Saturday, April 2, 2011

What Does an Effective Reading Program Look Like for all Learners?

This is a question that has definitely been pestering me ever since I began teaching literacy to students beginning with 4 year old emergent readers and now with my transitional 2nd grade readers. It has been interesting to be a part of what has been such a widely contested debate for ages.
I certainly am still learning but still want to explore what am effective reading program can look like.

Then I began to think about evaluation of "student success" in reading.
  • What measure do we have to actually evaluate that statement?
  • Do we evaluate our school's students?
  • Are there measures and research that already exists evaluating a wider range of students nationally studying programs similar to ours that show rates of "success" for students?
  • What are our measures to identify struggling readers?
  • Do we have a measure to show growth?
  • What is our standard for each grade in terms of evaluation for reading level, vocabulary and language acquistion, comprehension, phonemic awareness, code knowledge, fluency, etc.?
  • If we have a standard do we acknowledge a greater range of development in the younger grades while also having some standard for when a student may need further evaluation for possible learning disabilities and/or intervention support?
  • What research are we relying on to guide our overall literacy program?
  • If we are basing it on research what is that research?
  • How do our learning goals guide the conversation?
Lots of questions-some answers-more research to be done...

Here's what I've read some of the research says literate students need.

1. Kids need to read, read, read, and read a lot!
  • Sheer volume of reading was a distinguishing feature of the high achievement classrooms (Allington & Johnston, 2002; Pressley et al., 2000; Taylor et al., 2000)
  • "McBride-Change et al. (1993) also found that volume of reading was reliably correlated with reading comprehension performance in both disabled and normally achieving readers" (Allington, p. 39)
  • "It would seem that the consistency of the evidence concerning the relationship of volume of reading and reading achievement is surely strong enough to support recommending attention to reading volume as a general feature of the design of any intervention focused on improving reading achievement". (Allington, p. 43)
  • "the situation today is that no baal reading series contains enough reading material to develop high levels of reading proficiency in children" (Allington, p. 49)
2. Kids need to read books that are "good fit books" and that they can read independently.
(Emmet Betts-1964)

3. Kids need individualized, small group, and whole group instruction in reading with an emphasis on more individualized and small group instruction.
  • "The more whole group teaching offered, the lower the academic achievement in any school." (Pressley 2006) (Taylor, Pearson, Clark, and Walpole, 2000)
4. A student's strengths and needs as a reader needs to be evaluated and instruction and practice for each student needs to be developed!
  • In order for learners to develop heuristic, or goal-directed, strategies, they must have clear goals. (Johnston, Allington, Afflerbach's 1985)
5. Instruction needs to be intense, explicit, scaffolded that develop them as readers no matter what text they pick up!

6. Kids need to learn to read fluently!
  • Children read word by word when they have learned to relyprimarily on an external monitor (the teacher, aide, or other students) when reading aloud. Teachers are far more likely to interrupt the lower achieving readers that the higher achieving readers, regardless of the quality of errors and to interrupt poor readers more quickly and to have the interruption focus on sounding words out (Allington 1980; Chinn et. al, 1993, Hoffman et. al, 1984).
  • They might be a "check the traffic" response reader....always looking for an adult to confirm that they are reading the words correctly.
  • What does seem effective is "providing struggling readers with lots of opportunities to develop self-monitoring skills and strategies. (Kuhn & Stahl, 2001).
7. Kids need to know lots of words and their meanings!
  • Bringing Words to Life by Isabel Beck, Margaret McKeown, and Linda Duncan-in-depth plan for developing vocabulary
  • 10-15 words of every one hundred new words encountered will be learned from exposure in context (Nagy, Anderson, and Herman, 1987).
  • Beers (2003) suggests four types of clues that readers might use to figuer out the meanings of words.
  • A reasonable target for direct vocabulary instruction might be ten words per week.
8. Kids need to be IMMERSED in active thinking strategies rather than assessed!
  • "The textbook and teacher guides and many popular comprehension curriculum materials rely on the student acquirin useful strategies through self-discovery. But many students seem not to discover these strategies without teacher demonstration" (Allington p. 121)
  • "Effective comprehension strategy lessons immersed students in teacher demonstrations of the thinking, the strategy-in-use, and the application of the strategy repeatedly across a number of different texts. AS A RESULT, substantial improvements in comprehension were typically demonstrated.
  • MY favorite line: The greatest improvement was found among the lower-achieving students!" (Allington, p. 121)
  • Strategies are as we know: Activating Prior Knowledge (connections, schema), Summarizing, Story Grammar Lessons (problem, setting, solution, etc.), Imagery (visualizing, mental images), Question Generating, Thinking Aloud

Allington, Richard, What Really Matters for Struggling Readers, 2nd Edition, Pearson Education Inc., 2006.
Moser, Joan & Boushey, Gail, The Cafe Book, Stenhouse Publishers, 2009.

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