An Exploration of Early Reading Instruction: Listening to the Voices of Early Elementary Teachers in a Pandemic

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Hollis, Heather
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Children who do not learn to read by Grade 3 face increased barriers to achieving basic levels of literacy. The purpose of this dissertation was to determine how early elementary classroom teachers are instructing their students in reading and to identify supports they believed were necessary to help more students learn to read. This qualitative study, set in the midst of a global pandemic, involved focus groups and semi-structured individual interviews with 11 early elementary teachers from Atlantic Canada. The data was analyzed using constructivist grounded theory. Study findings indicated that half the teachers expressed low self-efficacy around the use of reading instruction that requires a systematic, explicit approach to teaching phonological and phonemic awareness. While the research demonstrates that this type of instruction is essential for some students and beneficial for most, studies have shown that not all teachers have the education or training necessary to teach using this approach. The participants in this study recommended that phonological and phonemic awareness, as well as the instructional methods necessary to teach these concepts, be offered both in pre-service teacher education and through on-going in-servicing. Participants described being flexible with their instructional methods, when necessary, to ensure student understanding. The results of this study will be beneficial to educators and policy makers as they illustrate some of the challenges early elementary teachers face when teaching early reading. Recommendations are also suggested for policy makers and schools of education to address these challenges.