The Place for Expert Reading Advice

The Place for Expert Reading Advice

Reading Spotlight Blog -

Winter of Discontent

     My winter of discontent occurred after two years as an urban teacher of ninth grade English. In February I decided to quit at the end of the school year—totally and forever! This I DID DO, buying a sewing machine with all of my pension contributions. I had no plan to return, ever. How and why I did return for a 30-year, joyful, and successful career is a story for another post.

     My biggest daily problem then was that at least half of my students could not read anywhere near grade level, and I had no idea how to teach them to read. The only college preparation I had been provided was one 2- credit class, Teaching Reading in High School, but its entire content was study skills. Most of my students would stumble over words, never approaching enough fluency to understand the text. Telling them to “try harder” didn’t work. I resorted to having the few students who could read well, read the story, poem, or chapter aloud. Sometimes, I read the text aloud to them myself, then taught the required curriculum of plot, characterization, figures of speech, grammar, etc.

    Previously, I blogged about the problems I had encountered finding textbooks that my students could read. You can read that post here:

       How I Got the Textbooks I Needed

      I had several other reasons for resigning. Lack of school discipline loomed large—bullies, theft, outright lying, mean girls, lack of a mentor, and my own stress-relieving tears every week. Then I saw a visibly pregnant co-worker hit by an angry student as she tried to break up a hallway fight—something I had never been afraid to do myself before this incident.

    Several of my students ended up in juvenile detention centers. Some seemed to be putting in time, waiting until our state allowed them to quit school. I kept wondering if teaching was the best use of my efforts.

I have also previously blogged about the fact that many of those who end up in prison cannot read functionally. You can read that post here:

       Preventing Crime

            Today many more teachers are also discontented—high-stakes testing, poor pay, COVID, virtual instruction, little $ for supplies, parental interference, school shootings— often seem even more difficult than in my own time of discontent.

          According to the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)1, more than half of eighth graders cannot read at grade level, a situation that has not changed since 1992, the first year of NAEP, and even before that, according to my experience.

       We all know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

       If students can read their textbooks fluently, teachers can focus on subject matter. My 30+ years of experience as a reading specialist has clearly convinced me that many of these students simply need EXTRA practice in decoding skills—what seems like poor comprehension is often a lack of fluency. Frequently, this absence is due to lack of practice in decoding skills and lack of independent reading. To be good at anything, you have to PRACTICE, everyone knows that… football players, cooks, knitters, and, of course, readers.

    Since many reading specialists have disappeared in the Great Defunding Experiment going on in American schools, here are some very simple things that ALL classroom language arts teachers can do to put a stop to this constant trend of below-level readers in our classrooms. SOMEONE HAS TO DO IT.

     There are just 2 simple parts to my PLAN.

     First, once or twice a week, assign homework, extra credit, early finisher seatwork, or learning centers in SPELLING and DECODING SKILLS REVIEW. Use workbook pages that focus on skills you recognize as weak in many of your students. TPT is full of resources to address common decoding and spelling weaknesses. You might consider Reading Spotlight’s

     Phonics Word Search Giant Bundle

All parts of this bundle are also available individually in the

     Reading Spotlight Store

         To add a little impetus to my plan, this  Phonics Word Search Giant Bundle  will be available


        To jumpstart start this process, also find a FREE word search sample here:

  Word Searches for ph

         Step 2 of my simple PLAN will be explained in my next post. I still have hope we can solve this part of American education’s long winter of discontent.


1The Nation’s Report Card

2Fluency and Comprehension



© Reading Spotlight 2024

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter