Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Practices

by Donna Mastrovito | 1 | 2 Comments

It is summertime!  There are many reasons why summer is my favorite season but one of them is that the pace is slower and it allows me to spend more time engaging in an activity that is one of life’s simple pleasures.  Reading.  I recently read two blogs on the Edutopia website, “What Doesn’t Work: Literacy Practices We Should Abandon” by Nell Duke and “5 Highly Effective Teaching Practices” by Rebecca Alber that I would like to share with you.

Let’s begin with what works.  Based on John Hattie’s research, here are the five highly effective classroom practices for teachers to keep in mind:

  1. Clarify purpose and learning goals and the criteria on how students can meet the learning goals.
  2. Facilitate classroom discussion often so that students can learn from one another while observing and formatively assessing their grasp of the content.
  3. Provide feedback to individuals and whole group to inform areas for improvement as well as areas of growth.
  4. Spend as much time on formative assessment as on summative.  Giving students accurate and effective feedback as to where they are related to the learning goal can only be done if assessing students becomes a daily routine.
  5. Teach students metacognitive strategies and provide time for them to plan, organize and monitor their own work so they can direct their own learning.

The blog “What Doesn’t Work: Literacy Practices We Should Abandon” outlines practices that have been prevalent in classrooms for years but as our expectations for students have increased dramatically, it is time rethink our practices to maximize the use of instructional time.

Here are the five common literacy practices that research suggests are not optimal use of instructional time:

  1. Looking up vocabulary words in the dictionary, this does not build vocabulary.  Vocabulary strategies that promote active engagement of students to discuss and relate new words to known words are far more effective.
  2. Giving Students Prizes for Reading, this practice actually undermines reading motivation.  Opportunities to discuss books with peers and teachers have more of an impact to foster reading motivation.
  3. Weekly spelling tests may be a waste of instructional time.  Many students study the words for the test but often times they cannot spell them correctly in the future. Spelling words that based on students’ stage of spelling development and phonics instruction with the emphasis on analyzing and using words leads to better spellers.
  4. Unsupported Independent Reading, studies have found that this alone does not foster reading achievement but when coaching and feedback to students are included to support explicit instruction on text selection and reading strategies, reading improves.
  5. Taking Away Recess: Research has shown that physical activity has a direct correlation to academic learning and when recess is denied to a student, he/she may be less likely to focus on instruction.

Time is a teacher’s worst enemy. I hope that my sharing these blogs will help you to prioritize what research supports as effective teaching practices and give you permission to eliminate those practices that do not optimize instructional teaching time. What classroom practices are alive in your classroom?

Donna Mastrovito

Donna Mastrovito Before becoming a Keys to Literacy trainer, Donna served as a classroom teacher, Reading Recovery teacher, reading specialist and literacy coach. Donna is also an adjunct professor at American International College (AIC), where she teaches a variety of literacy courses and supervises practicum students.

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  1. Brian Fernandes

    Thanks for your wonderful blog. As I read your posting about weekly spelling tests, I was intrigued as I am writing my dissertation on spelling instruction and assessment. One of the most regularly used methods is the test-study-test approach. It yielded high results. But instead of just giving students the pre-test and letting children study them based on teacher correction, students should be correcting their assessments and with that method, students have greater gains than compared to other instructional plans. I think that there is truly no one way to teach spelling but a teacher should utilize knowledge of the work of Hattie and other key researchers. I truly believe that there is no “one” spelling approach that works for all children but there is a “best practice” approach that utilizes key findings from a variety of research, philosophies, and best assessment practices along with teacher knowledge of how our English language works. It is the amalgamation of these findings, along with knowing our English language, within a classroom that supports a great deal of both reading and writing that helps students gain conventionality in their spelling and overall language use.

    • Donna Mastrovito

      Brian, Thank you for sharing your thoughts on spelling instruction. I have been in education for 38 years and have seen a lot of different approaches to spelling instruction come and go over the years, including the elimination of spelling instruction. (A result of what gets tested gets taught). Thankfully the Common Core Standards have brought spelling instruction back to the forefront. Now the challenge is providing teachers with the knowledge of research based practices for spelling instruction so they can meet the needs of the diverse learners in their classrooms.



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