Friday, February 27, 2015

lessons from 2014 educational research

Owen Phillips's article on nprED dated February 26, 2015 is a research retrospective. 5 Lessons Education Research Taught Us in 2014 lists what Owen believes to be the important findings of last year.

His lessons are:
1. First graders learn math best through direct instruction and practice, rather than manipulatives, music and movement.
2. Instructional alignment with curriculum is not what determines success on tests.
3. Some post high school credentials are no better than a high school diploma when it comes to earnings.
4. Community college classes often do not transfer to four year institutions, but students who achieve an associate degree before transferring graduate at the same rate as those that started in the four year program.
5. Social emotional learning curriculums do not increase learning UNLESS they are followed precisely.

I wrote about the first lesson myself. I believe that direct instruction is the most efficient way to provide instruction, but it may not be delivered in the most engaging manner which may reduce its long-term learning. The Common Core may be misguided in its emphasis on exploratory learning. Especially since we have only nominally reduced the content load of the curriculum. The biggest myth of the Common Core is that it is an inch wide and a mile deep. If we spend a great deal of time focusing in discovering information, we will still not have enough time to wade through the curriculum.

When we look at instructional alignment I am somewhat surprised at the disconnect with results. It seems intuitive that alignment will lead to better scores on tests. This is predicated on a few things: the test and the curriculum are truly aligned (last year's 7th grade NYS ELA test was not aligned with the curriculum or stated reading levels), teachers actually teach the curriculum not merely cover it, and students have the background knowledge and prerequisite skills that are expected. High quality teachers will find a quality, cohesive curriculum to be a great boon. They will differentiate the instruction to meet the needs of the kids they have, not the kids a curriculum writer thinks they should have. Struggling teachers will not meet the diverse individual needs of the students in their charge regardless of the scripted curriculum they are using.

When it comes to the third lesson, short-training credentials not being as valuable as the schools that offer them would suggest does not surprise me. We know that many BA programs yield less income opportunity than AS programs or even no program at all. Some of these training programs are out there merely to raise funds for the business. People hearing that training increases income fall into the trap of not all training is created equal. Guidance departments need to figure out how to encourage incurring debt for post-secondary instruction that will yield income, not merely "training" or an enjoyment of the program.

The fourth lesson also refers to higher ed and community college programs. Students who start at a community college because they are not ready for the big league- low grades, skill gaps, poor SAT scores, work ethic and time management concerns- are going to need extra time to be ready. Thinking they will get a bachelors degree in four years is silly. High schools sometimes promote the concept that community college credits are universally good. They have partnerships and offer these classes for "credit" but they really may have limited value. States trying to mandate that community college credits be accepted at public universities may backfire and ultimately result in classes becoming more challenging and costing students money and motivation at the community college. Private institutions do not take all credits from all other universities for a variety of reasons- only one of which is that they want you to pay for classes there. Students who are thinking of a four year program that starts at a community college need to be especially forward thinking- checking to be sure the classes that they take are transferable.

Peter Solovey and John Mayer postulated the concept of EQ being more important than IQ for success. With this in mind, people began pushing programs that focus on character and emotional qualities. Seeing the lack of support for SEL classes sticks in the eye of this idea. The fact that some teachers can be more successful with these programs may, as Owen suggests, be the result of better trained and more talented teachers. It may also just be reinforcing the idea that delivering a program with fidelity is essential for it to be successful. The idea that fidelity is important should not be shocking to anyone, but oddly, it is.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Phonics and decoding strategies for struggling readers using core knowledge poems

Kim Call wrote a unit for emergent readers entitled Phonics and Decoding Strategies for Struggling Readers Using  Core Knowledge Poems for the Core Knowledge National Conference. This unit contains five major lesson sets that are each broken down into several 15-20 minute sessions. These lessons teach syllable types and will not be adequate for an entire reading curriculum, but are intended as a supplemental program.

