Can you recall the method you used to learn reading? Were you part of a reading group or did you use SRA boxes? There is a significant amount of research available on the most effective ways for learners to learn reading and the optimal approach to reading instruction.
When it comes to reading teaching, we should expect to see the following in our children's classrooms:
The focus is on the student.
The students are given the opportunity to choose their own reading materials, as having options is crucial. (See the article "Just-Right Books" for more information.) Observe the process of choosing the right book.
Authentic literature is used.
Actual literature rather than books with limited vocabulary for the purpose of decoding.
The instruction is centered on understanding the meaning of the text.
Emphasis is placed on social interaction, with students engaging in discussions about the books they read with their peers.
- Brief, focused instruction on specific reading strategies (5-10 minutes),
- An extended reading time (30-60 minutes) for students to read and apply the lesson to their own chosen books, as well as time for the teacher to confer with individual students,
- Ends with writing in reading journals and a group reflection time (5-10 minutes).
A Reader's Workshop approach is used, which includes:
An emphasis on the reading process, with comprehension strategies explicitly modeled, taught and practiced. Strategies used by proficient readers include: utilizing fix-up strategies when comprehension is interrupted, connecting to prior knowledge, determining importance, making inferences, visualizing, asking questions, synthesizing, and being aware of one's own thinking.
Phonics instruction is included as part of a balanced program, but not overemphasized. Even in a kindergarten classroom, phonics instruction should not exceed 20 minutes a day. (Phonics instruction becomes unnecessary as students become fluent readers.)
Daily read-aloud time is incorporated, as well as opportunities for individual and partner work.
Instruction is provided through whole-group, small-group, and individual methods.
A variety and quantity of books are made available to students, covering different genres and topics.
The teacher models reading behavior by sharing their own thoughts and preferences about the books they read.
Effective reading instruction should include a variety of assessments, such as conferring with students, and should be individualized to meet the needs of each student. It should also involve a balance of reading and writing instruction and allow for flexible and fluid guided reading instruction.
The use of "The Daily Five" (Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Work on Writing, Word Work) can be effective. On the other hand, instruction should avoid being teacher-centered, where the teacher chooses all the books for the children to read and not allowing children to choose their own books. Also, the use of "decodable" leveled books and emphasizing phonics over comprehension should be avoided.
Additionally, grouping students exclusively by ability and using round-robin reading can hinder comprehension. Assessments should not be limited to tests only and reading instruction should include writing. Whole group instruction and activities should be used sparingly and the teacher should model them thinking out loud for students.
All of this could be found in Learn with Koala, where you can find many of the best phonics and literacy classes for young learners. You can find and book those classes at this page.