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Posts Tagged ‘reading to learn’

Learning to Read and Reading to Learn

Over the last dozen years, our nation’s educators have dramatically improved K-3 literacy skills. A return to phonics-based instruction, improved teacher-training, and increased funding (including lower primary class sizes) all share credit. Recent National Assessment of Educational (NAEP) fourth-grade reading scores attest to this improvement. Especially encouraging are the increases in reading performance by lower socio-economic students. Indeed, we have made solid progress in learning to read at these age levels. However, reading scores still level off in upper elementary and noticeably decline in middle school.

Reading scores for students entering high school are particularly sobering. In high poverty schools, fewer than one-in-six students read at grade level (Perie et al., 2005). Half of freshman students have reading scores more than two grade levels below ninth grade expectations (Balfanz et al, 2002). Not until the junior and senior years of high school do we see an upward trend, and these results are significantly skewed due to high school drop-outs. Although we still have little meaningful data on who drops out and when, it does not take a Carnegie Foundation fellow to surmise that students who have dropped out of the system by this point tend to be those most challenged by lack of literacy skills.

And, even those students who remain in the comprehensive high schools on the college-track face challenges. Only have of the college-bound students taking the ACT college entrance exam were found ready to complete college-level reading assignments in core subjects such as English, history, math, and science (ACT 2005).

Why are we failing our secondary students?

The predominant educational philosophy in American schools can be summarized as this: Learn the skills of literacy in K-6 and apply these skills to learn academic content in 7-12. In other words, learning to read should transition to reading to learn. Courses have been organized in middle schools (or junior high schools) and high schools by academic areas. Even English is considered an academic content area, primarily organized by literature content standards in most school districts. Most secondary English teachers consider themselves as teachers of literature, less so that of reading or writing. Teachers have been trained and hired to reflect this secondary focus. For example, secondary teachers in most credential programs still only take one post-graduate “reading strategies” course. Clearly, this educational philosophy and its application are failing a sizeable portion of our secondary students.

What can we do to reverse this trend?

To meet the increasing demands of Twenty-First Century literacy skills, we need to abandon the current educational reading philosophy at the secondary level. Every secondary teacher needs the training to re-orient instruction and coursework to a reading to learn pedagogy. Yes, every teacher a teacher of reading (and writing). Now, obviously some disciplines should shoulder less of this responsibility. No one is suggesting that geometry teachers should abandon teaching theorems and begin teaching reading fluency. Both university and school districts need to develop partnerships to improve this expertise and re-write curriculum to reflect this focus. New collaborative partnerships need to be formed, in terms of flexible cohorts with professors and adjunct district personnel teaching both pre-service and in-service professional development in literacy skills. We also have to get past our mortar and brick biases and embrace online education to accomplish these ends. This focus ongoing professional development should be key to Response to Intervention (RtI) at any secondary school.

Secondary school curriculum and instruction must be both content and process focused. And this re-orientation is not solely for students with poor literacy skills; this paradigm shift is for our “best and brightest,” as well. We already have the diagnostic tools to differentiate instruction, now we have to make the commitment to doing so. Higher level reading involves analysis, critical thinking, and problem-solving. All students need explicit instruction to master the rigorous demands of Twenty-First Century academic reading. Once this instruction is mastered, we can then more effectively return to reading to learn.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed 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 instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) 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.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

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Elementary Reading Instruction

As a reading specialist, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to coach elementary teachers in reading instruction and teach remedial reading at the middle school, high school, and community college levels. From this perspective, I’ve come to the conclusion that we teach too much reading at the elementary school level. Probably not the most popular position among my fellow reading specialists and literacy coaches, I know. But let me state my case and see if some of my colleagues would agree.

I currently teach seventh-grade English-language arts and an occasional reading intervention class in Elk Grove Unified School District, outside of Sacramento, California. While serving in a prior position as a district reading specialist some twelve years ago, our district adopted Open Court® as our elementary K-6 reading program. Our district went “whole hog” after this program and we have achieved remarkable results in improving our elementary reading test scores. However, as has frequently been the case in the history of educational reform, initial success has its drawbacks.

As a reading specialist, we helped teachers implement a two-hour morning reading block with additional time, usually in the afternoons, for reading remediation. With state-mandated P.E. time, one hour of math, recess, and a thirty-minute lunch, this left but a few minutes a day for social studies, science, art/music, etc. Not to mention writing. As every Open Court® teacher knows, the weakness of the program is the writing component, or effectively, the lack thereof. This is particularly the case with expository writing strategies.

As we implemented Open Court®, reading specialists, literacy coaches, elementary teachers and their administrators tried to maintain the integrity of both the reading and math programs, while still teaching state-mandated social studies and science standards. After all, school district success is measured by test scores in these areas. And test scores drive curricular and instructional decision-making. The key buzzwords became “incorporate social studies (or science or arts or writing) instruction” into the two-hour “literacy block.” Code words for “ignore these content areas.” Reading instruction became reductive.