The best part of the unit is the listing of poems and nursery rhymes with their key phonetic elements identified so that teachers can select poems that reinforce the instruction given. Poetry is highly recommended by Rasinski, a fluency expert, for providing reading instruction. Call also includes templates for doing word sorts and bingo with students around the phonics instruction. Marzano identified games as a powerful tool for reinforcing and practicing knowledge with students.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents

Tracy L. Morris and John S. March edited Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents, Second Edition in 2004. This text contains 17 chapters written by seventeen groups of professionals. Like all such texts, readability is somewhat variable from chapter to chapter and redundancies occur. As a lay person rather than a trained psychological practitioner, this repetition did not bother me as much as it might for someone more well versed. The intended audience of the book is both practitioners and parents, a diverse population.

The book is divided into three sections: foundations, disorders and treatments. The treatments section is, in large part, a review of information found within the disorder chapters. The writing is such that one could read a single chapter of interest and gain the requisite information desired. While it is a decade old, the DSM has undergone a further revision, and a great deal of research has gone on in the intervening years, it still offers some useful insights. Disorders covered include: generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, specific phobia and selective mutism. These chapters are likely to be the most interesting to readers looking for information about a disorder. The chapters do present outlines of treatments, for specific CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) you would need to look elsewhere.

General points of interest:
  • All anxiety disorders have multiple causes and multiple pathways.
  • Treatment with CBT is the gold standard; medication can be added to severe cases and should not be assumed to be a long-term solution, nor should medication alone be used as treatment.
  • Not enough clinicians are available to provide CBT to individuals who need it.
  • Nearly all children and adolescents with an anxiety disorder have comorbid conditions including, but not limited to, other anxiety disorders, ADHD, and depression.
  • Untreated anxiety significantly increases the likelihood of substance abuse, failure in school including failure to complete high school, and self-harm or suicide. Treated properly, the vast majority of patients advance to mild/moderate anxiety or no clinically identifiable disorder.
  • Up to 15% of children and adolescents may suffer from an anxiety disorder.
  • Children and adolescents represent an understudied group and more clinical studies need to be performed to better understand how to best treat these conditions.
We owe it to our children to stop being afraid of mental illness and start implementing appropriate treatment. If a child or adolescent in our purview exhibits symptoms, we owe it to him or her to try and secure effective treatment. This may mean educating parents, providing free or sliding scale services and increasing the availability of quality intervention providers.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Effects of Reading Interventions on Students with LDs

Lynn M. May's Master's thesis entitiled Effects of Reading Interventions on Students with Learning Disabilities in Upper Elementary and Middle School (2012) from Northern Michigan University is a literature review. Unfortunately it is not well written and reviews only seven studies. There is little statistical analysis of the studies and the author relies on her personal interpretation to lend credence to her support of methodologies.

For general reading skills she recommends:
  • Repeated Reading with Phrase drill error correction
  • Taped preview, error correction and choral reading
  • Reciprocal teaching

She suggested the following are effective for improving comprehension:
  • Component Model of Reading, Aaron, Joshi, Gooden, and Bentum (2008)
  • Peer Tutoring
  • Reading Comprehension Strategy
  • Standardized and individualized interventions targeting specific deficits
Although one of the studies, Berkley, Mastropieri and Scruggs (2011), demonstrated that Read Naturally was inferior to the Reading Comprehension Strategy, she comments that she uses it every day in her resource room without an explanation of why, discussion of her finding it effective, or stating any thoughts of discontinuing its use.

