Sunday, February 15, 2015

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.

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