Six Ways to Support Teachers With Adolescent Literacy
The science of reading provides teachers with guidance about how to most effectively instruct students during their literacy journey, but how can administrators and school district leaders best support teachers during this process?
During Episode 13 of All For Literacy, host Dr. Liz Brooke teams up with Rhonda Nelson to explore ways to support teachers with adolescent literacy. Nelson is the curriculum instruction and assessment coordinator for the Bettendorf Community School District in Bettendorf, Iowa. Having previously served as a classroom teacher and earned a dyslexia certification, she is now a doctoral candidate in reading science at Mount St. Joseph University.
With an effective support system in place teachers can apply evidence-based practices more easily, leading to greater strides in student success. Implementing quality teacher support this year can help educators and students thrive.
How to Support Teachers With Adolescent Literacy
1. Providing Professional Development
Many teachers today find their training programs did not adequately prepare them to most effectively instruct students in learning to read. Some teacher-training programs lack evidence-based instruction that translates the science of reading into usable classroom activities. Professional development programs can fill these knowledge gaps and support teachers with adolescent literacy instruction.
“When you make something transparent for teachers…they are more able and more apt to then teach it effectively because they understand it themselves,” Nelson says in the All For Literacy episode. Professional development creates game-changing transparency around the science of reading, helping teachers to relay the information more effectively to their students.
2. Allowing Time for Teachers to Spend With Materials
“There's never enough time in my opinion for teachers to have the time with the materials to feel fully prepared to teach the lessons and look at the assessments,” Nelson says. With busy school schedules and after-school work like grading and lesson planning, teachers often do not have enough time to spend with literacy materials to gain the understanding necessary to optimize student learning.
Nelson and her team support teachers in the Bettendorf Community School District by intentionally carving out teacher teaming time, where they can meet together across the district as grade-level teams. This provides more time for teachers to feel comfortable with the material which can directly affect student success.
3. Providing Teachers With Approachable Research
“Teachers are made to feel inferior because they may not understand some of the research that's out there, or they don't have a grasp on some of the evidence. But [they’re] not to blame for that. That's actually on the researchers, that's on the system in place,” Dr. Tiffany Hogan says during Episode 8 of All For Literacy from season 1.
The bidirectional relationship between teachers and researchers is a common conversation on All For Literacy. “The research isn't always written for teachers, it's written for researchers, but the findings are what they need to get to the teachers,” Nelson says on the subject.
One way to support teachers is by providing easy-to-access and easy-to-understand research materials. Nelson cites the International Dyslexia Association® and The Reading League as two resources for digestible articles, conferences, and webinars for teachers.
4. Supporting Teachers Continued Education Aspirations
In the All For Literacy episode, Nelson walks listeners through her experience earning her doctoral degree while still working full time in the school district. Dr. Brooke adds how it’s an excellent way to marry education and research at the same time—“You're like the immediate conduit, both the researcher and the educator in that moment.”
Research-aligned doctoral programs allow educators to strengthen their understanding of the science of reading and implement new techniques in real time in their classrooms. However, these programs require support and understanding from superintendents, administrators, and others in the school or district.
5. Effectively Equipping Instructional Coaches
Instructional coaches can be a powerful connector between educators, evidence-backed research, and professional development. Ensuring a district or school employs and effectively trains instructional coaches can make a huge difference in literacy rates.
Instructional coaches help support teachers by attending professional development when teachers may not have time. Coaches can then bring that understanding to teachers and work with them to apply evidence-based tactics in the classroom.
“We're making sure that our instructional coaches feel equipped to then walk alongside teachers on more of a day-to-day basis or through coaching cycles,” Nelson says about how her district uses coaches to support teachers.
6. Hiring Curriculum Instruction and Assessment Coordinators
“We need more people in roles like mine that the person in the role enjoys collecting large amounts of information that then they have at the ready to provide when it's necessary or needed,” Nelson says about the best way to close the research-to-practice gap.
These coordinators collect teacher-friendly resources from research-supported practices and disseminate this information to teachers to be applied in the classroom. They also provide similar information to instructional coaches. Essentially, they help ensure teachers and coaches have access to the easily digestible research and information they need to optimize literacy learning for their students.
Supporting Teachers Supports Higher Literacy Rates
Teachers are often overworked with packed schedules. Applying these six practices can help support them as they work through literacy instruction in their classrooms. Building a better understanding of the science of reading across classrooms, schools, and districts can help raise adolescent literacy rates.
While this All For Literacy episode’s discussion is wide and varied, one common theme emerges—how to best support teachers during adolescent literacy instruction. Tune in for actionable advice derived from Nelson’s firsthand perspective, and subscribe to All For Literacy to stay current on new episodes.
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