November 11, 2022


This article is not a criticism of any teachers!  You work very hard to help your students learn to read.  Ohio Department of Education pressures teachers to teach advanced reading skills early so every child will read by the end of third grade.  This is a laudable goal, but are we succeeding?

Because of this pressure, teachers resort to the “do it fast” approach.  The theory being, “If I teach all the skills required, then I’ve done my job.”  It’s not working

Should pre-school and kindergartners learn about syllables?   A pre-school teacher told me she teaches syllables.  How do pre-schoolers benefit from being able to count “fan-tas-tic”?  This isn’t reading.

Reading Mastery:  Mastery learning is an instructional strategy and educational philosophy, first formally proposed by Benjamin Bloom in 1968. Mastery learning maintains that students must achieve a level of mastery in prerequisite knowledge before moving forward to learn subsequent information.

Reading Automaticity:  When students achieve reading automaticity, they no longer have to consciously think about each individual step in this process. Instead, they can do it without effort, sometimes even while consciously thinking about something else. Students activate or perform the skill quickly. Automatic skilled performance develops with extended practice after a high level of accuracy is reached. We need to slow down the learning process for reading automaticity.

Do you remember when you were learning to drive a car? You had to think about every action you made. After direct instruction and repeated, focused practice, it became possible to drive without consciously thinking about each action, even to ‘have a quiet word’ with the fighting kids in the back seat and drive, simultaneously!

If we teach our students in the early grades to read with mastery and automaticity, their decoding, spelling, comprehension and writing skills will all improve.  Their 3rd grade reading test scores will improve.

Teachers are pressured to teach all the standards by grade level in Ohio.  It is likely no different in other states.  However, many of our students are not developmentally ready for what they are being asked to learn.  Kindergartners memorize 80 words; first graders read two syllable words and vowel teams.  I am getting technical, but this is what is happening in our schools.  Yet test scores don’t change much from year to year. 

Maybe slow down the learning process and focus on reading mastery and automaticity. Our students and teachers will be much happier, successful and pass the 3rd grade test.