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Part 7 Interventions for Teaching Students to Read a Lot

McEwan-Adkins, Elaine K. Solution Tree Press ePub

 

Do students become skilled readers because they read a lot, or do they read a lot because they are skilled readers? Actually, the answer is yes to both questions. Students who begin second grade with strong reading skills read increasingly more books, which results in fluency and increased vocabulary. The combination of fluent reading and knowing the meaning of lots of words leads to increased reading comprehension. When students understand what they are reading, reading is a more rewarding experience. This sense of enjoyment and fulfillment quite naturally leads to a desire to read more. As students’ reading volume increases, their skills become stronger. And so it goes. The good readers soar to the top of the charts. Of course, most of the reading that proficient readers do, except for some oral reading in school at the beginning of second grade, is silent.

In contrast, students who begin second grade with weak reading skills have fewer opportunities to read accessible text and generally spend much less time reading in school than their “reading rich” counterparts (Allington, 1984; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; Nagy & Anderson, 1984). Their phonemic decoding skills are often labored, and they have far fewer sight words available in their long-term memories for instant retrieval. Therefore, their fluency is marginal, and they know the meanings of fewer words. This sad state of affairs leads to diminished comprehension. For struggling readers, reading is a frustrating and unrewarding experience to be avoided at all costs. They have almost no motivation to read, so they read less and less. The poor readers are left at the end of the school year with seemingly fewer reading skills than they had at the beginning, and the gap between them and their reading-rich peers grows even wider.

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Part 2 Interventions for Building Phonemic Awareness

McEwan-Adkins, Elaine K. Solution Tree Press ePub

 

The words phonemic and phonological are often used interchangeably, but technically, phonological awareness is a more encompassing concept that includes all levels of the speech sound system, including words, syllables, rhymes, and phonemes (Moats, 2000). Think of phonological awareness as an umbrella and the various levels of the speech system as its spokes.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2000) reviewed multiple experimental and quasiexperimental studies of phonemic awareness instruction in skills such as blending and segmentation, and they reported positive effects on reading, spelling, and phonological development, not only for students at risk but for average learners as well (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1989; Cunningham, 1990; Lie, 1991; Lundberg, Frost, & Peterson, 1988; O’Connor, Jenkins, & Slocum, 1993; Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 1997; Vellutino & Scanlon, 1987).

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Part 6 Interventions for Facilitating Comprehension

McEwan-Adkins, Elaine K. Solution Tree Press ePub

 

Comprehension is understanding what one reads. Adler and Van Doren (1972) refer to it as “reading with x-ray eyes.” Extracting meaning from text involves enumerating the key facts, opinions, or ideas in expository text or retelling a narrative. Students must extract meaning to answer questions or summarize. However, comprehension is also about constructing meaning, a process whereby the reader brings a unique set of experiences and knowledge to the text, and from reading and interacting with peers and teachers, develops new (to the reader) insights and ideas that help to affix the reading experience in long-term memory. The cognitive processes in which skilled readers engage are far more challenging to teach than discrete skills like word identification.

Our understanding of these cognitive processes comes from a fascinating qualitative study that asked expert readers to think aloud regarding what was happening in their minds while they were reading (Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995). The lengthy scripts recording the spoken thoughts (such as think-alouds) of skilled readers regarding their cognitive processing are called verbal protocols. These protocols were then categorized and analyzed to answer specific questions, such as “What is the influence of prior knowledge on expert readers’ strategies as they determine the main idea of a text?” (Afflerbach, 1990)

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Part 1 Interventions for Improving Instruction

McEwan-Adkins, Elaine K. Solution Tree Press ePub

 

In the pages ahead, you will find brief research summaries and a set of intervention strategies for each of the components of a balanced reading program: phonemic awareness, word identification, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and reading a lot. The intervention strategies can be used in several ways:

• As Tier 2 interventions in a response to intervention implementation

• As a supplement or “boost” to students who need extra help to keep up with whole-group reading instruction

• As schoolwide interventions in low-performing, high-poverty schools

However, these research summaries on the various aspects of a balanced reading program do not address the most critical question: What type of instruction is most effective for the struggling readers in your school? By struggling readers, we mean students with suspected as well as documented reading and language disabilities, English language learners, and students who acquire skills and knowledge more slowly than their peers. Three discrete bodies of research tell us what types of instruction are most effective: differentiated, explicit, systematic, and supportive. The evidence for what works to ensure that students at risk learn to read is well documented (figure P.1, page 12). The four interventions presented in Part 1 are equally applicable to all grade levels, but space precludes providing sample lessons or examples for every grade level.

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Part 5 Interventions for Building Vocabulary

McEwan-Adkins, Elaine K. Solution Tree Press ePub

 

Language development is inextricably linked to reading success (Biemiller, 1999), and vocabulary knowledge is an important predictor of reading comprehension. When Becker (1977) first posed the idea that the school failure of disadvantaged children was due to lack of vocabulary knowledge, it was a new idea that stimulated vigorous discussion and research regarding how many words students should be learning and how many they learn from direct instruction and incidentally at school (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; Nagy & Anderson, 1984).

Although the idea of “linguistically poor” students is no longer a new one, solutions to the problem continue to frustrate educators. While we may be able to teach discrete reading skills, we are depressingly familiar with what often happens to linguistically poor students once they leave the cocoon of the primary grades. If these students are not consistently, directly, and intensively taught word knowledge from the moment they enter school, their hard-won achievement gains from the primary grades will begin to fade as they struggle to handle the demands of more difficult upper-grade texts. Low-SES students, racial and ethnic minority students, and students whose first language is not English are especially hard-hit by what Moats (2001) calls “linguistic poverty” (p. 8).

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