Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Best Practices on Interventions for Students with Reading Problems

Laurice M. Joseph wrote chapter 72, volume 4: Best Practices on Interventions for Students with Reading Problems for Best Practices in School Psychology V. In it she describes the psychological underpinning for behaviorist learning, a three tier response to intervention approach to reading instruction and possible interventions to meet student needs. Central to her idea is that reading instruction, particularly interventions, need to be targeted directly to the student's needs.  Students with decoding problems need decoding instruction, not comprehension assistance. Similarly, students who decode well should not be subjected to phonemic awareness lessons.

She identifies the difference between effective and efficient instruction citing as an example a study by Cates, et al (2003). Three forms of spelling instruction were given- interspacing unknown with a high percentage of known words, a low percentage of known words and traditional drill with only known words. All formats improved spelling equally well, but the direct traditional instruction took the least amount of time. In other words all were equally effective, but direct instruction was most efficient. We often ignore efficiency in favor of effectiveness. For students who need to close a learning gap, however, this is a concern. The author encourages practitioners to be careful when suggesting interventions so that they are based on student needs and effective and efficient practice.

Another aspect that Joseph ignores is the motivational one. Students may learn most efficiently under drill and practice, but may not be willing to participate due to boredom. Sometimes we need to mix things up so that student engagement is achieved.

The chapter lists some of the evidence based practices for teaching each of the components for reading instruction. Short descriptions of each intervention are provided, adequate for the school psychologist who is going to make recommendations, but perhaps more information would be important for a teacher.

General best practices include modeling, prompting, error correction, opportunities to practice and reinforcement. More specific techniques follow.

Phonemic Awareness
  • sound manipulation activities
  • sound boxes
  • sound sorts

Alphabetic principle (phonics)
  • phonogram instruction (onset and rime instruction)
  • word sorts
  • word boxes

  • flashcard drill and practice
  • simultaneous verbal prompting
  • incremental rehearsal
  • repeated reading
  • phrase drill
  • listening while reading

Vocabulary and Comprehension
  • semantic webs
  • story maps
  • response cards
  • questioning and paraphrasing text
  • increasing the rate of comprehending text

Several reading programs are also described: Corrective Reading Decoding, Reading Excellence: Word Attack and Rate Development Strategies, Great Leaps Reading Programs, PALS, and Read Naturally. Someone looking to understand the major principles of any of these programs would find these summaries useful jumping points.

While this passage clearly meets the needs of the target audience- school psychologists- it may not be adequate for a teacher looking to implement a tier 2 or 3 intervention with a student experience reading difficulties. It would provide a background to send someone off looking for more information, by itself, it would be insufficient.

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