Perhaps the most valuable piece of this paper is the appendix which includes a detailed listing of the lessons included in the Reading Comprehension Strategy lifted directly from Berkley et al (2011), and a series of RTI procedures from Donna Gilbertson that can be used to target appropriate techniques to use in interventions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Predicting Intervention Effectiveness from Oral Reading

Selecting interventions to meet student needs is important for any teacher whose role it is to provide Response to Intervention, Title I reading or special education services. Only limited amounts of research are available that help discriminate between evidence based approaches. Isadora Elizabeth Szadokierski attempted to identify if there were differences in students who would respond best to particular interventions, what is the relationship between intervention effectiveness and baseline data, and how well did baseline measures predict the effectiveness of two fluency interventions. She described her work in her dissertation, Predicting Intervention Effectiveness from Oral Reading Accuracy and Rate Measures through the Learning Hierarchy/Instructional Hierarchy (2012), for the University of Minnesota. The Learning Hierarchy is described below with an adaption of a chart from the text.

In the study
Learn how to correctly perform a skill. Require explicit instruction.
Accuracy of response
·         Demonstration
·         Models
·         Cues
·         Routine drills
Fluency/ proficiency
Can perform the skill with adequate accuracy but need to practice to get faster at it. May require reinforcement to complete drills.
·         Repeated novel drills
·         Reinforcement
Can perform the skill accurately and quickly but needs to do it in multiple situations or discriminate when to perform the skill.
Novel stimulus
·         Discrimination training
·         Differentiation training
Needs to learn how to modify the skill to meet the needs of various situations.
Adapted response
·         Problem solving
·         simulations

Her study involved 49 second and third grade students selected by their teachers as struggling readers. These students were required to have median baseline rates below the 50th percentile for the grade level at the time of year, read at least 11 words correct per minute, be native English speakers, and not be receiving special education for moderate/severe cognitive delays, autism or a visual disability. The author did not identify whether the selected students had been identified as having a learning disability.

Students received the intervention for five days over the course of two weeks in a one-on-one setting. For a  baseline, they were asked to read 10 passages at their grade level initially with no intervention (these were the passages used in the later interventions). The interventions were alternated in order to identify the more effective intervention. Then the more effective intervention was administered after a reversal procedure. The first intervention was modeling-error correction intervention package (M-EC) in which students were read the passage (listening passage preview), then were asked to read the passage with phrase error drill correction, followed by a final timed read without correction. The second intervention was repeated reading-reward intervention (RR-R) in which the students read the passage twice through for 90 seconds without feedback, they were offered a student selected reward if they met a goal (20% higher than the baseline reading of the passage), and then they participated in a timed reading.

Students who read at a faster rate and with few errors were more likely to benefit from the RR-R method than the M-EC intervention package. When the author normalized the reading rate by establishing difference from expected rate at grade level at that time of year, the least predictive data was developed. Unfortunately, since normalization of the data led to less predictive information, these cut score results have limited value to students outside of second and third grade. What we can learn from this study is that students who appear to be learning to decode are probably better served by fluency interventions that include modeling, and direct instruction of decoding.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Using Peer-Mediated Fluency Instruction to Address the Needs of Adolescent Struggling Readers

Nikki L. Josephs explored using peers to assist with reading fluency in her dissertation study, Using Peer-Mediated Fluency Instruction to Address the Needs of Adolescent Struggling Readers, for Georgia State University (2010). Her subjects were 7 high school students attending an alternative high school, reading between 4th and 7th grade level. Although seven students participated over the course of the study, results were only reported for five students because the other two did not complete all phases of the experiment. A peer-mediated design was selected to implement an intervention that maximized opportunity to respond and attempted to utilize peers for motivation. It appears that although students generally liked the program, there was some resistance to working with peers.

Ms. Josephs compared two interventions: repeated reading and continuous reading. Sessions were three times a week for 45 minutes each for a duration of 9 weeks. In repeated reading, students read a narrative passage at their individual reading level three times before being timed. A phrase error drill procedure was utilized. Words correct per minute and errors per minute were recorded by the individual students. Then students individually completed four comprehension questions- two literal and two inferential and the results were recorded. Under continuous reading, rather than reading the same 250 word passage, the students read three continuous passages. For all students, fluency rate increased the most under the repeated reading condition. Comprehension and errors results were mixed. Repeated readings resulted in an increase in comprehension question correctness for four of five students. All students exhibited a decrease in oral reading errors between baseline and the last reading mean, but the number per passage was highly variable over time.

