Teaching LiteracyReading is one of the most important aspects of education. Teaching a child to read is setting the backbone for the principles that will carry the child throughout their life. These principles offer each child a broader range of knowledge. It will help them to achieve rapid automatic word recognition which will lead to articulate reading and understanding. The fundamentals of learning how to read initiate from learning sounds. As the child begins to recognize words, it will become easier for them to learn. To be an effective teacher one must be understanding of the different ways a child learns. This connects with a plethora of strategies and methods on the best way to educate the child. There are key points this paper will address, starting with the learning theories that complement the academic knowledge a teacher contains, then explaining how an environment favorable to learning is developed, further exploring strategies that should be used to foster literacy connections, and finally, how to properly assess students’ literacy comprehension and response to instruction. Learning Theories Having teacher-centered and student-centered theories that support interaction with students and their learning processes is quite possibly just as important as classroom management, assessments, and lesson planning.Teachers can use the behaviorism theory to observe and measure student behavior through use of explicit instruction and a system of reinforcements through reward and punishment. An example would be when teachers reward a student with “clipping up” for good behavior. This can also be implemented as a whole class for good behavior with say an ice cream party for good behavior throughout the week. The same concept would be used for punishments. The teacher has the ability to take away privileges if the student misbehaves. Jean Piaget’s constructivism theory focuses on the student actively building on prior knowledge. In a constructivist classroom, students work predominantly in groups where the learning and knowledge are interactive. The emphasis is on social, communication, and collaboration skills. Students process and then organize information by making connections to prior knowledge through creating schemas, or mental files. The use of text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world are effective ways to teach literacy by engaging students to what is around them. An educator’s job is to use scaffolding as students learn, focusing on the growth potential students are equipped with. This is known as their Zone of Proximal Development or ZPD. The ZPD is basically the level at which the child is understanding the material. This can be best memorized by how the child is responding to the concept in three ways: by walking on water, being able to swim, or by drowning. When teaching new materials, teachers must always keep this in mind. Each student is different therefore, teachers must think of the entire class as individuals. In ZPD, a student is considered drowning if the lessons content is overwhelming or if the child is lost. On the other end, if the content is too easy, the student won’t be challenged and the student is considered to be walking on water. The Zone of Proximal Development is where the student is finding connections in the lesson but is also feeling challenged. Being able to swim through the waves is how this is best portrayed. With ZPD comes the Gradual Release Model (GRM). GRM is essentially guided instruction. The goal of GRM is to guide students toward using different skills, strategies and procedures independently. The student will assume more responsibility with less support from the teacher. Lessons are created to ensure student success. This can be shown in terms of reading as it goes from the teacher reading, to the student taking on the responsibility. Vygotsky’s sociolinguistic theory basically states that our social upbringing is directly related to our education. This is where a “culturally responsive teacher” would know how important it is to have a culturally diverse classroom and the power this has when discussing social collaboration to build both writing and reading skills.Teachers can support literacy development by scaffolding reading and writing instruction. Teachers are able to offer students whatever support they need in order to become proficient readers and writers. It is crucial to model good reading habits by reading aloud to students. Teachers are able to create many opportunities to write by using think aloud strategies to communicate the content. Modeling displays fluency in both reading and writing which teaches strategies and procedures for literacy activities. It also displays what proficiency looks like in reading and writing conventions (Templeton, S., Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., & Johnson, F.). When using the shared reading techniques, the teacher motivates student participation and requires students to actively follow along as the teacher reads. This also requests input on words from students when prompted. When working with older students it is beneficial to use KWL charts. KWL charts are graphic organizers that help students organize information before, during, and after a unit or a lesson. They can be used to engage students in a new topic, activate prior knowledge, share unit objectives, and monitor students’ learning. These also make it so that students are responsible for more tasks with reading and writing on an interactive level. In order to have students exercise small amounts of independence through their work it is important to utilize guided reading and writing. The teacher uses guidance to observe reading or writing in small groups. This level stimulates the use of literacy strategies, as well as growth in reading levels as shown in preparation for independent reading and writing. There must be an authentic learning experience in order for literacy to become meaningful to the students. In the independent level, students have the choice over their readings since they are able to take ownership of their writing. In the independence level, teachers can oversee workshops and give students ownership of their writing. Teachers should choose books that they feel will be enjoyable for their students. All in hopes of creating lifelong learners that see value in literacy.StrategiesPhonological Awareness and Phonemic Awareness are distinguished as the basic understandings and components expected to advance in education. (Templeton, S., Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., & Johnson, F.). The all encompassing phrase for Phonological Awareness is the range of understanding of speech sounds. The speech sounds include rhyme, syllables, and alliteration. Phonological Awareness progresses after time and advances from huge pieces of discourse sounds, syllables and rhymes, to little lumps of discourse sounds, similar to phonemes; the tiniest unit of sound (Templeton, S., Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., and Johnson, F.). Phonemic Awareness is a subcategory under Phonological