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Effective Secondary School Reading Staff Development

“Oh no… another obligatory reading staff development. If the presenter says ‘every teacher a teacher of reading’ just one time, I will walk out.”

“What does this have to do with me? I teach math. Another district-mandated reading-across-the-curriculum in-service. Ho-hum. Glad I brought papers to grade.”

As an administrator, literacy coach, English-language Arts teacher, or staff developer, you know the challenge. How can you train and convince such a diverse group of colleagues, representing the full slate of academic disciplines, that staff development in reading is valuable at the middle or high school level?

As educators have addressed the issues and suggested instructional strategies to respond to the growing “achievement gap,” many have come to the point of validating reading guru Anita Archer’s comment that “the ‘achievement gap’ is chiefly a ‘literacy gap.’” Today, there is wide consensus that secondary schools need to improve delivery of reading instruction, even at the expense of content-laden curricula.

“Oh great. Another thing to cram into my course. I don’t have the time to teach everything I am supposed to teach-not to mention what I want to teach.”

As a reading specialist/staff developer, once assigned to a high school, I know how secondary teachers, and even elementary teachers (been there-done that, too) can be a tough audience during a reading-based staff development. However, I’ve found that even the most obstinate, stuck-in-the-mud teachers do care about their students. Most will care enough to be willing to try something new, if they see the direct pay-off for their students.

In my experience, to get staff buy-in, you’ve got to accomplish three fundamental goals:

1. Ensure that all teachers feel that the strategies directly apply, in some degree, to their own academic disciplines. And let’s be honest, the matter is less relevant to some.

2. Give teachers something they can use the next day, and

3. Get the staff actively involved in the presentation.

Here are three sure-fire reading staff developments that I have presented at secondary schools and a nice resource for each:

1. Train and convince every teacher to assign reading in their academic discipline for homework on a regular basis. Here’s how.

2. Train and convince every teacher to use the same language of instruction i.e., the same terminology, for teaching and practicing reading strategies. SCRIP  is a set of self-questioning prompts that students can use to promote the author-reader dialog. Beyond the memorable mnemonic, the advantage to these strategies is that they work equally well with expository and narrative text (all academic disciplines).

By the way, if these reading strategies make sense to you, email me at mark@penningtonpublishing.com and I will send you some colorful SCRIP bookmarks that I have students use during silent reading. Offer a sign-up sheet for teachers who want class sets of these bookmarks (laminated or cardstock).

3. Train and convince every teacher to teach and have students use the same read-study method for expository reading. The PQ RAR method is a nice update on the “tried and true” SQ3R read-study method.

Using the same language of instruction is simply “user-friendly” for our students. Having similar instructional strategies lets students know that we do actually talk to teachers in other departments. More importantly, a staff that commits to using these strategies will significantly impact the reading performance of its students and help to bridge the “literacy gap.”

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesDesigned to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use–a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instruction. The program provides multiple-choice diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files), phonemic awareness activities, blending and syllabication activitiesphonics workshops with formative assessments, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable eBooks (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each book introduces focus sight words and phonics sound-spellings aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Plus, each book has a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns, five higher-level comprehension questions, and an easy-to-use running record. Your students will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Or why not get both programs as a discounted BUNDLE? Everything teachers need to teach an assessment-based reading intervention program for struggling readers is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program.

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