This particular group of students was particularly challenging. They exhibited behavioral problems that resulted in them being placed in the program. Within the school, they continued to demonstrate challenging behaviors. Attendance at class was a concern as was punctuality and motivation to participate. Uncertified teachers and high staff turn over abounded within the school. Settings which have fewer of these concerns may have more positive results from such a program.

Using a peer-mediated fluency intervention at the high school level might be most successful if students do not have decoding or phonemic awareness issues. If a student reads at the fourth grade level he probably does not have decoding concerns. One of the concerns with the program is that students are responsible for identifying errors. In level matched dyads, both students may get "stuck" on challenging words, or may not be able to catch errors of their partners. Although the teacher and researcher circulated around the room during the program, many unidentified errors may have occurred.

Formative evaluation of academic progress: how much growth can we expect

Lynn S. Fuchs and Douglas Fuchs spent two years trying to establish norms for weekly progress in reading, math and spelling. Their results were reported in Formative evaluation of academic progress: how much growth can we expect, in School Psychology Review, 1993, 22(1).

For reading they used different methods each year. In the first year they assessed oral reading in 1 minute. In the second year they assessed reading using a computer-based maze task (First sentence is complete. Subsequently every seventh word is removed and students must select it from a series of choices.). The data is interesting in that the results for weekly growth rates are very different for oral reading rates from year to year but for the maze task they were fairly constant.

In the oral reading, younger grade students make more progress than older students. The relationship was more positively linear as well. As students moved through elementary school, the progress became less linear with increased progress at the beginning of the school year and less weekly growth as the year progressed. The chart below summarizes weekly growth for elementary students.

Mean weekly growth (words per week)
Ambitious weekly growth
Standard deviation

Using this information, a teacher can project whether a student is achieving at an expected rate or if instruction or an intervention is being effective. It may be used to target students early on for access to Response to Intervention Services. People should remember what the standard deviation means- 68% of scores should fall in the range. Therefore a fifth grade student making progress of .32 words per week is still within the average range and not really a target for intervention. The long-term results of reading at the low end of the average range is a student who reads significantly more slowly than his peers. To avoid this, it may be worthwhile to provide some extra support at the elementary level in order to provide a boost that will help him read at a rate more like the majority of his peers.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Reading Instruction Intervention for ELL struggling readers

Kai Yung Tam, William L. Heward, Mary Ann Heng explored various reading interventions with English Language Learners (ELLs) and reported on it in their article, A Reading Instruction Intervention Program for English-Language Learners Who are Struggling Readers, published in The Journal of Special Education, 2006, 40(2). Five elementary ELLs, 2 identified with learning disabilities, 1 with a developmental disability, and 1 with ADHD, were selected because they were struggling learners. The pupils were all at a level 2 which is described below:

  1. The pupil understands and speaks conversational and academic English with hesitancy and difficulty.  
  2. The pupil understands parts of lessons and simple directions. 
  3. The pupil is at a pre-emergent or emergent level of reading and writing in English, significantly below grade level.   Government proficiency levels

One-on-one sessions were approximately 35 minutes long. The authors had two main interventions they compared: new passage each session and same passage to criterion. Both conditions had vocabulary instruction (5-6 words from the passage to be read), initial untimed reading with error drill correction, two additional readings and then a timed reading. After the first reading five comprehension questions were asked. After each subsequent reading incorrectly answered comprehension questions were again posed. In the new passage trials, each day a new passage was addressed, in the same passage criterion the passage was reread until a set words per minute was achieved. Generalization and maintenance probes were administered daily.

Under both conditions, students increased the number of words per minute read and the number of correct literal questions answered. The researchers found that immediate error correction, regardless of whether the misread impacted meaning, resulted in improved reading rate and comprehension. Student performance increased the most under the passage against criterion condition.

