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How to teach a child to read

Most people think that the key to teaching a child to read is to give them a book. Fun, engaging books are important; but, even more important are assessments. In order for most children to learn to read, the child, the child’s parents and their teacher need to know how the child is doing. In order to know how to teach a child to read, we need to know what they need to learn or improve to read fluently. We need formative assessment.

When most people think about assessment, they think about tests:  medium stakes tests that measure learning at the end of a course section or the end of a course, or high stakes tests at the end of a schooling experience. While these tests provide valuable information about whether learning has taken place, they do not provide much information to learners or teachers about why, and no information about how to achieve mastery of the target skill or content

Formative assessment provides the data that learners and teachers need. Formative assessment is a not a test; rather, it is a conversation between learners and teachers (including peers) about learning goals and what it will take to achieve them. It comes in the form of formative feedback from learners to each other, from teachers to learners, and from software to learners and their teachers as they go through the learning process together.

In fact, instructional support software is the ultimate source of formative feedback because it provides endless real-time feedback at exactly the moment of learning. Well-designed educational software provides hints and cues for how to teach a child to read, while leaving it up to the learner to complete every task. It shows them how much further they have to go in order to reach their goal. It helps them develop executive function skills as they use formative feedback to make decisions about what to learn next. And, it helps them take ownership of their learning – the type of skills that employers seek.