How to Determine the Best Way to Teach Reading

How to Determine the Best Way to Teach Reading
The SHARE Team February 11, 2013

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Reading is one of the most important and foundational skills that all students must learn. However, there are a variety of approaches and schools of thought that can be implemented and sometimes it’s hard to know what will be the best way to teach reading. Some students benefit more from certain methods than others, and it can be difficult to know which approach to take in the classroom. While there should be some flexibility allowed for certain students, in general, children who are learning to read can benefit from one or a combination of these methods:

Flexible Grouping

This approach is a great solution when your class contains students at a variety of reading skill levels, which will almost always be the case. Reading should not be taught with just a homogenous group approach; the individual needs, abilities and learning styles of each student should be considered.

Grouping of students should begin at the start of the school year after initial assessments have been taken. Students should be grouped according to ability and preferred learning style. (When referring to each group in class, try and keep the emphasis away from skill level so that students don’t feel labeled as a “slow readers.”) Keep in mind that the makeup of each group will likely change as the school year progresses, so be flexible about this. As students progress, they should be moved to the group that fits them best.


Teachers should experiment with a variety of reading group options to find the best way to teach reading to the class. For example, you could try partnering students of differing ability from time to time so that a stronger reader can help a reader who might be struggling.

Reading Comprehension and Recognition

Encouraging students to recognize meaning based upon context whenever they read something they do not understand is a powerful teaching method. Success comes when the student has understood the reading assignment, and looking for clues in the surrounding context is a wonderful method for accomplishing this. Reading comprehension can come in many ways, and recognition of the words and phrases they do understand is a foundational component of comprehension.


Phonemics or phonemic awareness is a reading prep activity that helps students to recognize and put into practice the basic units of language. These units, sometimes called “phonemes,” are the letters or groups of letters that comprise an individual sound or element within a word. For example, the letter “k” is a phoneme, “ch” is a phoneme and “ck” is also a phoneme. The National Reading Panel has found that students who are taught using this method of breaking words down into their components in this way has helped to improve reading skills over students who did not receive this sort of training.


Phonics is a step further than phonemics which emphasizes learning how letters correspond to sounds and how this relates to reading, spelling, sounding out words and understanding them. Reading exercises that emphasize one letter of a word at a time, such as a group using fog, log, dog and frog, are common techniques in phonics studies.


Vocabulary-building enhances reading comprehension, and The National Reading Panel highly recommends it. Two examples of teaching methods for enhancing vocabulary are through establishing vocabulary lists that students can study and use in sentences, as well as practicing new word comprehension and using computer software programs.

Learning Organizers

Pictorial reading aids such as Venn Diagrams, Storyboard Charts and Cause and Effect Statements can be a dynamic addition to any reading program. Reading Rockets is just one company that makes these materials available. Teachers can also use graphic and semantic organizers to aid students in putting together a word or a pictorial representation of what they are reading.

Reading Orally

Reading skills are dynamically enforced through reading out loud. This is always a great way for students to receive feedback, and for you to monitor their progress.

These are just some of the time-tested methods available for teaching reading. Each student will vary in terms of what method works best for him or her, but most students can benefit greatly from a mixture of these methods. As the school year progresses and you get to know each student better, you’ll be able to fine-tune your approach until you find the best way to teach reading to your class.

Learn other ways about how to teach reading to students. Discover more strategies in reading and literacy teaching degree program.

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