For ELLs error correction may have been particularly helpful for building language skills. Providing vocabulary instruction, in and of itself, is likely to increase the comprehension questions. Unfortunately there was no condition with merely providing vocabulary instruction. It does seem that high quality reading instruction that includes vocabulary instruction, phrase error drill, and repeated reading is effective for improving reading skills in ELLs. This research was supported with older students with Kelly Morisoli's study Effects of Repeated Reading on Reading Fluency of Diverse Secondary-Level Learners (2010) published as a dissertation from the University of Arizona.

Preparing Teachers to Train Parents in Tutoring for Fluency

Teachers frequently bemoan the lack of hours in a day for completing all the things they need to do. One reason homework is assigned is that it did not get finished during the day. In the earliest grades, frequently the only homework assigned is to read with your child. Research has indicated that parents from different educational and racial backgrounds tend to read to their children differently. I know that when I read with my early readers we sat down together and shared the book, but a close friend would direct her sons to read while she was busy in the kitchen or doing something else, only giving the reading being done cursory attention. Many parents find they do not even ask their children to read to them at all.

For struggling readers this lack of parental consistency in reading support is especially concerning. Sara Kupzyk of the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, investigated a training program and described it in Preparing Teachers to Train Parents in the Use of Evidence-based Tutoring Strategies for Reading Fluency.  (Refinements of this research was also published by Kupzyk, Daly and Andersen.)She prepared a training manual and video for participants to use. First grade teachers in the study identified struggling readers and obtained consent to participate in the study. Then three teachers were trained in how to train the parents. Parents recieved the training manual and video to review prior to the training session. In the study, one teacher used the training strategy with high fidelity whereas the other two used only moderate fidelity. Parents were taught the following components of the tutoring process:
  • Provide attention and praise for good behaviors
  • Students read the passage for 1 minute as a pre-check. Number of words read and errors made are recorded.
  • Parents read the passage to the child
  • Child practices two times during which corrections are provided for misreads and then drill error correction is implemented.
  • Child rereads passage. Time and number of errors are recorded for each reading but no error correction is expected.
  • Discuss the reading.
As one might expect, the higher the training fidelity the higher the parent fidelity with the plan. The higher the parent fidelity with the plan, the more progress the student made in words read per minute and the fewer errors per minute. The most common missing elements from the parent tutoring sessions were the drill error correction and the second practice read. Parents, students and teachers all found the program to be acceptable.

This means that we can influence how parents read to and with their children and we can utilize parents to increase weak fluency skills with the children. Rasinski's FastStart reading program uses a similar idea of training parents to implement a fluency training program with their children. Both programs utilize repeated reading and listening passage preview. If we identify students struggling with fluency early on, we can then work with parents to help students improve their performance.

Both of these programs do have important weaknesses. Parents who are not proficient readers may not be good or willing models for their children. Parents whose schedules conflict with afterschool time may struggle with finding time to implement such a program. Parents with other children at home may not have the quiet, time, or resources to be able to sit with one child for fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time to complete the process. Parents may have children in multiple afterschool activities that may interfere with one-on-one reading time. It is certainly better to have junior read to mom in the car on the way to practice than to not read at all.

Offering training in the methods, however, is important in controlling what can be controlled by school. Having video training available, perhaps now even on YouTube, increases the likelihood of quality tutoring going on.

Reading racetracks and sight word fluency

One piece of fluency is being able to accurately and automatically read sight words. If students cannot read the words they will struggle with contextual reading. A procedure used to learn sight word is reading racetracks. Although I looked, all the research I found on this methodology was related to elementary students.

Jim Wright's How the Common Core Works Series contains a good description of Rinaldi, Sells and McLaughlin's (see additional research here and here) approach in his section How To: Build Sight Word Vocabulary with the Reading Racetrack. He describes the intervention, provides a write on racetrack sample and a recordkeeping sheet. In summary the teacher identifies target sight words, prepares lists (Wright recommends 4, others suggest 7) of words and writes in random order the words on a 28 space racetrack. Students are timed as they read their way around the track. Number of words read correctly and number of errors are recorded. Teachers or students can point to the words as they are read or a toy car could be used going over the word once it was read.

