Let me preface this post by saying I think all teachers are good and amazing teachers. Teachers are selfless and compassionate people who do a job that very few people can. But when it comes to the qualities and strengths of what makes a reading teacher go from good to great, there are a few factors that need to be in place. So let’s see, what does it mean to be a good reading teacher?
There are so many things that strong reading teachers do, but in my time in the classroom and as a coach, these next few qualities are what I have found to separate the good teachers from the exceptional teachers. These may seem like ‘fluff’ but are very real qualities that take time and dedication to the field of teaching.
Reading Teacher Quality #1: A passion for literature
People say that love is contagious. I say that a love for literature spreads like wildfire. It is the most important quality of a strong reading teacher. Strong reading teachers are immersed in the world of children’s literature. They know the authors and their work inside and out. They are giddy when new releases come out and are constantly on the lookout for new literature to share with their students.
These passionate teachers make it a priority to read aloud to their students every single day without prevail. There is nothing more important than reading out loud to students. Showing and sharing that passion for literature shows students how impactful reading can truly be. How has reading made you who you are today? How does reading impact your daily life? This passion for literature helps to motivate even the most unmotivated reader in your class. Your excitement for the daily read-aloud becomes the students’ favorite time of day. Students rush to the bookshelves to see what new books you have found for them this week. Education without a love of reading is just a road that goes in circles. How passionate are you about reading? Are you showing this to your students?
Quality #2: Continuous will to learn
The world changes each and every second we are in it. No two children are alike. New problems emerge daily. Why am I saying all of this? Because it is proof of change. Change is constant. And because that’s true our teaching cannot stay stagnate. As a coach, I, unfortunately, came across many teachers who were stubborn and set in their ways. They didn’t want to learn about new research. They didn’t want to try out new methods for teaching. What they have done ‘works’ for them. But does it?
Teachers don’t know everything. I consider myself an expert in the area of reading comprehension, but there is SO much out there I still need to uncover. Teachers who have the continuous will to learn and strive to find new methods to add to their teaching is one of the most important qualities of a strong reading teacher. They are reading new professional development books over the summer. They are attending training offered by their schools or finding them on their own! They are spending time thinking and rethinking how to approach specific standards in their lessons. Their lessons are barely ever recycled and used twice without being tweaked or changed in some way. They know that their students are changing, the world is changing, and they need to be changing too.
Reading Teacher Quality #3: Text analysis
This may seem odd, but I have found that this is truly a skill that strong reading teachers possess and need in order to present students with intentional and meaningful instruction. So what do I mean by text analysis? I mean having the ability to read a text or picture book and know what type of thinking is needed in order to comprehend that text. Does the text require a lot of inferencing? Does the text have an implied theme? Does the text follow or not follow a typical story structure? Strong reading teachers know how to analyze a text for what’s inside and use it in their instruction.
When you read a picture book, are you aware of your thinking? Since reading picture books is clearly below your reading level, it’s harder to put yourself in your students’ shoes and figure out what THEY would experience while reading. How do you train yourself to do this? Practice, practice, practice. One of the ways that helped me was to begin by analyzing the texts the curriculum companies put in their basal readers or their leveled readers. They clearly used those stories for a reason. How does that story support the standards the curriculum has chosen for the week? When you get new literature for your classroom, stop and read it. What skill or standards could you use to teach using this book? It’s not something that will happen overnight, but with intentionality and practice, it’s a skill that you’ll enjoy having.
Quality #4: Know your students
Yes, this one seems like a ‘duh’, but it’s especially important for reading teachers. We have to know our readers inside and out. Not just for building relationships, but for so many more reasons:
- picking books that match your students’ interests
- helping students pick books for independent reading
- understand what motivates your students
- understand their schema – what do they have previous knowledge about?
- what hesitations do they have about reading?
It’s not just about getting to know them for the purpose of building the teacher/student relationship. We cannot teach a student to read whom we don’t know. And we can better teach and reach our students.
Reading Teacher Quality #5: Understanding content knowledge
It always scares me when I have conversations with teachers and they say something along the lines of, “I don’t really know how to break down main idea for my students.” This tells and shows me that there is a lack of content knowledge for this teacher and her students might not get the best instruction on this skill. I get it though, teaching every single standard and skill is overwhelming. It’s a lot to understand and remember. But from what I have found is that strong reading teachers have a deep grasp and understanding of the content they are teaching.
If you have areas in reading that you’re not confident teaching or not sure how to break down and instruct students, then I highly suggest finding some professional development books that can help clarify some information. Reading blog posts is also a great way to find small bits of information that are easy to take in at a time. However you do it, it’s so important that you reflect on your deficiencies and get those filled as quickly as possible. Our students deserve the best instruction and it’s our job to provide it.
Quality #6: Meeting students needs without compromising growth
I have found another quality to be meeting students’ needs without compromising growth. What do I mean by this? There is a fine line between something being easy and something being rigorous. Yes, we need to meet our students where they need to be, however, that doesn’t mean we spoon feed them. The bar still needs to be set high. They are still expected to learn and be exposed to grade-level material regardless of how far behind they are. Strong reading teachers can find the balance between the current content they need to learn and fill in gaps that the students have. Consistently providing students with material JUST on their level actually leaves students farther and farther behind. It’s a delicate balance between meeting their needs and pushing them that helps close those gaps.
Without making this post extremely long, I want to mention a few more qualities I believe are present in strong reading teachers. First is rigorous and specific lesson plans. Lesson plans are specific, intentional, and focused on a strategy or skill. They are rigorous in the fact that they make students think and give them enough information to work with to grow. Finally, consistent conversations and observations of students. Strong reading teachers must be continuously watching, listening, and talking with their readers. This gives them data to work with and to know how to best help each individual reader.
I hope this post has helped you reflect on your current practices and maybe identify an area that you can grow in to be a strong reading teacher. Remember, you ARE a fantastic teacher but there’s room for all of us to grow! If you want to save this post for later, make sure to pin the image below!