Sunday, February 15, 2015

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment