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Posts Tagged ‘guided reading’

Making Sense of Guided Reading

I’ve got to be careful on this topic. I’ve got family members who teach using guided reading, as well as plenty of colleagues, and their students are learning to read. Within the past 35 years, guided reading has become an educational given, accepted common sense, and an all-or-nothing teaching reading strategy. For Fountas & Pinnell and Teachers College, the guided reading method of teaching students with leveled books is a cash-cow. However, all-too-often educators assume and practice what has not yet been proven. Such is the case with guided reading.

Guided Reading

How to Tweak Guided Reading

Guided reading is based upon two theoretical premises: Vygotsky’s (1978) Zone of Proximal Development theory and Bruner’s (1986) application of that research to learning theory in what he termed as scaffolding.  From these premises, Marie Clay, New Zealand’s godmother of guided reading, believed that students learn best in instructional level texts (Vygotsky’s Zone), guided by a teacher to independence (Bruner’s scaffolding), and then on to more and more challenging instructional texts in what she coined as the “ladder of progress.” Clay’s methods of determining independence (91–94%) is running records assessment.

Clay’s guided reading method sounds reasonable and practical. Simply put, it’s the Goldilocks principle: Don’t have students practice in books that are too hard (frustration level); don’t have students practice in books that are too easy (independent level). Instead, have students practice in books that are just right (instructional level) with teacher assistance.

Within the last 35 years, we have made enormous strides in determining readers’ levels of comprehension and matching them to levels of text complexity through Lexile testing or informed teacher judgment using running records. However, we have not yet proven that practicing at optimally determined reading levels produces more learning than reading text that is “too easy” or “too hard.” And we just don’t know if learning is best facilitated with Clay’s ladder of progress model. Is there such a thing as an optimal instructional reading level?

Dr. Timothy Shanahan argues, “Basically we have put way too much confidence in an unproven theory”(https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/leveled-reading-making-literacy-myth). He elaborates on the guided reading practice of using leveled texts to match optimal reading levels of instruction:

Of the studies that have directly tested the effects of teaching students to read with books at their “instructional level,” not one has found any benefit to the practice. There are several studies that have found no benefit to doing this and there are some that have found it to be harmful (that is, it reduces the students’ opportunity to learn). There is no set level at which texts need to be for students to learn from them, but if the texts are too easy (and traditional instructional level criteria are apparently too easy) learning is going to be limited. This has been found across a variety of grades from Grade 2 through high school and both with regular classroom students and learning-disabled students (https://www.shanahanonliteracy.com/blog/a-gallimaufry-of-literacy-questions-and-answers).

In fact, the authors of the Common Core State Standards would argue that students (with teacher assistance) learn more from complex i.e. frustration level text than instructional or independent text. My son read the entire Harry Potter series as a fourth-grader. While the first few books were add an accessible reading level, the last few certainly were not. My son gained two reading grade levels in a matter of months by reading text at his frustration level.

At this point, I know I’ve lost half of my readers. Teachers believe in the value of research only to a certain extent. When challenged by new or different research that is contradictory to accepted notions, teachers tend to retreat to their own experience. Generally, teachers believe in what they’ve been taught, how they were taught, and what they are now doing. Guided reading teachers see success in their students and the kids are learning to read. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Leveling Books

Guided Reading

However, for the remaining half of my readers: When they understand that the research does not prove what the majority of teachers are doing, they work through their cognitive dissonance and become more critical consumers of ideas and practice. They’re not afraid to distance themselves from the herd and try something new. A chance to add more tools to their tool belts.

My take is that we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Some of guided reading is research-based and makes complete sense: the structural and instructional components of flexible ability grouping, meaningful busy work for rest of kids, reading with the teacher on a daily basis, and authentic assessment are proven and effective instructional strategies; however a few tweaks are in order. We don’t and shouldn’t abandon guided reading entirely as some Science of Reading colleagues advocate. However, I would ask teachers to try a few adaptations.