Holly R. Romjue, T.F. McLaughlin and K. Mark Derby studied the use of racetracks with a pair of students, one identified with a learning disability (9 years old) and the other with cognitive delays (11 years old), both of whom were placed in a self-contained classroom for core subject instruction. They describe their investigation in The Effects of Reading Racetracks and Flashcards for Teaching Sight Words, published in Academic Research International, September 2011, 1(2). In their study they used four groups of 7 unknown words identified after a baseline assessment. Students repeated the procedure for each group and then participated in a review racetrack that included all 28 new words. A combination of 7 known and 7 unknown words were written on flashcards and reviewed 2-3 times with instruction provided on unknown words. Then students practiced the racetrack once (or more often if student requested) and read for an official timing once. Data was kept both in terms of words per minute and errors per minute.

The participants of this study did improve their sight word recognition rate and although maintenance follow-up screens showed a drop in recognition, the students did improve over baseline. Overall reading rate increased and errors per minute decreased. Admitted weaknesses include the limited baseline and lack of consistency over the flashcard use. One thing the researchers fail to mention at all is if the skills generalized. Students with significant weaknesses in reading may not generalize the information well and it would be interesting to see information from a running reading record that included the target terms to see if improved sight word recognition would be preserved in passage reading as well. It would also be interesting to know if the intervention had any impact on general reading level.

The authors also fail to recognize the possible motivational issues related to the racetrack program. Although they do recognize that rewards provided throughout the program confound the result, it would be interesting to know if the students were interested in the program because of the racetrack theme and novelty. For some students this could be a serious turn on or off.

The strategy does seem like it could be manipulated to appeal to individual student interests. A student who likes frogs could have a pond with stones for the frog to hop along. A student fascinated with Disney princesses could have princess and prince faces around the board. A student who was into trains could have train stations or train cars and tracks. These kinds of modification might be especially useful for a student with an autistic spectrum disorder of a serious dislike of reading. They preserve the novelty and integrity of the approach while appealing to student interest. It might be carefully implemented with older students, but a track with more spaces and/or more sight word options might be utilized. Similar to the study, a combination of known and unknown words could be used to increase motivation via correct response. Alternatively, the tool could be reserved for review once a large number of sight words were introduced.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Evaluating Error Correction Procedures for Oral Reading

Joseph R. Jenkins and Kathy Larson authored Evaluating Error Correction Procedures for Oral Reading for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a technical report in June of 1978. Although this research is three and a half decades old, its results are interesting.

The authors note that when proficient readers have miscues they either disrupt meaning and the reader engages in fix-up strategies or they do not disrupt the meaning and the reader ignores the error. This self-correction is possible because proficient readers have good word recognition skills. Poor readers, on the other hand, may not even notice that meaning is disrupted, in part because they do not expect reading to make sense. They have fewer tools for self-correction and less word identification skills. When teachers are working with oral reading, the most common correction tool they use is word supply. When a student makes an error, the word is corrected and the reading continues. The authors sought to understand how effective this interruption is in increasing word identification skills and if other strategies would be more useful.

The authors had five junior high school students aged 13 or 14 who were reading at least four years below grade level and had been identified as having a learning disability. They received resource room support every day for 50 minutes. The intervention used approximately 35 minutes of that time and was delivered individually. Each treatment method was used for at least seven days for each student.

Material from instructional basal readers, presumably at the individual's grade level was used. In all treatment approaches lists of misread words were kept. Half the day's passage was read under the control condition and half under the experimental condition. The following day the student was asked to read the previous day's list- both as individual words and as words within the context of the original sentence- and data was recorded on the success. Below is a summary of the treatment strategies used and their results.


