Thursday, February 16, 2017

High School Reading Instruction: A Must to Ensure All Students Secure Their Future Freedom

As educators, it is our duty to ensure every child becomes a proficient  reader in order to ensure they preserve their future freedom.  

The words of Frederick Douglass, "Once you learn to read you will be forever free", reminds educators of the monumental charge of preserving a literate society. Elementary teachers are often passionate and committed to the necessity of teaching a child to read. However as secondary teachers, often the art of teaching a student to read understandably takes a back seat to literary content and analysis. 

Can we teach reading in a secondary setting?  
Principals and other educational leaders must create a pathway for secondary English Language Arts teachers to have the opportunity to provide reading instruction to secondary students who still need foundational reading instruction, while simultaneously proving on level content instruction. This is no easy task in the scheme of a large comprehensive high school setting. So often the need to teach reading remediation in high school is overlooked, or at best is provided via pull-out or in a disconnected (from primary English) class.  Ideally, the two would be provided in a connected manner meaning the students' on level English teacher is given the opportunity to also provide the remedial reading instruction. This model creates a connection between the content in English class and the reading support, which accelerates instruction while remediating basic reading skills. 

How do we get there? 
This literary-content-reading-remediation structure doesn't occur naturally in a traditional high school setting. Teachers who need time to teach reading must advocate for a schedule that allows time to reach struggling students, and principals must prioritized literacy in master schedules. Additionally, central administration must lead conversations that include exploring options for creative scheduling that includes additional blocks of time for reading instruction.  

When school leaders, content teachers and central administrators have literacy as their focus, students would be less likely to be lost in a high school setting and continue to struggle with reading through adulthood.  Educators, regardless of position held, are charged with providing every opportunity for every student to become strong, competent readers, i.e. ensuring  their future freedom.   


  1. Any suggestions for fitting in reading instruction in a secondary classroom when time is so limited? Thanks Tara

  2. Hi Tara. When starting out I would plan each minute of your lesson cycle and use a timer to stay on track. I know that sounds rigid but with just 45-50 minutes in a typical High School English class it's a must. Keep you direct teach piece to 15 minutes or so using the curriculum literature piece as the mentor text. This will help keep you on track with your curriculum and allow for breakout group work, conferencing and small group instruction. Hope that helps.
    Dr Kendra Strange Shaffer

  3. Interesting post! It's shocking how many high school students still need reading instruction.

  4. You are correct- shocking is a great word to describe the situation many of our students find themselves in as they enter high school. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. Reading instruction in HS is a huge need. Few people realize how many students need actual reading instruction in secondary grades.