Most people do not know that I began my teaching career as a 1st grade teacher. After 15 years of teaching many know me as the math teacher. Yes, I love mathematics but the longer I teach I have realized that my reading background has helped me with teaching mathematics to my students. When I lived in Houston I did not encounter as many non proficient readers, so my reading background was not needed. Now that I have been living in Louisiana my knowledge of reading has been a godsend because so many of the students that I have taught in the last 4 years struggle with the fundamentals of reading. This not only includes upper the elementary grades but also middle and high school students.
As a first year teacher I was very fortunate to receive training in teaching reading to students, however I have since realized that this is not the norm for many first year teachers in the elementary schools in my school district or surrounding school districts. We are in the midst of getting ready for a new school year and I will be creating a mentoring program for new teachers as well as mentoring new teachers at my school. I had a conversation with one of the returning first year teachers about sending the reading books home for reading and I told her that when I taught 2nd grade I never sent the reading textbooks home because there were blackline master stories for the children to keep at home. As she was talking I realized that she had not had training in the implementing the 5 essential components to reading in her classroom.
When teaching reading to k-2 students the 5 essential components should be evident and practiced daily within the classroom. If all 5 of the components are not implemented in a classroom it causes long term reading problems for students. For example, I had a 5th and 8th grade student who could not blend sounds when I sounded the word out for them. This was alarming to me because I realized that if they could not blend orally with a teacher then they were going to be struggling readers because when students cannot effectively decode words it affects their reading comprehension. I work at a low performing school and I tell teachers all the time that our students are behind when they enter kindergarten because research says that children should come to school with 1,000 lap hours of reading to be ready to learn to read. Many of the students at my school and other low performing schools come to kindergarten with 500 lap hours,only half of reading readiness requirement . Think about it, before they attend their first day of school they are already behind in reading.
I have worked with many teachers but there was one 5th grade teacher that I team taught with in Houston who continued to teach phonics and phonemic awareness to her students even though they were in 5th grade. When her students took the TAKS test they always did well in reading. I believe that this was the key to her success, even though our school was only 50% Title 1 the students still needed the phonics and phonemic awareness component of reading. There are so many teachers that believe that students in grades 3-5 do not need phonics and phonemic awareness. If teachers would keep in mind that these students are playing catch up because many of them did not come to school with the reading readiness requirement for kindergarten then their resistance to teaching phonics and phonemic awareness would disappear.
I’m not sure if this is the key to helping low performing schools with reading but I think if schools would keep the 5 essential components of reading in place until students leave elementary school it would help students become more proficient with reading.