Education is ever-evolving – from the way teaching methods are designed to how classrooms are set up. Access to funding, resources and technology all play a role. ALLMemphis works directly with educators and literacy coaches to train them in literacy instruction and provide mentorship to support the implementation of the training in their schools. These educators are on the front line of change. Below, we’ve compiled thoughts from them on what’s changed in education and how students today are benefiting.
What trends are different from when you first started teaching to now? Do you feel these changes have benefitted student learning?
Lindsay Johnson, 26-year educator
There has been a shift in standards. I am now teaching the skills that I previously taught in first grade. Pre-K is teaching what I used to teach in kindergarten. We are expecting more and more from children. The shift has benefitted some; however, I feel that just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done. This process leaves cracks in learning that show up in second and third grade. There has been a recent focus trend with more emphasis on phonics and phonemic awareness. Although I have always taught phonics, this new trend puts a focus on these foundational skills that seem to correct these cracks and develop those strong foundational reading skills.
Barbara Strahl, 50-year educator
My early teaching years were primarily dictated by basal readers we were using. There was a lot of rote reading. Phonics played very little part in the teaching of reading. Very few skills and strategies were taught to students so they could do their own decoding. The shift in focus to phonics instruction has had a huge impact on student learning. They’re now taught how to actively decode words and in the process are becoming engaged readers.
Hillarie Pettiette, 8-year educator and ALLMemphis’ Program Specialist Manager
When I first started teaching, there was a heavy focus on balanced literacy. Getting students to read through exposure is the mentality that “it will come with time”. There was no focus on phonics skills or teaching students to read explicitly and systematically. In my third year of teaching, I was introduced to the Orton-Gillingham curriculum that ALLMemphis teaches. This methodology of teaching opened my eyes because I hadn’t been taught that students need phonics instruction in order to be able to read properly and efficiently. A majority of struggling readers are not going to gain the ability to read by being exposed to standard books and texts of interest. The O-G approach, a multi-sensory phonics technique, incorporates decodable books with text that contains words with only phonetic code.
After one year of incorporating this approach and these books, 80% of my students were reading on grade level. While this approach has been around for some time, it was only five years ago that I was introduced to it. Shifting your way of teaching when something’s not clicking with your students can be the change maker in their lives. The O-G approach was what clicked with my students, and I’m honored to be able to now teach it to other educators.