Results- successful reading rate on the next day of instruction for the list of misread words.
Word Study (WS)
Teacher supplies the correct word after student error. Student repeats the correct response.
Isolation- 33.4-41.1%
Context- 46.9-54.2%
No Supply (NS)
After an attempt, no correction was provided.
Isolation- 36%
Context- 34.9%
Sentence repeat (SR)
Teacher supplies the correct word after student error. Student repeats the correct response. Student is asked to reread the entire sentence again.
Isolation- 49.1%
End of Page review (EPR)
Teacher supplies the correct word after student error. Student repeats the correct response.  Error words printed on a list. At the end of each page, student read the word list.
Isolation- 49.0%
Context- 61.5%
Word Meaning (WM)
Teacher supplies the correct word after student error. Student repeats the correct response. Then teacher asked, “What does this word mean?” If student could not provide an adequate definition, one was provided and the student was asked to repeat it. Then the student took off from where he left off. If the word was again misread, the procedure was repeated. At the end of the page the list of words was presented to be read and definitions of the unknown words were requested. If student could not provide the definition, it was again provided, and the student was asked to repeat it.
Isolation- 57.5%
Context- 67.1%
Drill (D)
Teacher supplies the correct word after student error. Student repeats the correct response. All misread words were recorded on individual index cards. Deck was read, correct words were removed, incorrect words were corrected, student was asked to repeat the word, and the card was put back in the deck. The deck was then shuffled and the process was repeated until the student read through the deck correctly on two consecutive occasions.
Isolation- 77.4%
Context- 84%

For all conditions except no supply the students read better in context than in isolation. Although SR, EPR, WM and D all had significantly better results than the traditional WS or NS conditions, the D condition had vastly superior results to everything else. For teaching word recognition, drill and practice is clearly the best methodology.

In the years since this study, drill and practice has taken a great deal of abuse. It is boring and does not increase engagement. While drill should not be used exclusively during reading instruction, it has a place. We know that students need to have a large sight word vocabulary in order to effectively and efficiently read material. In order to get that vocabulary, students need to a) read widely and extensively and b) have many exposures to individual words. Drill on these sight words is far more effective than strategies that teachers often use, especially at the secondary level, where there appears to be an assumption that sight words have been mastered, even if all our data reveals that only about one-third of eighth grade students are proficient readers.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Florida Center on Reading Research

I just found this organization, the Florida Center for Reading Research, and it has a plethora of reading activities for grades K-5. The center has all kinds of lesson ideas ready to go.

The educator page takes you to student center activity resources. Each activity has a page of instructions. Most are then followed with some resources to use. For example, the grade 4/5 vocabulary word knowledge section begins with synonym bingo. There are sample cards. They provide a set of sample cards which can be copied, cut up and assembled into new cards, blanks for gluing words on to, and cards to draw. A sample is below:

synonym bingo


synonym bingo

The words cards are as follows:
all, sick, yell, shut, consent, cure, complete, tardy, find, fix, breakable, frequent, leave, possess, assist, construct, start, couple, place, correct, conceal, courageous, mistake, permit, end, close-by, desire, immense, slender, present, attempt, under

The fluency module for phrase progression has the following exercise.
In a small group take turns reading a card which might look like the following. Be sure to use good prosody:

  • My aunt
  • My aunt, who is a police officer
  • My aunt, who is a police officer, goes to schools
  • My aunt, who is a police officer, goes to schools to talk
  • My aunt, who is a police officer, goes to schools to talk about safety.

Reading this progression embeds repeated reading into an oral reading of phrases. An alternate activity could be to have one student start with the first line and have another student join in for choral reading as each line is read. Weaker students could be placed near the end of the reading to hear it before being asked to read. The choral nature also reduces embarrassment is a student cannot read a particular word. Students could search out sentences from their readings and list for such a reading practice, or they could practice writing. It provides experience with complex sentences, a topic of interest for many students at this grade level.

If you are looking for some innovative ways to incorporate reading activities into centers or to work with small groups, the Florida center is a great resource.