Teaching literacy is one of education's first and primary responsibilities, and it is of little surprise that young students today require unique teaching strategies to learn and utilize literacy in and outside the classroom. Below are some strategies teachers have used in recent years to improve literacy in their classrooms.
- Using tactile learning activities. The notion of students using their hands to learn principles is not just for teaching the sciences. What once seemed to be a learning preference, tactile learning has now become an all-around effective method of teaching. Teachers who use Maker Learning are implementing active learning projects to teach students in their early stages of literacy when they are full of energy and curiosity. As children continue to grow accustomed to technology and kinetic environments, teachers can capitalize by redirecting their students' desire to be active by having them read aloud, build sentences using flash cards and poster boards, and other literacy activities.
- Finding relevant texts. To motivate children to read on their own, students need texts they can identify with. By using stories with characters, settings and situations students can easily relate to, they may take initiative in reading the material. Libraries and other resources can be used to gather reading material that is especially relevant. Rotating the content regularly can help further engage a classroom's curiosity and familiarity with common characters and themes.
- Teaching with classroom's specific needs in mind. Following specific strategy or pedagogical theories can be useful, but a more effective approach is to learn the strengths and shortcomings of your students. In what areas of literacy are they struggling? Pronunciation while reading aloud? Try incorporating "karaoke," or a similar singing activity. Low vocabulary? Have the children create flash cards of all the items in their backpacks. It may take time to assess your classroom's literacy shortcomings, but understanding these unique deficiencies will make your teaching all the more effective.
- Making students media literate. It's no surprise that children (and adults) are drawn to technology. Though too much screen time can certainly be detrimental to a child's health, teaching media literacy in the classroom will help students gain an understanding of "credibility" and learn how to navigate the information by reading. In doing so, students are given access to technology that also elicits autonomy — a key factor in creating life-long learners.
- Creating social spaces for reading and reflection. Model positive behavior for students by reading aloud, discussing reading materials in class and getting feedback from your students on where they might be confused or feel behind in their literacy. Provide opportunities for students to reflect on what they learn each week through writing exercises.
Most educators agree that introducing literacy early in one's education reaps the largest benefits. For a more comprehensive list of successful researched-based strategies, see Best Practices in Reading.
The University of Louisiana Monroe offers an online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction program specifically designed for teaching reading. Graduate students in this program take specialized courses in teaching literacy to a range of age groups. Courses like Balanced Reading Instruction equip teachers with strategies for teaching reading and ways to expand student reading abilities. A similar but more nuanced course, Technology Integration and Portfolio Development, explores teaching with technology in a way that goes beyond utilizing computer-based systems in the classroom.
Sources:Digital Promise: Maker Learning
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