I’m pretty sure, if you were to survey the general public about which they think is the most important part of academic instruction in the primary classroom, you would have half the people say Math and the other say Reading. Truth be told, I really enjoyed teaching both subjects when I was a classroom teacher (funny, I enjoyed teaching reading more when I taught first and I loved teaching Everyday Math when I taught kindergarten).
Currently I have been thinking about phonics instruction and teacher knowledge related to letter sound correspondence. This old saying, you don’t know what you don’t know until you know, is a great way to sum up what some teacher know about phonics. They don’t know what they don’t know. Moats in her article “Still Wanted: Teachers with Language Knowledge” writes about how teachers with less know are over confident in their knowledge–they really don’t know what they don’t know.
I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know! My undergraduate program did not prepare me to teach reading, especially phonics. That’s surprising as you think when you go to college it is to help you learn to teach. It wasn’t until I started teaching first grade reading and phonics when I realized my undergrad classes didn’t prepare me to teach phonics. At least, the classes didn’t give me enough knowledge about the English spelling system so I would be able to teach it to others. To help overcome this lack of knowledge, I sought out professional development in the area of phonics, emergent reading, and word study.
While working on my dissertation I came across the Moats article mentioned above. The concept that many elementary teachers lack knowledge regarding the English spelling system was alarming but also got me thinking about how I could help. A PLC, Professional Learning Community, seemed to be the answer. I’m excited to announce that this school year myself and almost 12 other primary teachers will be expanding our knowledge of teaching phonics. We had our first session this past week. It was interesting to hear others say that they don’t remember much of phonics instruction when they were in school or in undergrad. As the year continues, I’ll try to share some of the topics we discuss and links to any online sources I use. If you have time, I strongly recommend reading “Still wanted: Teachers with knowledge of language” by Moats.