When literary expert Dr. Anita Archer speaks, the teaching world listens. You may know her as the esteemed author of Explicit Instruction and PHONICS for Reading®, or maybe as a longstanding champion of reading science. Either way, her expertise is coveted by educators nationwide, making her a household name in education.
During the fourth annual Ferguson Institute, the air was thick with anticipation as educational leaders from the country’s largest districts gathered to soak in Dr. Archer’s wisdom around all things literacy. The audience listened in awe as she shared her passion and insights for incorporating the Science of Reading into classroom instruction.
From melding the Science of Reading and the science of instruction to optimizing the resources we have as teachers, here are her three key takeaways from the conference.
“The Science of Reading will only be as powerful as the science of instruction.”
The Science of Reading isn’t only about understanding what to teach, such as word recognition and language comprehension. It’s equally important to know how to teach these concepts in alignment with the Science of Reading. As important as it is to prepare lesson plans and have a clear picture of where we’re heading with instruction, we don’t want to get too caught up in simply ticking off the boxes. Instead, home in on the journey of ensuring students learn and progress to the best of their abilities.
Dr. Archer shares her vital secret: always keep an eagle eye on your instruction. When your students stumble, see it as a chance to tailor your approach. And when they excel, pat yourself on the back! You’ve unlocked the power of effective instruction.
“Our teachers need tools if we’re going to make a difference.”
Without the right tools, even the most skilled professional fumbles. Anita shares a golden analogy: Think of a surgeon, despite their expertise, attempting to perform surgery without a scalpel. Doesn’t sound too promising, right?
Teachers are no exception. No matter your background or years of experience, one common need remains—a well-structured curriculum. Your curriculum is the canvas you get to adorn with your own style. But it’s also your roadmap to lead students to reach their goals. It’s essential to choose a curriculum that not only provides research-backed instruction but is also thoughtfully organized and sequenced to build upon students’ existing knowledge.
“I can only increase your learning if I have in mind what I want you to learn.”
A clear focus on what we’d like our students to learn forms the bridge between teaching and learning. It’s not only about setting goals—it’s about having a clear plan to reach them.
To master this art, it’s important to:
- Communicate lesson objectives to your students
- Review essential skills required for current and future lessons
- Kickstart lessons with dynamic demonstrations followed by guided practice
- Sprinkle in assessments to measure your students’ progress
Don’t forget about the great value instructional coaches can bring to the table. They’re ready to offer insight and support as you plan and work toward your teaching and learning goals. Teaching is no small feat. It’s okay to accept or seek out guidance. In fact, I’d say leaning on your resources makes you an even more effective educator.
The Science of Reading is a powerful body of research that can make all the difference in your instructional practices. But it’s you, the teacher, who helps students achieve their best. As Anita says, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”