletin board can be fun for students and will also build vocabulary. Playing with words can also be great ways to help students have multiple exposures to words in the classroom.

The more students can connect to, visualize and enjoy adding new words to their vocabularies, the stronger and more competent readers they will become.

Vocabulary Instruction to Expand Student Understanding of Words

The second important concept is how to help students learn new meanings for the words with which they are already familiar.

Effective vocabulary instruction includes not only exposure to totally new words but also instruction that deepens a student’s understanding of the meaning of words they already know which may be used in many other conceptional ways.

Homonyms which are words that sound and are spelled the same but have different meanings be very troublesome both for beginning readers and also for English-language learners.

One effective vocabulary instructional approach for words with multiple meaning is to teach students to look at the surrounding sentence for context clues. Teach them to ask themselves, “Did what I just read make sense?”

For example a student might read, “The airplane banked left to fly north.” By asking “Is this sentence making sense?” students can the meaning of “banked” in this sentence is not the same as “bank” meaning a financial institution or “bank” meaning the side of a river.

Effective Vocabulary Instruction Also Includes Word Parts

As adults, we often use our knowledge of word parts such as prefixes, suffixes and root words to analyze a new word that we encounter.

For this reason, it is helpful for students to study and learn the meaning of affixes and root words.

Content area teachers should identify the important affixes that belong to their subject area and help students learn the various word parts so that they develop a greater understanding of how to analyze new words they encounter while reading.

For example, knowing that “hydro” means water would help students unlock the meaning of many scientific words dealing with water that they might encounter.

Learn more by reading What Works in Primary Vocabulary Instruction or

Inspiring Vocabulary

What Works in Primary Vocabulary Instruction?

Helping Students Build Vocabulary Knowledge

If you teach the primary grades, it is important to understand the research behind effective primary vocabulary instruction.

Research says that the vocabulary of beginning first grade students predicts not only their word reading ability by the end of their first grade school year (Senechal & Cornell, 1993). This measure also predicts their reading comprehension by the end of their junior year in high school (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1997).

Louisa Cook Moats (2001) labeled confusion over word meanings and general gaps in vocabulary knowledge as a state of “word poverty.” She states that word poverty appears most often in populations largely made up of students from minority populations. It also includes English language learners, and students from low socioeconomic families.

Teaching Semantics During Primary Vocabulary Instruction

Semantics is the study of different meanings for words. The four types of word meanings are: denotative meanings, figurative meanings, metaphorical meanings and connotative meanings.

Biemiller (2001) tells us that developing a comprehensive understanding of a word comes through repeated exposure to the word in a variety of rich contexts.

Researchers (Nagy & Scott, 2000; Nation, 1990) report that word knowledge includes how it sounds, how it is written, and how it is used in speech. Students should also know the word’s polysemous (multiple meanings) and its morphology (how it was derived).

Understanding Word Differences

Ehri (2000) says that understanding that words are spelled differently and may have different meanings even when spelled the same helps students attend to and pronounce the different letter-sounds.

According to Juel and Deffes (2004), one of the best ways to make vocabulary meaningful and memorable for young students by anchoring new words in these multiple contexts.

Child holding a sign saying learning ABC is fun.

Researchers Learn about Primary Vocabulary Instruction

Comparing and contrasting words on the basis of various features like their spellings, their pronunciations and their meanings helps students organize and categorize words.

These characteristics give students “hooks” that they can use to access the word in the future. This results in more efficient memory storage and retrieval of newly learned vocabulary.

Juel and Deffes tested 3 different vocabulary instructional strategies to see which strategy worked most effectively with primary students.

In what they referred to as a “contextual condition,” teachers related word meanings to students’ background knowledge.

In the “analytic condition,” teachers related words to student’s background knowledge and engaged students in analyzing word meanings.

The third instructional method is “anchored condition.” In this method, teachers related words to students’ background knowledge. They then engaged students in active analysis of words. Finally, they called student’s attention to the words’ component letters and sounds.

The researchers concluded that the analytic and anchored instructional approaches helped students learn the words more effectively than did the contextual instructional approach.

The final recommendation of researchers was that teachers “should take every opportunity to connect vocabulary words to texts, to other words, and to some concrete orthographic features within the word.”

Read the full article Making Words Stick to learn more about effective strategies for primary vocabulary instruction.

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