The definition of praxis is the actual “doing” of the theories, ideas and best practiced you have learned, researched and studied. This year I spend time focusing on best practices in reading instruction at the kindergarten level. I’ve tried with success several new strategies and ideas from my research that I will share.
First and foremost Newman (1966) helped me understand the vital importance of teaching reading as early as we can to help kids acquire that love for reading while they are still willing to learn and yearn for information. His article however forty years old, helped me understand that my role as a kindergarten teacher is to create an environment and provide instruction conducive to help students begin reading. Newman suggests that reading instruction begin when students show a sign for readiness and are interested in learning to read (1966, p. 239). I started guided reading later in the year but next year I’d like to be keener on gauging interest and ability and possibly start sooner depending on my group of kids. I plan on starting a take home component on literacy in the fall that will help me gauge their literacy skills. When students are ready, I will begin guided reading groups at that time.
Research by Zemelman, Daniels and Hyde (2005) also agreed that good readers read often and have a high volume of quality easy books for children to choose from. I worked very hard at purchasing more books for my classroom and labeling them with guided reading levels so children were quickly able to find good fit books. I also implemented “read to self” time to increase the time spent on reading in my classroom. I continued to use read aloud time to model think alouds and discussions on story elements, author purpose, vocabulary, and other comprehension skills.
It was also apparent in the research that students should be receiving reading instruction and strategies through small group skill based instruction (Fawson & Reutzel, 2000). This year I began implementing Daily 5 as a way to manage my classroom to allow me time to work in small groups on reading skills. Guided reading is an opportunity for teacher to scaffold their learning and provide “strategic coaching” which “appears to be one of the key elements that distinguish high-achieving classrooms from those with moderate or low performances.” (as cited in Ford & Opitz, 2003, p. 710) In the past when I have done guided reading, I grouped my kids based on reading level versus skill based. According to (Fawson & Reutzel, 2000) students should be matched in groups based on need or skill level. I’m working on creating a checklist of common skills and reading strategies that I typically see children at this age learning. I will move students in and out of groups based on what skills I see them needing. I started teaching more skill based at the end of this year but didn’t have a concrete way to form and interchange the groups without repeating book titles.
This leads me to yet another change I made in my praxis. Best practices in reading and writing highly suggest giving the student choice to motivate and create a constructivist classroom environment. Choice also allows the students to share their knowledge, comprehension and reading strategies (Zemelman, Daniel, & Hyde, 2005) This year I allowed students to choose their own take home books. Also, towards the end of the year I provided students in my guided reading group several titles in their reading level from which to pick from. This strategy encouraged student growth, showed me what skills students were using in their reading because they couldn’t echo read in many instances and encouraged great book discussions afterwards. On the negative side, it was difficult to go on a picture walk and build on prior knowledge before reading and it was more difficult to manage starting and stopping points with the students. In my action research, students were asked if they prefer picking books or having the teacher pick. 76% agreed that they like having the choice of books to read.As you can see I’ve been able to engage my students in quality reading opportunities to increase reading skills. I still have more to develop and I’m excited to implement and keep perfecting the art of quality reading instruction