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Dr. Anita Archer’s Five Favorite “Archerisms”

The internationally recognized literacy leader shared words of wisdom on a recent episode of the Literacy Talks podcast.

During her distinguished career, Dr. Anita Archer has shared many what we like to call “Archerisms,” which are behaviors and reminders to help educators in the ever-evolving profession of teaching young minds. She recently appeared on our podcast Literacy Talks (episode “Words of Wisdom: A Special Literacy Talks Episode with Dr. Anita Archer”) to discuss the literacy landscape and explore the power and practicality of explicit literacy instruction. Many of her Archerisms are management-focused, which can be considered one of the secret sauces to effective education. Dr. Archer (and many educators, including those who work at Reading Horizons) hang up posters displaying the Archerisms they are working on in their offices and classrooms. Dr. Archer does this so her colleagues and students know what she’s working on. She also does it because, as she puts it, she has 55 years of education experience and has a long way to go. 

These reminders convey to students that educating is a profession, and just like any profession, learning is not a one-and-done. It’s constantly getting better and better. You’re only as good at your profession as your willingness to improve. Here are a few of her favorite Archerisms that educators and students can take with them in and out of the classroom.

1. I do, we do, you do.

As her most prolific Archerism, most educators using this method don’t realize it’s attributed to Dr. Archer. It is the format we’ve used in our Reading Horizons lessons. It’s a gradual release of responsibility that hones in on demonstration and guided and independent practice. 

2. Avoid the void, for they will fill it.

This one is a good reminder for educators because the root of most management problems comes from a lack, a void. Maybe a student has finished a task but hasn’t kept their focus once they have idle hands. This requires preparation by the educator. There’s a void, and in it, management problems. Students will no doubt fill the void with any distraction they can find. The solution to avoiding the void is described in the next Archerism. 

3. If you expect it, pre-correct it.

Almost all management problems are predictable. This goes for parents as well as teachers. If an educator can expect a problem to happen, they should prepare for solutions. For instance, Dr. Archer was in a chemistry class where students were using lit torches for an experiment. The educator said, “You will not turn on your torch until I give you the command.” No one turned on their torches before the command. 

Another example is assigning partners. Educators know some students will raise a fuss about who their assigned partner is. Seeing this coming, educators can clearly state that the assigned partners will only work together for a set amount of time, and then everyone will change partners. This reinforces that the class is a learning community, and educators expect students to treat their partners with kindness and respect. 

4. Teach the stuff and cut the fluff.

This goes back to critical content. If an educator teaches curriculum material, they can decide what’s “fluff.” If an educator teaches curriculum versus general education curriculum, and their students are behind, then educators might have to cut even more fluff so students can catch up. This is probably more common as a result of COVID. Educators have to be more selective about what they teach so they can cover more in a given time.

5. Don’t commit assumicide.

Especially with young learners, assumptions are a trap. For example, after maybe three weeks of school, a kindergarten teacher can introduce structured partners. They teach students to look at their partners, lean toward them, and whisper. The educator models the behavior and lets students practice so expectations are clear and shared with the whole class. 

It’s similar for older students. Let’s say an educator is working with seventh graders. On the first day of school, an educator introduces structured partners without the assumption that students have been taught these school behaviors. In a way that’s more appropriate for seventh graders, the educator re-teaches them and lets students practice. For seventh graders, educators can rationalize it more. Regardless of age, this look, lean, and listen technique is a social skill students can use beyond the classroom. Perhaps in the future, they’ll use it at a restaurant during a private conversation. Educators can rationalize but try not to assume. This is especially relevant for young readers learning their letters and letter sounds. Assuming students know their letters might lead to an educator having to go backward and start from the beginning. 

To learn more about Dr. Anita Archer’s wisdom on explicit instruction and how to enrich the classroom experience, listen to our Literacy Talks episode “Words of Wisdom: A Special Literacy Talks Episode with Dr. Anita Archer.” 

Dr. Anita Archer is a former special education teacher and now an internationally recognized and revered literacy leader, consultant, author, and curriculum developer.

Dr. Anita Archer

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