What Teachers Need to Foster Student Literacy
Every child is different—each learns in a certain way, understands in a certain way, and progresses in a certain way. To ensure the literacy success of all children, teachers need to have at their fingertips a variety of tools for teaching effectively to all. Over the decades, we have seen various perspectives on the essential elements of high quality literacy opportunities for children; there always seems to be a new set of learning materials, another new program, or unit improvements that will finally make the difference.
Of course, we want beautiful books and high quality materials that support global learning, but we need to accept what we have long known: that what will make the biggest difference in student learning is what teachers know and understand as they make minute-by-minute teaching decisions. This means going beyond scripts and one-size-fits-all lessons delivered the same way to all students to complex teaching grounded in teacher understanding.
We argue for the kind of thoughtful teaching that means not just changing what teachers do, but how they think about what they do. This means a school filled with educators who value and actively seek continuous professional learning and administrators who understand the investment in continuous teacher expertise is the soundest long-term investment in student literacy—a culture of teacher growth. To that end, the Literacy Collaborative, a comprehensive school improvement model developed by literacy experts Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, focuses on building teacher and school literary expertise. Some of the premises of the collaborative model follow.