Within the last few decades, the role of the principal has changed dramatically. Now in addition to all of the administrative and managerial duties s/he organizes behind the scenes, principals are often expected to:
- Design, implement and refine curricula
- Offer instructional support and improve
teaching and student learning
That being the case, we thought it might be useful to talk a bit about designing—or reimagining—your school’s reading program.
Like any skill, reading “muscles” become stronger when exercised regularly. And just like any sport or exercise, a competent coach (you/the teacher) and rigorous training program (designed, at least in part, by you) is vital to the trainee’s progress.
5 Effective Reading Instruction Strategies For Any Grade
- Let students choose…sometimes
Imagine being assigned complicated texts about subjects you dislike or know nothing about. Now imagine having to read them every day. Sound inspiring? Of course not. Granted, students don’t always have their own best interests in mind—so no doubt, a great majority of the texts they read will be chosen for them.
Here’s something to consider though: Research from Guthrie and Humenick suggests that children who get to choose at least one thing to read per day are not only more engaged, but see an increase in reading comprehension skills. By allowing students to choose their reading material, they can select something at a comfortable reading level, something that interests them, and something they can relate to. Which brings us to Number 2.
- Offer interrelated materials that they understand
Skip the skill-oriented drills and use engaging, interrelated materials they understand. Texts should connect—and you should discuss those connections with students. The more they relate to characters, setting, and plot, the more likely they are to continue reading.
- Meaningful composition
Let children compose their own writing. No response to prompts, no fill-in-the-blank “dittos,” and forget question/answer formats. Why make writing a rote exercise? Let their writing transcend the classroom.
As we said, students don’t always have their own best interests in mind, so count on hearing some gripes early on. You'll hear lots of, "but I don't know what to write about..." Let them know that you are more interested in their ideas than you are in missing commas. I promise you, this will liberate them. Over time, students' free-form writing will begin to flow, allowing them to unconsciously put into practice what their effective reading instruction has been cultivating.
- Read Out Loud
Whether you have 18-year-olds or 8-year-olds, find some time to a) have them read out loud and b) have them listen to your read. Modeling fluent reading skills is one of the most useful, but also the most underused pedagogical practices. Modeling isn’t fancy and certainly doesn’t require special training, but research from Wu and Samuels proves that it helps the brain orient to rhythms, cadence, tone, expression, context; an added bonus, of course, is that it also piques students’ interest in the world of literature.
- Reading Clubs
The more children engage with each other about what they are reading (or have read), the more excited they get about the process. Set up book groups for a few minutes each week, allowing students to chat freely about their ideas, suggestions, and opinions. It boosts reading comprehension skills without them even knowing it.