4 Tips, How to Model Literacy Skills

How to Model Literacy Skills - TeamTom Education

( words) minutes to read 

Model, model, model! You hear it all the time, and you probably do it more than you realize. Modeling is a powerful part of teaching literacy skills because it helps learners "see" the thinking that happens during reading and writing. Here are 4 tips on how to model literacy skills.

The four tips for modeling literacy skills are:

  1. I Statements
  2. Visuals
  3. Repetition
  4. Direct Instruction
How to Model Literacy Skills, 4 Tips for Teachers - pin - TeamTom Education

I Statements

No, not I Can Statements. Simply, I Statements. This is when you speak in the first person to reveal what you're thinking. When we talk about thinking aloud, this is what we mean.

Here are a few examples.

When modeling how to decode a word or how to use context clues, you might say,

I'm not sure I know this word. I think it's pronounced ba-ro-meter. Hmm, how can I figure out what it means?"

After this I Statement, you can model the literacy skills of decoding or using context clues. You might even repeat the same I Statement moments later and invite students to help you out.

The power of an I Statement is that it reveals your thinking and expands students own tool kits. It's different than telling students how to think, which limits their literacy tool kits.

When writing a paragraph, you might model coherence by thinking aloud,

"When I look at my writing, I wonder if my reader is going to understand what I mean here. Am I being clear? Should I move this sentence to the beginning?"

The purpose of modeling literacy skills is to guide student thinking, not to tell them what to think. It's direct instruction, but it's not rote learning.

Using Visuals to Model Literacy Skills

Yes, yes, yes - visuals are always great to teaching anything! But how do you use visuals to model literacy skills?

It's really as simple as having a text under a document camera when teaching reading or a Word document open when modeling writing. Here's an example.

You have a set of task cards (like these making inferences task cards) on under the document camera and you circle the word and say, 

This reminds me of ____. Based on what's happening in this paragraph, I can infer ____."


That sounds boring. I know.

But the truth is repetition is a critical part of learning (see this research on long-term retention).

Modeling is not something you do once and then move on. You cannot decide to model how to draw a conclusion once and then move on. Literacy skills will need to be modeled every day. In read alouds, shared reading, small groups, and any chance you get. Don’t be afraid to take the time to model skills and help build student understanding of the processes of literacy.

Direct Instruction for Literacy Skills

I know, I know. Direct instruction has a bad taste, a negative connotation, to many people. Probably because some take it to mean rote learning. That's not what it is.

Direct instruction is the heartbeat in much of the visible learning research, and our friends at Spiral WarmUps have provided evidence (see word study research) that direct instruction is critical for literacy learning - especially for struggling learners!

What is Direct Instruction?

A dedicated portion of a lesson that is aligned to a learning goal, involves teacher explanation and modeling, and student practice with feedback.

Modeling Literacy Skills 

Can Modeling Help Text Analysis?

Analyzing a text can be hard. It also is a skills that begins in elementary school when students' abstract thinking is quite underdeveloped. This is where modeling helps! When a teacher models literacy skills, students have a "peek" into the mind of an experienced reader.

Can Modeling Help with Writing?

Yes. The writing process involves both creative and analytical thinking. Help students see how these thinking processes occur by modeling literacy skills during the writing process.

Do Struggling Readers Benefit When a Teacher Models Literacy Skills?

Yes. The reading process can be incredibly challenging for students who haven't mastered it yet. Modeling shows students different ways they can approach this complex task.

Credit: Photo by Yoann Siloine 

Your Turn

I hope you enjoyed these tips to help you model literacy skills! I want to give you a bonus.

Here are eight more basic, no-prep teaching tips for helping struggling readers. They're free, so go ahead and grab them!

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