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Why Johnny Still Can’t Read

Meet Johnny. Although… you probably already know him. In fact, you probably have a Johnny in your class right now. It may also be possible that you also have a few Johnnys that you don’t know about yet. Johnny has reading problems.

Johnny didn’t quite catch on to reading in kindergarten and first grade. His second and third grade teachers did spend a few minutes each day with Johnny, along with a few other students, and he did make some progress. However, by the time Johnny was handed his fourth grade social studies and science textbooks, he was not at all prepared for the multi-syllabic decoding, academic vocabulary, and expository text structure of these books. Apparently, other students had reading problems, because the teacher rarely used the textbooks. Instead, she taught the “power standards” to prepare her students for the standardized tests in both subject areas. His upper elementary and middle school teachers focused on the short stories in the literature anthology and on the assigned “core novels.” The teacher read the stories out loud or had the students take turns reading in “popcorn” style. Sometimes the teachers played the CD recordings. Of course, Johnny’s teachers wisely learned to avoid calling on him to read to protect his self-esteem. Clearly, Johnny’s reading deficits continued to compound.

In middle school, Johnny was placed in an intervention class for language arts. The focus of the class was to teach grade-level language arts standards at a slower pace. Addressing individual reading problems was not the primary focus of class, although the composition of the class was loosely based upon the reading scores of last year’s standards-based test. Johnny scored “Far Below Basic” because he was able to read only parts of the passages. Undoubtedly, a few students were placed in the class because they randomly marked answers on the test. Most of the students in this intervention class did have significant reading problems. However, they did not all have the same reading problems. Some students, such as Johnny, lacked phonemic awareness and could not decode. Other students had poor comprehension or low fluency scores. Still others were English language-learners. A few students were simply placed in the class due to behavioral problems.

Visit most public schools today and you will be able to spot more than a few Johnnys. Unfortunately, the Matthew Effect (Stanovich) is alive and well in our schools today. The rich do, indeed, get richer and the Johnnys get poorer. Students who learn to read well in their primary school years tend to continue this success because they use their reading skills to learn content and vocabulary in their intermediate elementary and middle school years. Students who do not learn to read well in their primary school years fall even further behind in school and the gap between good and poor readers widens. While the statistics indicate that only one in six remedial readers ever close this gap, Johnny can be that one. With the right diagnostic tools and instructional materials, caring teachers can better the odds for their students with reading problems.

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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