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July 21, 2017

Teaching Literacy: Tips and Tricks from Teachers

Written By: Brandi Jordan
X Teaching Literacy: Tips and Tricks from Teachers

Teaching Literacy: Tips and Tricks from Teachers

Really Good Teachers around the country shared their best literacy teaching tips to help others improve their teaching techniques. From using clever pointers while reading to engaging students through acting, there are ideas that will help push your literacy teaching skills to the next level. Find out how some of the very best teachers introduce literacy skills to their students!

Tips for Teaching Literacy

Reading Pointers

Make learning fun with this idea by Allison, a Kindergarten Teacher, in Gilberts, IL.  She said, “When fostering literacy skills, it’s possible to bring stories to life with the use of hands-on materials. During guided reading, I incorporate at least one fun reading material into each new lesson.  One day I might use “witches’ fingers,” another day I will use literacy phones, and still another day I might bring in materials keyed to the theme of our leveled readers. For example, when using a book about insects, I use bug nets to help kids “catch” ow and ou phonemes. Children love being able to use unexpected props while reading! The materials help make the experiences memorable for us all, plus they increase attention spans by keeping kids engaged.”

Have “TV Brains”

“When I taught 2nd grade, reading comprehension was a main focus of our reading instruction,” said Natalie, an Elementary Teacher in Cookeville, TN. “To boost comprehension, I taught my students how to visualize story elements (characters, settings, actions, etc.) by projecting them onto their “TV Brains.” I told them they could make the characters look any way they wanted as long as they kept them within the context of the story. When settings were difficult, I suggested students visualize a similar place they had experienced. This approach seemed to make the story more personal for students and, as a result, increased their comprehension.”

Act it Out

“I’m a big believer in pairing the performing arts with literature,” explained Risa, a 4th Grade Teacher, from Owings Mills, MD. “When given the opportunity to act out the vocabulary and ideas presented in a book, story, passage or poem, my students’ reading comprehension improves greatly. We use both drama and art to act out words, concepts, and events.”

Give Audio and Video Feedback

“I have found that offering my students a video recorder and/or computer so they can record their own learning efforts is a powerful teaching strategy,” shared Dawn, a 2nd Grade Teacher, in Powell, TN. “I have students record their own vocabulary and spelling words, phonics cards, and leveled readers. I also have them record their own pieces of writing before editing and sharing; it’s amazing to note how many revisions they will put their writing pieces through before sharing.

I began using a recorder the first time I completed running records as I wanted to be sure I was doing them correctly and I wanted backup. When one of my students complained that I’d incorrectly marked a word wrong, we replayed the video. Not only did he notice that he mispronounced the word, but he noticed that he hadn’t been pausing for periods. This child, who claimed he hated to read, wanted to practice and reread the selection. I knew then that I was onto something.”

Read Alouds to Promote Fluency

“I make fluency fun by using a Reader’s Theater technique to practice reading,” shared Debbie, a 4th Grade Teacher, in Waldo, FL. “With this method, students read play scripts aloud, with more than one student reading each part in unison. That way all students, reading ability levels aside, are able to experience fluency. My students enjoy reading their play parts together and are eager to practice over and over. On occasion, student groups perform plays for their classmates.”

Tape Them!

“To aid students with fluency, I use a camcorder to capture their reading efforts,” said Laura, a 1st Grade Teacher, from Akron, OH.  “I tell them to read as though they are presenting news reports on the TV. Students like seeing themselves on camera, but when they hear how they sound, they work very hard to do better. When they are more fluent, we actually do classroom news program that I broadcast on Friday afternoons. Everyone gets to participate and they are eager to practice to improve their reading and presentation skills for the show.”

Use Puppets

“I have a puppet of Sleepy, the famous dwarf character from Snow White.  Sleepy always sleeps through books and never knows what’s going on,” explained Julie, a Kindergarten Teacher, from Sweet Home, OR. “I have to call on kids to tell Sleepy what happened in the story. My students really like retelling the story to Sleepy. Sometimes Sleepy is only half asleep and remembers parts of the story and asks the kids questions about the story, but goofs up the details. My students are always eager to prove their understanding and set Sleepy straight.”

Read and Record

“To boost reading fluency, I let students choose their own picture books to read and record,” said Kara, a 5th Grade Teacher, from Moseley, VA.  “I use a free, open-source software recording and editing program (such as Audacity® ) to record each student reading his or her book aloud. After listening to their results, students may practice some more and re-record their read-aloud efforts. We listen to both recordings and talk about how to make improvements We go through this process 4-5 times and then, when students are satisfied with their efforts, we burn them on CD and present them to the Kindergarten and First Grade classes to add to their listening centers. We usually start with familiar Dr. Seuss books and then move on to more challenging books as the year progresses.”

Use Cut-Up Sentences

“I created a device that promotes fluency—something I call “cut-up sentences.”  I provide my first grade students with sentences printed on strips that have been cut apart in places where comma(s) would appear,” explained Beth, a K-4 Teacher, from Orrville, OH. “I have students arrange their cut-up sentence according to how it might sound if there were a comma in the sentence. We talk about reading up to the invisible comma and pausing before reading the rest. I demonstrate and then have students take turns giving it a go.  The separated paper (rather than a comma mark) makes it easier for some children to notice where they need to pause. Reading cut- up sentences let students experience fluency firsthand and helps them develop an ear for pausing and phrasing; it also promotes independence. With practice, students begin to incorporate the skill into their everyday reading.”

Sit and Share

“For reading comprehension practice, try “The Kitchen Table” technique,” explained Sharon, a Teacher, Hendersonville, TN. “Have students sit around the table and pretend they are home and gathered around the kitchen table. (Tip: For practice, I often tell them to go home, sit at the table and tell a family member about a book or story they’re reading. An interested family member often will ask questions that are perfect for reinforcing a student’s understanding. Or, you can send home a list of reading comprehension questions to help guide adults and older siblings.) In the classroom, The Kitchen Table allows the students to sit and share aspects of a story with peers. I listen in and ask questions that help guide their comprehension, but for the most part, it is the students’ conversations and interactions that makes this work.”

Build Good Questioning Skills

Build comprehension with this idea by Christine, a 4th Grade Teacher, from Millersville, MD. “To encourage good questioning and reading comprehension skills, I assign my reading groups the task of writing the comprehension questions for their reading selection. To differentiate the content, I vary the number and type of questions they need to ask. I then ask students to trade papers so to allow classmates to answer questions.  Students then trade back again to self-correct. This helps deepen students’ understanding of the kinds of questions that are asked and what constitutes a good answer.”


What are some of your favorite literacy teaching ideas? Share them with us below!

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