It dawned on me the other day, I am a middle school teacher who is literally teaching two students how to read. Seriously, we started from AaBbCcDd and graduated to BeBop Books, an excellent series beginning at level A for emergent readers.
In between reading Bebop Books, there is Words Their Way, the alphabetic spellers edition. I just finished teaching the first six word sorts, which have to do with the initial consonant letter/sound. Next up is word families, like the -at family and the -an family. Both of the forementioned sorts include pictures. While the first group includes mainly pictures and just one letter on the header, the family sorts include both words, like cat, hat, mat, bat and the matching pictures.
I've actually had the complete set of Words Their Way as a resource for the last two years, but I never had the time to implement it. I teach five kids from my ICT ELA class in a small reading group. Two are emergent readers. Why one of them is just now learning to read is beyond me. The other is from another country and has had very limited schooling up until now.
In the past I have come across students in 7th and 8th grades who are emerging readers. Middle school teachers are often ill-equipped to teach older children how to read. Also, regardless of small class or not, we have standards to follow and curriculums to teach.
I can now say that I know how. I can teach eleven-year olds how to read. The more I observe (I take copious notes after each session), teach and see progress, the more understanding I gain of how people learn to read. Who knows, maybe I'll turn this knowledge into a side hustle during the summer!
In the past, with my non-readers, I did see some improvement just from the students being in a print-rich environment. I, thankfully, had some BeBop books in my classroom, and would conference with these students as often as possible. In those conferences, I would give them strategies to figure out unfamiliar words, take notes of new words and monitor comprehension. I also used my paraprofessionals as resources to lead these children in shared readings.
One student I had last year improved drastically! She knew her letters and sounds, but did not have a solid bank of sight words. By reading the BeBop ooks, each one several times, and writing summaries (retelling the important parts), her reading and writing improved drastically. I like to think of her because she inspires me; she shows what is possible when a student is open to do the work that it takes. Often students masquerade and pretend with books way above their independent reading levels. It can be challenging to get past that barrier when a student has been doing this behavior for years. But, it can be done.
As all parts of teaching go, you may not reach all students, but there will be some who will amaze you with their academic growth.
Ah, the challenges of being a teacher!