With the district’s shift in instructional priorities, middle school teachers began noticing significant declines in “content-readiness” in the areas of social studies, science, and English-language arts in their Open Court®-trained students. Ironically, the über-emphasis on reading (particularly in decoding and fluency development) has minimized student practice with the thinking processes and content prior knowledge so necessary for more advanced “reading to learn” skills at the secondary levels. The academic language of social studies and science expository texts are truly wake-up calls for in-coming seventh-graders. The resulting declines in middle school test scores probably have more to due with lack of elementary preparedness (as described above) and more-challenging expository-based middle school tests than a lack of middle school teaching expertise or the middle-school concrete operational “bubble” described by many cognitive psychologists.

The de-emphasis of elementary writing instruction has ill-prepared students for both reading and writing informative and argumentative text or essays at the secondary level. Writing instruction directly impacts reading comprehension. What better way to teach the reading skills of main idea, support details/evidence/interpretation, and text structure, than through writing instruction? What little writing instruction there is seems devoted to churning out the four or five “writing application standards” at each grade level. These are full-process pieces, requiring even fourth-graders to complete multi-paragraph essays. Results can be appalling. Students know the form, but can’t write in complete sentences. Essay strategy development is non-existent. Spelling, grammar, and mechanics instruction is relegated to a ten-minute D.O.L. (Daily Oral Language) opener or as last-minute test practice.

My solution, outside of a longer school day (unlikely in this economic climate), is to allocate less direct instructional reading time at the elementary level. Less is often better. We need more efficient elementary reading instruction, based upon quick, user-friendly diagnostic and formative assessments, and more content-area and writing instruction at the K-6 levels. We need to develop more flexible delivery methods than those advocated, say in current Response to Intervention models. Many of these models are advocating two and one-half hours of direct reading instruction. Where will it end? Teachers have to make a basic commitment to differentiate instruction and receive extensive training to teach reading efficiently. Administrators and district leaders need to support more balanced instruction, irrespective of possible short-term test score dips to achieve long-term results. More time (and frequently more money) thrown at any subject of instruction, even  a subject as important as reading, simply isn’t the answer.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed 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 instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) 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.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

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Twelve Tips to Teach the Reading-Writing Connection

Educators often talk about the reading-writing connection. Dr. Kate Kinsella of San Francisco State University summarizes the reading-writing connection research as follows:

  • Reading widely and regularly contributes to the development of writing ability.
  • Good writers were read to as children.
  • Increasing reading frequency has a stronger influence on improving writing than does solely increasing writing frequency.
  • Developmental writers must see and analyze multiple effective examples of the various kinds of writing they are being asked to produce (as well as ineffective examples); they cannot, for example, be expected to write successful expository essays if they are primarily reading narrative texts.

Teaching reading and writing strategies concurrently certainly does allow teachers to “kill two birds with one stone.” Now this is not to say that reading or writing instruction should always be taught in tandem. There are certainly important lessons and skill development exclusive to each field. However, the following twelve tips to teach the reading-writing connection will enhance students’ facility in both disciplines.

1. Teach the Author-Reader Relationship

Both reading and writing involve interactive relationships between author and reader. Reading really is about communication between the reader and the author. Now, it’s true that the author is not speaking directly to the reader; however, readers understand best when they pretend that this is so. Unlike reading, writing requires the thinker to generate both sides of the dialog. The writer must create the content and anticipate the reader response. Teaching students to carry on an internal dialog with their anticipated readers, while they write, is vitally important.

Strategy: Write Aloud

2. Teach Prior Knowledge

What people already know is an essential component of good reading and writing. Content knowledge is equally important as is skill acquisition to read and write well. Reading specialists estimate that reading comprehension is a 50-50 interaction. In other words, about half of one’s understanding of the text is what the reader puts into the reading by way of experience and knowledge. However, some disclaimers are important to mention here.  Although prior knowledge is important, it can also be irrelevant, inaccurate, or incomplete which may well confuse readers or misinform writers. Of course, the teacher has the responsibility to fill gaps with appropriate content.

Strategy: KWHL

3. Teach Sensory Descriptions

Both readers and writers make meaning through their sensory experiences. Recognizing sensory references in text improves understanding of detail, allusions, and word choice. Good readers apply all of their senses to the reading to better grasp what and how the author wishes to communicate. They listen to what the author is saying to them. For example, good readers try to feel what the characters feel, visualize the changing settings, and hear how the author uses dialog. Applying the five senses in writing produces memorable “show me,” rather than “tell me” writing.

Strategy: Interactive Reading

4. Teach Genre Characteristics

All reading and writing genres serve their own purposes, follow their own rules, and have their own unique characteristics. Knowing the text structure of each genre helps readers predict and analyze what the author will say and has said. For example, because a reader understands the format and rules of a persuasive essay, the reader knows to look for the thesis in the introduction, knows to look for the evidence that backs up the topic sentence in each body paragraph, and knows to look for the specific strategies that are utilized in the conclusion paragraphs. Writing form is an important component of rhetorical stance. Knowing each genre (domain) also helps writers include the most appropriate support details and evidence. For example, persuasive essays often use a counterpoint argument as evidence.

