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The Place for Expert Reading Advice

Reading Spotlight Blog - Learning Lessons... From Students #3

What Did Last Year's Teacher Teach Them?

How many times have teachers everywhere wondered, aloud or silently, sometimes in exasperation, “What did last year’s teacher teach them?”  

Here’s the answer!

…As the sixth graders entered my classroom that fall, there were smiles and high-fives. Some of them were returning to me after nine months of my remedial instruction. As a beginning  reading specialist, I had worked hard and enthusiastically to bring 70 fifth and sixth graders up to grade level. These were some who still needed my help.

Knowing how great their deficiencies were, I was not really too disappointed that all hadn’t improved to grade level, until…

I started to review what I had taught them.

Their retention of it was inconsistent and extremely disappointing.

Was it just the dreaded “summer slump?

How many times have teachers everywhere wondered, “What did last year’s teacher teach them?”  

My position was fairly unique: I knew what I had taught them!

 But they didn’t retain it, and they certainly hadn’t mastered it!

This is my point:

Teachers everywhere are working hard, covering the required material,

but who is actually teaching to mastery?

My students were high-poverty, failing readers in fifth and sixth grade—I was probably their last chance to get some individual attention to raise them to grade level.  So…I began to ensure that almost everything I taught was practiced, reinforced, and strengthened.

Thus, I began my journey to create high-interest PRACTICE materials for retention of my instruction.

I wanted to keep boredom far away from my classroom. I did this for myself, as much as for my students.

I also wanted them to approach mastery because, without it, knowledge is muddled, unfocused, and certainly, not truly learned and remembered.

I developed and Best Bingo and then Better Bingo

Later I augmented my practice repertoire with many specific Word Searches.

The foundation of my daily instruction was Vowel Tutor 1, Vowel Tutor 2, and Vowel Tutor 3.

If interested, check them out along with many other high-interest practice materials

in the Reading Spotlight Store.

Fewer sixth graders reappeared the following year, and happily, most of my students did retain what I had taught!


 Struggling readers need lots of extra practice to master what is taught so that they will remember it.

          —that  is the most important thing about teaching that I ever learned.