Studies have shown that schools that do not implement a school-wide strategy across all grade levels for improving literacy do not demonstrate reading or writing proficiency or growth. With over 66 percent of all 8th graders in the U.S. lacking basic literacy skills, implementing a solution that fosters increased learning skills in grades as young as kindergarten is a must.
The benefits of having a solid foundation of literacy instruction from the first year a student attends school cannot be overstated. This foundation will be added year after year, increasing proficiency and enhancing growth. Literacy can be improved upon.
How to Get on Track to Improve Literacy
While developing and implementing strategies to improve literacy can be a bit overwhelming, ensuring your students acquire the skills necessary for growth is paramount to their academic and real-world success.
It is impossible to fully get into every element required to increase the literacy rate of the students at your school in just this one article but taking a look at a few strategies on how schools can improve literacy will help you on your way to foster growth and improvement in your classroom and school.
Components for Improving Literacy Skills:
Aligned Curriculum Across Grade Levels: Research shows a strong correlation between schools that regularly review curriculum across grade levels and student achievement. Knowing what students are being taught to improve literacy skills in the grade levels below and above yours will help your school provide a balance and variety of topics, as well as a solid foundation that can then be built upon each school year.
Also, reviewing the curriculum with your colleagues fosters a reflective learning community and can help you gain a deeper understanding of how the skills you’re teaching fit into a student’s overall learning development through their school years. This will allow you to be better prepared for the students entering your classroom at the beginning of the year and ensure that you properly prepare your students for their teacher next year.
Supporting Reading Instruction in Subject Areas: Integrating subject areas is an excellent way for you to foster literacy while also teaching mathematics, history, science, and many other subject areas. Literacy skills taught during reading and writing lessons should be used and practiced during other content areas. This not only gives students more opportunities to master the skills but also helps them use literacy in many areas of life.
Integrating curriculum is also a great way to increase your students’ retention and engagement, which research shows, leads to higher levels of mastery. Anytime your students are given the opportunity to make real-world connections, their engagement improves as it becomes meaningful to them. This will ultimately result in improving literacy skills and the retention of them.
Shared Leadership That Uplifts Teacher Voices: You, as an educator, have a massive amount of education and experience teaching children. Your knowledge and experiences may be similar, but you will definitely have some differences compared to your other colleagues. Imagine how powerful combining the literacy expertise of all the educators at your school can be! Every teacher has a voice and an opportunity to bring something constructive to the table.
School leadership and literacy go hand in hand as there are so many different teaching strategies, texts, and research out there that can help improve your students’ literacy skills. Sharing your knowledge with others, as well as learning from other educators, allows teachers more access to valuable information. A school leadership team that encourages the sharing of information will ultimately create a more robust learning environment.
Extra Supports for Struggling Students: A huge part of implementing a successful school-wide literacy program is having supports in place for your students who are struggling in reading and writing. Noticing and addressing these struggles as early as possible in your students’ learning career is crucial, as foundational literacy skills are the building blocks to literacy mastery.
Many schools have Prevention or Intervention programs that target K-3rd grade students in need to give them additional small-group literacy instruction. These programs all vary and can look very different from school to school. It is important for you to understand as much as you can about the supports at your school and be an advocate for the students in your classroom to ensure you are provided with the resources you need to aid them.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask your school leadership for resources or studies that can help you better understand how to give targeted small-group or even one-on-one literacy instruction to struggling students if needed.
Evidence-Based and Instruction-Focused Teacher Development: As an educator, you know that these components are essential to a strong school-wide literacy strategy, but none of this can be implemented if teachers aren’t given the time and support to make it really work. You want to know that a strategy will be effective, which is why evidence-based teacher development is so crucial to improving literacy school-wide.
School leaders must have up-to-date research studies and findings available, as well as an effective way for teachers to them, implement these strategies into the classroom. You may know an effective strategy but may not know how to implement it into your day-to-day instruction. The combination of evidence-based research with an instructional focus will ensure the implementation of a strong school-wide literacy program.
How Do I Get Started Improving My Student’s Literacy?
If your school doesn’t already have a school-wide strategy to improve literacy skills, there is no time like the present to take the initiative and do your part as an educator to implement one. With the world becoming a much smaller place and most interaction is being done via text, your students’ success academically, socially, and in the real world depend on it.
Speak with your colleagues and maybe contact one of your administrators to discuss ways that you can improve the literacy skills of all students on campus. Approaching literacy with the intent to create and build upon a foundation will ensure growth for your student’s entire academic career.