How to help your Child Improve Hisher Reading Skills

At the primary level, time and space constraints are

stunting the learning of literacy. Teachers are faced with the

ordeal of maximizing limited time and space (Shanker &

Ekwall, 1998). Impractical and impersonal sessions where all

students are taught at the same pace need to be modified to

appeal to the needs of slow learners. Extra classes are

therefore necessary to allow the slow learner more time to

grasp material and for the teacher to use more hands-on and

personalized techniques to teach literacy but its degree of

success will depend heavily on the teachers’ ability to use

available time and resources well.

Importantly, teachers need to integrate real-life situations

and material students are able to relate to into the teaching of

literacy. Cooper (1997) explains that “reading books that both

the teacher and student enjoy is key to literacy learning”

(p.18). It is evident that at the primary level, given the varying

attention spans of students, the teacher has to make a

concerted effort to keep students interested in the lesson. This

is further supported by the assertion that “a lesson loaded

with traditional teaching techniques only serves to alienate the

student from the classroom and all that is being said inside”

(M. Guest, personal communication, October 17, 2006). An

examination of a student’s written response to an innovative

strategy used in an extra class would reveal the added

interest shown when non-traditional means are used to impart

literacy skills (see Appendix A). Surely, extra classes in which

the student’s personal interests are used as a device to teach

fundamental literacy skills are highly effective in increasing

the students’ willingness to learn.

The standardized method of teaching literacy which is

highly dependent on the recall of facts rather than the

student obtaining an understanding of the material is largely

ineffective. According to Cooper (1997) children learn literacy

by having real opportunities to speak, write, read, listen, view

and think as opposed to contrived exercises that involve

marking, circling and underlining. The habit of coaching a

student when imparting the concepts necessary to be literate

is only a temporary solution and may leave the student with

irreparable weaknesses once the transition is made to the

secondary level and beyond. Barrett (2005) warns against this

practice being implemented as a time saving strategy and

encourages the teaching of literacy to be aimed at leaving the

student with lasting knowledge. However, he feels this practice

is not limited to the whole class setting and is being used

increasingly in extra classes. Despite this, the incidence of this

shortcut strategy is significantly less in extra classes. To this

extent, extra classes are more geared towards imparting the

concept rather than facts.

Additionally, students require individualized attention to

be able to learn and be monitored at a manageable pace based

on their abilities. Slow learners should be taught and should

practice reading at an appropriate level of difficulty. Shanker

and Ekwall (1998) claim that disabled readers are too often

expected to read material that is much too complicated for

them. Students are unique individuals with different ability

levels and need to be taught accordingly. To this extent,

Tomlinson (2005) encourages extra classes as a better outlet

than the whole class setting for meeting the needs of each

child. Furthermore, she believes that the student develops a

better relationship with the teacher in this environment and is

more willing to learn.

Unfortunately, two crucial requirements necessary for

effective literacy instruction, time and space are not readily

available in today’s society. Tomlinson (2005) believes that

teachers in extra classes are more able to use time flexibly,

call upon a range of instructional strategies and become

partners with their students. Indeed, the lesson plan of a

teacher in extra classes significantly differs from a traditional

lesson plan used for literacy instruction in the whole class

setting (see Appendix B). Obviously, teachers in extra

classes are forced to become more competent and versatile

educators due to the need for the employment of innovative

techniques in this setting. These techniques are also a guard

against insouciant behaviour which is common in the whole

class setting. Barrett (2005) agrees with the premise that the

slow learner requires more time to grasp material and gain

experience in the various literacy skills.

However, teachers have to manage available time and

resources well and appeal to the students’ interests in order

for acceptable levels of literacy to be reached at the primary

level, whether during regular lessons or extra classes. Leu and

Kinzer (2003) believe time and space has to be manipulated to

maintain order and to extract the best out of each student. In

imparting literacy skills with limited resources, management of

classroom time and space is critical. Barrett (2005)

subsequently concurs and proposes extra classes as the best

solution to the problem of limited time and space adding that

slow learners need extra time which can best be given in

supplementary lessons.

Clearly, the challenges associated with the teaching of

literacy are multidimensional and complex. The teacher is

obligated to impart literacy skills to each student, regardless of

their ability. Evidently, teaching literacy at the primary level

requires the employment of specialized and personalized

techniques. To this extent, extra classes offer a reasonable

solution to countering the varying abilities of students in

literacy learning.

Barrett, W. (2005, July 25). Extra classes and standards. The Jamaica

Observer, p. 23.

Cooper, J.D. (1997). Literacy: Helping children construct meaning. (3rd Ed.).

New York: Houghton Mifflin, p.18

Leu Jr., D.J. and Kinzer, C.K (2003). Effective literacy instruction: Implementing best

practice. (5th Ed.). New Jersey: Merrill Prentice-Hall.

Shanker, J.L and Ekwall, E.E. (1998). Locating and correcting reading difficulties.

(7th Ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Tomlinson, C.A. (2005, September). Different learners, different lessons. Instructor:

reaching every learner, 21, 24-26, 91.