Archive for July, 2017

Four Features of Effective Reading Instruction

Four Features of Effective Reading Instruction!

Recently, I attended a workshop called “Reading to Learn for Fifth Grade” where I learned about the features of effective instruction that I wanted to share out with others who are teaching reading.  Now, this effective instruction may be for any content area, however I am putting this towards reading because that’s what I teach.  And I think that this is the groundwork for any teacher in other content areas as well.  First I’m going to list the features and then talk about each one of them individually.


  • Explicit instruction with modeling
  • Systematic instruction with scaffolding
  • Multiple opportunities to practice and respond
  • Immediate and corrective feedback


First, explicit instruction with modeling is the deliberate demonstrating and explaining of concepts.  It could be you modeling for the students or peer modeling with other students.  When you have kids sitting in groups or partners this can be an effective way to get students interacting.  When you have explicit instruction you are explaining the concepts and skills in ways that are concrete visible you have to include clear language and use many examples.  You want to ensure that you get your point across so that kids can master whatever skill that you are trying to teach, you want have routines to ensure mastery, and you definitely need to be prepared.   Explicit instruction consists of instructional procedures that are predictable, clear, and consistent. It has known expectations for the students so they know what to expect and what you are expecting.  Lastly explicit instruction has familiar routines.  Remember with explicit instruction you want to ensure you are constantly modeling, you want to demonstrate the task aloud by following a step-by-step procedure, you want to speak clearly and use language specific to the demonstration of the skill.  And you always ALWAYS want to continuously check for understanding while you’re modeling. Don’t just keep speaking and not check to see if the concept is understood.


The second feature is systematic instruction with scaffolding.  That means planning your lesson from start to finish.  Make sure that the task is appropriate for the outcome you want. You want to carefully sequence instruction so that you can optimize learning.  To select appropriate task and goals you want to move from easier to more difficult skills, you want to begin with higher-utility skills and begin with what your students already know.  Scaffolding should be based on each child and scaffolding should also be temporary. First, think about your most challenging student; then order the concepts and skills; next choose one concept or skill to scaffold; and finally provide three scaffolds for your chosen concept or skill.


The third feature is multiple opportunities to practice and respond.  You want to maximize your student engagement and participation. You want to always provide opportunities to practice this new skills in a variety of ways.  You want choose an activity that is related to the concept and skills you want the students to master.  You want the practice to relate the skill to student’s prior knowledge.  Kids that are actively engaged learn better.  You also want to make sure you increase the students opportunity to respond and you want to hear what they’re saying about the skill to make sure they understand.  Activities you can do are think pair share, choral responses, whole group, or small group. You want to ensure that you are practicing after each step of instruction, so stop and explicitly teach each step of instruction and then give them an opportunity to practice to ensure that they mastered the skill before moving onto the next step using multiple practice formats. Other ways to get in constant practice is through guided practice, whole group instruction, small group work (peer tutoring), independent practice, workstations, or work centers.


Lastly the fourth feature, immediate and corrective feedback.  When giving feedback to student you have to ensure that you are giving feedback in various forms.  For example, verbal, nonverbal, and written.  Feedback can be given in whole group, small group, partners, and/or individual.  When you give feedback make sure it is descriptive, telling students if they are right or wrong and explain why their answer is wrong and have them (students) correct themselves. When you explain why answers are correct or incorrect you are telling the students what they have and have not achieved and giving them an opportunity to develop ways to improve their learning. That means you need to have an environment where you can’t give that feedback so that students will still want to participate and not hinder them for being engaged because they are too scared to give the wrong answer.  You want to make the feedback immediate you don’t want to wait a day or two before you can give feedback. You want to ensure they are not learning how to do something wrong that makes it more difficult to reteach. So always make sure your feedback is immediate and corrective. Remember these features are given so that your instruction is effective and that your kids are learning, engaged, and that you are seeing results.

Poverty and Education

poverty and education

How does poverty affect education?  For the past 10 years I have worked in low income schools that receive title I funds because of the socioeconomic demographics of the school.  And I started to realize and notice some misconceptions out there by others and sometimes even teachers that affect how we educate our students.  My blog is based on my experience with teaching students in low socioeconomic areas and it is always a struggle.  Oftentimes, they come to me below grade level and they are not where they need to be, and it is not small gaps that I have to bridge there are enormous gap that I have to bridge.   I mean 2 to 3 year gaps.  Once we had a discussion in a staff meeting on how can we bridge these gaps and found out there was so many myths and misconceptions out there about what was affecting how our students learn that we could not come up with a strategy.


What I have come to understand after years of working with schools in poverty areas is to never come in with preconceived notions.  Listening to what administrators and other teachers were thinking I came up with a list of what I will call myths or misconceptions.


  • First myth is that parents do not care about their kid’s education. This is because of their visibility around the school and afterschool activities, i.e. PTA, parent conferences, open house, etc.
  • Second myth is that students don’t care they have no interest in learning
  • Third myth is that students can’t learn because their resources are limited
  • Fourth myth is that behavior problems due to their environment and the parents will not do anything about it hinder learning


Unfortunately we cannot change a poverty situation, however, we can change our thinking.  We cannot assume those myths because we are not in their shoes and we don’t know what goes on in their homes. Although our students may tell us some things we should never assume things.  Every situation is different and we shouldn’t judge.  Because many of the parents do care but are limited in what they can do.


We as educators need to build relationships with our students and with their parents.  Even if it is only by phone or email.   I had a parent that I never saw but I talk to all the time and one time she was very upset and cried on the phone because she felt like that she wasn’t being a good parent because she could never come to anything, her job wouldn’t let her, she was fearful of taking off unless it was a true emergency, however I reassured her that I had her back and that as long as we kept the communication lines open we could work together to do what was best for her son.  Because I knew that all jobs are not as flexible and understanding and putting food on the table was important. Her son ended up being one of my top students and I even had as my go to peer tutor to help out in class.  Sometimes I stepped in and helped my students where I could and even sometimes even providing supplies and provide food.


Remember to always praise the students whenever possible for even the little thing because that may be the only praise they get for the day, not that the parents can’t  or don’t it’s because they don’t have the time (work schedule) or they don’t think about this and the biggest most important thing is to listen to the kids.   When you build those relationships you will learn a lot more than you even thought you would about your kids.  They do have the ability to learn and when you build those relationships they will do whatever it takes to please you even though it is really helping them.  So never assume, don’t judge, build relationships and praise whenever possible and number one again listen!

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