My suggestions to make sense of guided reading:

  1. Rather than trying to fine tune your guided reading groups by adding more discrete reading level groups, think of combining groups to maximize instructional minutes, minimize independent work, and improve behavior management. Especially consider doubling the size of the teacher-led guided reading group and reducing the number of total groups. Check out these 10 group rotation schedules.
  2. Look to other means of assessment to determine reading needs and group placements, in addition to running records. Teachers don’t like to hear this, but we are not completely objective evaluators. According to Dr. Louisa Moats, “The reliability of oral reading tests and running records is lower than the reliability of more structured, specific measures of component reading skills. Teacher judgment of the cause of specific oral reading errors (e.g., miscue analysis) tends to be much less reliable” (https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/reading_rocketscience_2004.pdf). (Download my FREE diagnostic assessments.)

    Sam and Friends Phonics Books

    Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

  3. In addition to leveled reading groups, use this alternative assessment data  to drive instruction within your guided reading group stations. Flexible groupings can help you teach r-controlled vowels to a group, or the soft /c/ spellings, or non-decodable sight words, etc. to needs-based groups, formed according to diagnostic assessments. My Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books are perfect examples of how to use skill-based guided reading groups. Each of the 54 decodable books includes a running record, but placement in the Sam and Friends series is determined by objective assessment.

The benefits…

  1. Fewer groups means less prep for guided reading groups and other independent learning stations.
  2. Less wasted instruction. When teachers notice reading errors during guided reading or running records which they wish to address via mini-lessons, some, but not all students will benefit.
  3. Targeted needs-based instruction is more efficient than mini-lessons.
  4. Students will progress quicker with the addition of assessment-based instruction.
  5. Less $. Those Fountas & Pinnell A to Z leveled books are expensive. Why not purchase fewer levels?
  6. Less tracking. Traditional guided reading groups stay quite similar from the start to end of the school year, with notable exceptions.
  7. Better behavior management. With fewer groups, fewer transitions are necessary. With more students in the teacher’s group, less idle hands are making mischief.
  8. More teacher-student time.

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Making Sense of Guided Reading

Guided Reading

Making Cents

The key idea of guided reading: to make sure kids are being taught from books that are not too far beyond their skills certainly makes sense. According to Vygotsky, students learn best when they are provided strong instructional support to extend themselves by reading texts that are on the edge of their learning—not too easy but not too hard*. And guided reading publishers attempt to do just that by putting reading level theory into practice. Most teachers have bought into guided reading hook, line, and sinker.

Most elementary teachers in the United States use one form of guided reading or another. In fact, the two most popular reading programs (Fountas & Pinnell and Teacher’s College Readers Workshop) which account for more than 60% of reading program sales in the United States use leveled books as the core component of their curricula.

However, you can take even a good idea too far in terms of adherence to a theoretic framework and implementation in the classroom.

First, in terms of a theoretic framework, the simple fact is that the science behind reading levels theory is quite a squishy notion. Specifically, we have mistakenly assumed that independent, instructional, and frustration reading levels are research-based and quantifiable constructs.

(https://www.heinemann.com/fountasandpinnell/supportingmaterials/fountaspinnell_revdreadingteacherarticle12_2012.pdf)

Dr. Tim Shanahan took a look at the original research regarding reading levels theory:

Made famous in Emmett Betts’s influential, now-little-remembered 1946 textbook Foundations of Reading Instruction, leveled reading theory actually emerged from a more obscure study conducted by one of Betts’s doctoral students. “I tracked down that dissertation and to my dismay it was evident that they had just made up those designations without any empirical evidence,” Shanahan wrote. When the study—which had in effect never been conducted—was “replicated,” it yielded wildly different results. In other words, there was no study, and later research failed to show the benefits of leveling. “Basically we have put way too much confidence in an unproven theory,” Shanahan concluded (https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/leveled-reading-making-literacy-myth).

