The conversations in the Reading Horizons Teachers League Facebook group have grown and deepened in the past year, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. It goes to show that educators are a strong community of people who have their students’ best interests at heart. In order to grow students’ interest and skill in reading, educators understand that using games, giving students accountability, and building mastery rather than memorization are especially effective.
At first, the group was intended to be a safe haven for us to give educators support on their phonics-based literacy program. Now, the educators are the ones providing ideas, answering questions, and giving support to fellow educators who are new to the program.
Here are a few of the hot topics discussed in our virtual educators’ lounge this year.
In with new spelling tests
Rather than limiting students to memorizing 10 to 20 new words each week, educators are using phonics lessons to inform reading and spelling instruction. Educators tackle one skill at a time, and students are tested on words that follow the skill.
There is a push to understand and apply the skill and not just to memorize words. Educators have been talking about using the Reading Horizons Spelling Supplement to teach students phonics skills that are based around the 42 letter sounds, five phonetic skills, and two decoding skills. Once they learn this method, students can apply the skills to any word.
Boosting student confidence
Applying the proper letter sounds and segmenting out the word increases students’ confidence, not only in their spelling but also in their writing. Educators are finding that their students’ writing skills have reached a higher level because they aren’t limited to simple words on a spelling test. This broadens their skillset, and educators are loving the growth in student confidence and its direct correlation to increased reading enthusiasm.
Making phonics fun
Students need to own the skills they’re learning, and games and activities tend to inspire that ownership more effectively than an old-fashioned worksheet. One game that’s gotten a buzz around it is called “Guess It.” The educator constructs a Jeopardy-style board where, instead of topics listed at the top, the five phonetic skills are the categories. Students work in teams to provide an answer based on a clue and which phonics skill it follows. This gets students working together to apply reasoning skills, communicate effectively, and, as one teacher mentioned—help build vocabulary.
“Teacher/Teacher” is another popular game that follows the gradual release of responsibility model. After the educator models a new skill and students practice that skill together as a class, students work in pairs, each taking a turn to “be the teacher.” When it’s a student’s turn to be the teacher, the educator dictates a word from a list that corresponds with the skill that was just taught and makes up a sentence to go along with the word. Their partner’s job is to repeat the word and then write and apply the correct phonetic markings to the word. These markings are part of the Reading Horizons method and are used to determine proper pronunciation and syllabication. The “teacher” has to watch carefully and provide assistance as needed. These games are two of many that build enthusiasm surrounding reading, which ultimately develops comprehension and accountability.
The importance of teacher buy-in
Educators confess that the more comfortable they are with their edtech, the more fluidly it flows into their curriculum. Sometimes it’s nerve-wracking for educators to take on yet another piece of technology, but educators have shared enthusiasm for gaining a new skill set if they are provided with quality training. Educators understand that in order for their students to grow into strong readers, they’ll also need to master certain skills in using supplemental programs. The success of their students relies on their understanding of the tools they have.
Looking forward to 2020
As we move into next year, we want to continue growing our League. We have so many amazing educators who are deeply passionate about our program, and we want to make sure they have a platform to share that passion and wisdom on how to move the needle forward for our students.
I predict that the hot topics in 2020 will revolve around bills that get passed in 2019 and how they’ll continue to trickle down into the classroom. I’ll certainly be watching out for new dyslexia mandates and what they will mean for educators.