Education Blog

Miner, Mirror, Model, and Mentor: Strategies for Improving Your Student’s Reading Skills

Small boy reading book on floor.

Eugene Kim

The pressure to read at the appropriate grade level can be overwhelming and even scary for some children.  We know strong reading skills help lay the foundation for a student’s educational career. Chicago literacy expert, Timothy Shanahan, explained to Today’s Parent that a British study released in 2013 showed children’s literacy and math levels at age seven were predictive of their overall earnings at the age of 42. How do we make reading a skill that children love instead of a complicated task they despise?

Katrina Schwartz from KQED News, Mind/Shift shared an article that provides four teaching strategies that promote a growth mindset in all readers. She interviewed Courtney Rejent, a classroom teacher that recommends we follow Gravity Goldberg’s 4 M approach: Miner, Mirror, Model, and Mentor.

MINER: Goldberg believes teachers need to pause and watch their students interact with reading in order to identify the strategies that will help move them forward. This is not an easy task but it is a true benefit to your students. To be able to identify the strategies that work for each specific child and then the ability to provide individualized instruction based on these observations will only help your students succeed.

MIRROR: Teachers should focus on the strategies students use with reading and not the results. Goldberg says language is very important in this feedback. Even saying something simple like, “I like how you made a prediction” can demonstrate satisfaction with an end goal.

MODEL: This is where teachers actually show students some strategies that may be helpful in their reading. Goldberg suggests thinking of it like a cooking TV program by showing students why the strategy is useful and when they might choose to use it. This modeling process not only helps students understand why a strategy is useful, but it also shows them that everyone struggles when reading.

MENTOR: When a student is trying to use a new strategy, they may have a difficult time at first. This is when the teacher becomes more of a coach, like “try reading it again,” or “what other words do you know that have that part,” to help cue the strategy. Goldberg’s approach to reading instruction works well within the reader’s workshop model because students are reading in front of teachers. Reading in class doesn’t mean students shouldn’t also read at home. In fact, parents can use many of the strategies Goldberg describes for teachers. Reading aloud and modeling the reading process, trying to get at the heart of why a child doesn’t like to read instead of forcing them to do it, letting them choose what they read, these are all good parental strategies that support reading too.

Teachers and parents alike can make learning to read fun. The Illinois Edition of PBS LearningMedia has several video clips that can aid in this practice. Some of my favorite videos are from the Electric Company Comic Cam that highlight Expressive Reading and Reading Strategies. Teachers like Rejent that are using some of the strategies Goldberg recommends say they’ve seen an overall change in the perception of reading with their students.  A shift in this perception will hopefully lead to an increase in their reading skills and decrease some of the daily pressures that students face while trying to learn to read.