Strategy: Rhetorical Stance

5. Teach Structural Organization

Readers recognize main idea, anticipate plot development or line of argumentation, make inferences, and draw conclusions based upon the structural characteristics of the reading genre. For example, readers expect  the headline and introductory paragraph(s) of a newspaper article to follow the structural characteristics of that genre. For example, since news articles include Who, What, Where, When, and How at the beginning, the informed reader knows to look for these components. Similarly, writers apply their knowledge of specific structural characteristics for each writing genre. For example, knowing the characteristics of these plot elements: problem, conflict; rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution will help the writer craft a complete narrative.

Strategy: Numerical Hierarchies

6. Teach Problem Solving Strategies

Good readers and writers act like detectives, looking for clues to understand and solve a case. In a persuasive essay, the reader should detect how a thesis is argued, how the variety of evidence is presented, and if the conclusions are justified in light of the evidence. In a narrative, the writer needs to clearly state the basic problem of the story and how that problem leads to a conflict. Through the elements of plot, the writer must deal with this conflict and resolve it to the reader’s satisfaction.

Strategy: Evidence

7. Teach Coherency and Unity

For both reading and writing, the object is to make sense of the content. Recognizing the author’s rhetorical organization, grammatical patterns, transition words, and use of writing techniques such as repetition, parallelism, and summary will facilitate comprehension. Knowing how the author communicates helps the reader understand what is being communicated. Applying an organizational pattern appropriate to the writing content and effective writing techniques will help the reader understand the content of the communication. Writing unity refers to how well sentences and paragraphs stay focused on the topic. For example, readers need to train themselves to look for irrelevant (off the point) details. Similarly, writers need to ensure that their writing stays on point and does not wander into tangential “birdwalking.”

Strategies: Coherency and Unity

Coherency

Unity

8. Teach Sentence Structure Variety

Good readers are adept at parsing both good and bad sentence structure. They consciously work at identifying sentence subjects and their actions. They apply their knowledge of grammar to build comprehension. For example, they recognize misplaced pronouns and dangling participles, such as in “The boy watched the dog beg at the table and his sister fed it” and are able to understand what the author means, in spite of the poor writing. Good writing maintains the reader’s attention through interesting content, inviting writing style, effective word choice, and sentence variety. Knowing how to use different sentence structures allows the writer to say what the writer wants to say in the way the writer wants to say it. Most professional writers plan 50% of their sentences to follow the subject-verb-complement grammatical sentence structure and 50% to follow other varied sentence structures. No one is taught, convinced, or entertained when bored.

Strategy: Grammatical Sentence Openers

9. Teach Precise Word Choice

Understanding the nuances to word meanings lets the reader understand precisely what the author means. Knowing semantic variations helps the reader understand why authors use the words that they do and helps the reader “read between the lines,” i.e., to infer what the author implies. When writers use words with precision, coherency is improved. There is no ambiguity and the reader can follow the author’s intended train of thought.

Strategies: Vocabulary Ladders and Semantic Spectrums

10. Teach Style, Voice, Point of View, Tone, and Mood

Good readers recognize how an author’s writing style and voice (personality) help shape the way in which the text communicates. For example, if the style is informal and the voice is flippant, the author may use hyperbole or understatement as rhetorical devices. Recognizing whether the author uses omniscient or limited point of view in the first, second, or third person will help the reader understand who knows what, and from what perspective in the reading. Identifying the tone of helps the reader understand how something is being said. For example, if the tone is sarcastic, the reader must be alert for clues that the author is saying one thing, but meaning another. Identifying the mood of a literary work will enable the reader to see how the plot and characters shape the feeling of the writing. For example, knowing that the mood of a poem is dark allows the reader to identify the contrasting symbolism of a “shining light.” In addition to applying the writing tools described above, good writers need to be aware of errors in writing style that do not match the rules and format of certain forms of writing, such as the formal essay.

Strategy: Writing Style Errors

11. Teach Inferences

Both reading and writing is interpretive. Readers infer meaning, make interpretations, or draw logical conclusions from textual clues provided by the author. Writers imply, or suggest, rather than overtly state certain ideas or actions to build interest, create intentional ambiguity, develop suspense, or re-direct the reader.

Strategy: Inference Categories

12. Teach Metacognition and Critical Thinking

Reading and writing are thinking activities. Just decoding words does not make a good reader. Similarly, just spelling correctly, using appropriate vocabulary, and applying fitting structure to paragraphs does not make a good writer. Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses as a reader or writer helps one identify or apply the best strategies to communicate. Knowing how to organize thought through chronology, cause-effect, problem-solution, or reasons-evidence rhetorical patterns assists both reader and writer to recognize and apply reasoning strategies. Knowing higher order questioning strategies, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation helps the reader and writer see beyond the obvious and explore issues in depth.

Strategies: Self-Questioning and Reasoning Errors

Self-Questioning

Reasoning Errors

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed 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 instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 390 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) 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.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Find essay strategy worksheets, writing fluencies, sentence revision activities, remedial writing lessons, posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in Teaching Essay Strategies.TES

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