Awareness. Phonemic Awareness enables students to recognize and reflect about the tiniest unit of sound. Having the awareness of phonemes allows the student to break apart words to say them properly. This can also help students to learn how to write out words as well by segmenting words into three sounds. (Templeton, S., Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., & Johnson, F.). An example of this would be in the word “mom”, it can be broken down as (m/-o/-m-). Students are most likely taught phonics before having a true understanding of Phonemic Awareness. Phonics are made to produce spellings of words, by doing so students must disengage singular sounds in each word and apply their insight into its letter name. The correspondence amongst letters and sounds is through the learning of phonics. The connection between letter name and letter sound is the that which makes phonics. Phonics is a method used by teachers so that students can understand why they should learn the breakdown of each letter name and sound, to create and describe each word. It is important to learn phonics because phonics helps every individual to learn to read. Essentially written language is like a code, when you learn the sounds and letter combinations the individual is cracking the code to the English language. The Developmental Spelling Theory is a phonics based program which helps students learn how words work in our English language. Word study allows students to look at words so that they can build a heightened understanding of how spelling actually works to represent the different sounds and their meaning. Students are assessed and grouped according to their appropriate stage of development and they study the structure of words by sorting and comparing them. Developmental Spelling Theory differs from traditional approaches in two ways: It prescribes the direct assessment of a child’s growth as a speller and relates their stage of word knowledge development to both reading and writing. The student is given a list of words and how they choose to spell the words will reflect their current word knowledge (Templeton, S., Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., & Johnson, F.). Developmental Spelling Theories are specifically designed so that teachers are able to pinpoint the child’s strengths and needs as spellers. It also helps to create a hypothesis about each child’s level of development (Fountas, I. C., & Pinnell, G. S. ). It has been shown that as early as two years old developmental spelling can occur. Children start by learning the progression of sounds which will develop into words. For the early aged children, this is when phonemic awareness and phonemic awareness are implemented (Fountas, I. C., & Pinnell, G. S.). Spelling will come naturally to the student as they grow to the point where they will no longer need to phonetically sound out words anymore. The phonics goals for early readers is to decode new words by sounding out each letter within the word until they figure out the word in its entirety. When students are reading, they must make a connection to the word in order to learn spelling rather than just memorizing. Environment When promoting literature, the teacher must establish a literate environment. It is critical to have an atmosphere which will celebrate and welcome students independence. It has been proven that students will not strive in an uninviting and aseptic environment. It is important to strive towards having a closeness among teachers and students. When promoting literature, the teacher must show a love for reading. Showing an engagement and excitement for reading allows for the students to become excited. In our ever changing society it is important to have a classroom library. The teacher must advocate for the books to have different genres, levels, and interests to coincide with the different students among the class. Books don’t have to be hard covered. Students can listen to audiobooks or as a class make a class book. Audiobooks can be a great way to introduce interpretive reading. They are also a great way to have students listen to the book, read the book, and then get quizzed on the book. When making a class book, students will feel prideful in that they made the book on their own. Creating books is a great way to inspire creative writing and to encourage the students to read their peers works. It is important to initiate a social environment, as teachers we want to promote collaboration and communication. It is a great way to also view how students will share their thoughts. Effective teachers will welcome questions, provide useful feedback, as well as seek out the creative works of students who draw pictures or write stories about their own lives. A classroom is such a unique opportunity in that with the small area given there is an ability to foster a community of learners. The entire community is able to be welcomed in by the students to show how much they have accomplished in school. AssessmentAssessment is a fundamental component of education used to enhance instruction (The Access Center, 2005). In order to execute proper reading instruction, teachers must establish the student’s baseline. To create a student’s baseline the teacher is going to want to do an initial reading assessment. It is important to keep in mind that students are entering the classroom with diverse backgrounds as well as a wide range of literacy skills. Students with IEPs for reading will need to start with their basic reading skills and work their way up. Teachers may find that some of their students have already grasped the content for the day. It would be wise to utilize these students by pairing them with students who seem to be struggling. While keeping in mind the different students abilities, teachers are going to want to design their literacy plans around those skills. It would be wise to implement having reading assessments year around. It has been identified that early literacy concepts can anticipate younger students later reading achievement (Fountas, I. C., & Pinnell, G.). The reading concepts recognized were phonemic awareness, letter knowledge, decoding, comprehension, and fluency. It is best to assess each concept because they have different purposes. Assessments can be great for monitoring student progress as well as guiding teacher instruction. When monitoring student progress, teachers are able to identify the students who are ready to move on as well as who needs review of what specific content. If a teacher is using consistent assessments they are able to make educated decisions on which instruction methods work for each student. Assessments are also really great for the teachers. They provide teachers with information on how instruction can be improved and whether their current teaching methods are effective. Assessments are central elements for any teacher and is recommended to be implemented regularly. Through implementation, teachers can help students approach the skills and content needed for general education curriculum. Assessments aim to have students perform at their highest potential.