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    By Julianne

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    Believe me, it doesn't sound stupid that you would need help with this. Teaching reading is so complex and there are so many different approaches that most teachers experience some difficulty sorting out just what they want to teach and why. (Our school is currently changing reading programs, having inservice classes and WHINING loudly.) Here are some places to start in first grade:

    1. Do students know all the letter names and sounds? Pretest the students on this. An observable goal would be to have all students proficient in this skill by December. (Or whenever you think is reasonable for your group.)

    2. Do students know how to approach printed material? Do they know left to right, top to bottom? Can they pick out a word, a letter, a period, quotation marks? There's a short test called "Concepts About Print" that formally tests these things, but you could do an informal survey. The observable goals are for each student to demonstrate that they have this knowledge.

    3. Can students blend sounds together to read words? Can they read chunks of words like the "at" in cat, hat, bat? Reading chunks of words rather than letter by letter is a literacy-advancing skill. The observable goal would be that students can generalize a word like "fan" because they know the "an" in "man".

    4. Can students read simple texts after an appropriate introduction? At what level? Test for the level. The observable goal would be for them to move up from their current level. Be careful about specifying just how many levels you expect them to advance.

    There are many other ways you can look at reading instruction to make sense of it. Writing down a specific skill you know readers need and deciding how to test for it and how to teach it may help you organize your thinking about your own practices. Of course, we don't teach reading one skill at a time, but it does help to think about what goes into the larger task.

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