After the pandemic, many teachers, schools, and districts want to reassess their foundational skills instruction

5 tips to help students master foundational skills

After the pandemic, many teachers, schools, and districts want to reassess their foundational skills instruction

2. Bolster any curriculum with supplements

Whether or not a teacher revamps their curriculum, adding helpful components provides much-needed support. Supplemental materials, for example, can help personalize the learning experience with engaging resources that:

  • Support students at their own pace.
  • Represent students of all backgrounds.
  • Engage all students based on their interests.
  • Encourage students and build a joy for learning.

Supplemental materials designed to offer flexibility and personalization work hand-in-hand with a comprehensive program.

3. Prioritize quality over quantity

Suggestions vary widely on how much time teachers should dedicate to building foundational skills. However, most researchers advise that in the early grades, instructors spend between 45 to 60 minutes each day teaching foundational skills — via independent, self-paced or group learning. Quality of instruction is key. Instructional time may vary based on student needs, but teachers don’t have to spend all day on foundational skills to effectively help their students, especially when they include time for practice.

4. Practice, practice, practice

During each day’s allotted time for foundational skills, students need time to practice their new skills and review previous lessons. Students achieve higher gains when teachers pack foundational skills instructions with frequent practice opportunities. One rule of thumb? Teachers should provide a lot of opportunities for students to engage verbally during lessons. They can then gauge understanding and mastery of skills and support their students by giving corrective feedback.

5. Use instructional routines that work

As teachers adjust their foundational skills instruction, they may wonder how to gauge the effectiveness of their new routines. Educators should evaluate instructional routines based on the skill. For example, when assessing an instructional routine for blending phonemes, a teacher would determine if students were blending with more proficiency and then introduce words with more sounds.

Overall, environments where students actively and consistently engage in listening for sounds or words, speaking sounds or words, reading words and sentences and writing letters, words and sentences see higher student learning gains.

Throughout the school day, children read and write a lot in every subject — and they may find themselves stymied by a word in a math problem or a written note during a science experiment. Teachers should treat these challenges as opportunities to integrate foundational skills, helping students master their reading and writing skills in context. By taking advantage of these teachable moments, teachers help students transfer their skills into real-world contexts and empower them to become better communicators, readers, and writers to succeed in school — and beyond.

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