With current trends in the field of education, and the increased emphasis of standardized testing data, classrooms of today have become increasingly outcome driven. Although few would argue with the importance of improving classroom instruction and the logic associated with basing instruction on desired student outcomes, this one size fits all approach is not without its detractors.
Today many elementary teachers feel pressured to move forward with content instruction even when they may personally feel that there are students in their classrooms who have not sufficiently mastered the skill. This practice is especially troublesome as it relates to the instruction of reading and reading fluency. It is a widely accepted belief among educators and educational researchers that not all children progress at the same rate. However, with the current emphasis on test score data driving instructional strategies, many educators are instructing their students as if they do. My personal view is that students should determine my teaching and instructional strategies, and that my teaching practices should change based on the needs of my students.
Over the years different philosophies of reading instruction have emerged, changed, disappeared, morphed, and re-emerged. Strategies have included sight words, phonetic approaches, whole language, along with several combinations of all of these strategies. With the advent of No Child Left Behind in 2001, reading instruction, along with instruction in general, began to place an increased emphasis on “standards based instruction”. This type of instruction has continued and is now being emulated in the new Common Core Standards. The trick for educators has been how to cover the material that is required under the standards based approach while maintaining enough classroom control in order to ensure that their individual students’ needs are being met.
In response to a National Reading Panel report, Sherry Sanden (2012) began to survey what practices were common among highly effective reading instructors. Her study was in response to a NRP study that had failed to find any conclusive evidence that linked an increased amount of reading to improved reading ability among children. She concluded that although “independent reading varied from classroom to classroom”, they shared “important commonalities, including elements of teacher support for reading that are absent from traditional sustained silent reading (SSR) models”. (Sanden, 2012, p.223-224)
Of the eight teachers observed in the study, all “agreed that although independent reading is an opportunity for young readers to test their wings, they feel responsible for providing ongoing assistance in areas such as monitoring student choices, teaching independent reading behaviors, and maintaining focus on student growth.”(Sanden, 2012, p.224) Personally, I feel that this practice is of the upmost importance. While it is important for students to enjoy the content of what...