Closing the learning gaps for our students will require us to take a hard look at what we were doing even prior to the pandemic. Part of the reason we consistently have struggling readers is the simple fact that they are not reading enough. We have previously addressed what are learning gaps and misconceptions regarding types of learning gaps.
Turns out there actually is a magic bullet for closing the gaps here; multiple opportunities for practice!
When students struggle with reading, too often teachers will read to them. While this keeps the pace of the lesson moving, it does little to improve their actual ability to read. Think back to when you were learning how to drive a car. Would you have been able to learn driving skills if you were seated in the passenger seat? Not likely.
If you read a passage to your students and then pose questions to determine their level of comprehension, you now have gleaned a false sense of proficiency. The intent of most of the English language arts (ELA) standards is to insure students can comprehend, analyze or evaluate a text they have read. To be clear, standards for early childhood do provide for this foundational skill as a part of the listening and speaking standards. But from 1st grade on the expectation for getting to the full intent of the standard requires students to read independently.
The good news is that schools have lots of things to read! So providing multiple opportunities for practice is easier than you think. Here are a few rules of thumb:
- Use a different text for your teacher modeling than the ones you assign to students.
- Assign 2 – 3 excerpts for guided practice of a skill (e.g., main idea/supporting detail, identify theme, making inferences, author’s use of evidence, bias, etc.)
- Assign different texts, excerpts or novel sections to each student when having them work collaboratively. There is little to no benefit to having students read, only to parrot the last guy’s answer.
- Assign a clean read (new passage) for the independent practice part of your lesson. This is the only way to get an authentic measure of your students’ comprehension and conceptual understanding of the skill you just taught.
So if you are searching for ways to close the learning gaps, multiple opportunities for practice is your magic bullet. This may be more important now than ever given the gaps widened by the pandemic. For more info see Techniques For Identifying Learning Gaps and Closing the Learning Gaps In English Language Arts.