Second, in terms of leveled reading instruction, implementation of the reading levels theory via guided reading is challenging, time-consuming, expensive, and provides less student-teacher reading time because of the narrowly focused guided reading groups.

Rube Goldberg (1931)

In fact, the commonly-accepted notion about reading levels has produced a Rube Goldberg machine in reading instruction. A Rube Goldberg machine, named after American cartoonist Rube Goldberg, is a machine intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overly complicated way (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rube_Goldberg_machine).

The Fountas &Pinnell A to Z readers are such a machine. The differences among the levels are virtually indistinguishable, but the levels are goldmines for the publishers. More levels = more profit. As Tim Shanahan remarks,

“Teachers sacrifice way too much instructional time trying to provide kids teaching at their exact level. So, you’ll see teachers spending 15-20 minutes each with groups at level “L” and “M” that frankly aren’t different. In such cases, the teacher would be better off spending 30-40 minutes with the two combined groups (https://shanahanonliteracy.com/blog/the-problem-with-guided-reading).

My suggestions to make sense of guided reading:

  1. No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’m not suggesting, as many in the science of reading group advocate, getting rid of guided reading. The structural and instructional components of flexible ability grouping, meaningful busy work for rest of kids, reading with the teacher on a daily basis, and authentic assessment via running records are effective instructional strategies; however a few tweaks are in order.
  2. Rather than trying to fine tune your guided reading groups by adding more discrete reading level groups, think of combining groups to maximize instructional minutes, minimize independent work, and improve behavior management. Especially consider doubling the size of the teacher-led guided reading group and reducing the number of total groups. Check out these group rotation ideas.
  3. Look to other means of assessment to determine reading needs and group placements, in addition to running records. Teachers don’t like to hear this, but we are not completely objective evaluators. According to Dr. Louisa Moats, “The reliability of oral reading tests and running records is lower than the reliability of more structured, specific measures of component reading skills. Teacher judgment of the cause of specific oral reading errors (e.g., miscue analysis) tends to be much less reliable” (https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/reading_rocketscience_2004.pdf) Louisa
  4. In addition to leveled reading groups, use these alternative assessment data to drive instruction within your guided reading group stations. Flexible groupings can teach r-controlled vowels to a group, or the soft /c/ spellings, or non-decodable sight words, etc. to needs-based groups, formed according to diagnostic assessments.

The benefits of these guided reading tweaks…

  1. Fewer groups means less prep for guided reading groups and other independent learning stations.
  2. Less wasted instruction. When teachers notice reading errors during guided reading or running records which they wish to address via mini-lessons, some, but not all students will benefit.
  3. Targeted needs-based instruction is more efficient than mini-lessons.
  4. Students will progress quicker with the addition of assessment-based instruction.
  5. Less $
  6. Less tracking. Traditional guided reading groups stay quite similar from the start to end of the school year, with notable exceptions.
  7. Better behavior management. With fewer groups, fewer transitions are necessary. With more students in the teacher’s group, less idle hands are making mischief.
  8. More teacher-student time.

*****

Check out the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books in the author’s program below to add an assessment-based phonics practice component to your guided reading.

Get the Diagnostic Reading  and Spelling Assessments FREE Resource:

I’m Mark Pennington, author of  the Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention Program). This program provides all the resources teachers need for flexible, student-centered reading instruction. The program is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight-adult. Ideal as both Tier II or III pull-out or push-in reading intervention for older struggling readers, special education students with auditory processing disorders, and ESL, ESOL, or ELL students. This full-year (or half-year intensive) program provides explicit and systematic whole-class instruction and assessment-based small group workshops to differentiate instruction. Both new and veteran reading teachers will appreciate the four training videos, minimal prep and correction, and user-friendly resources in this program, written by a teacher for teachers and their students.

The program provides 13 diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files). Teachers use assessment-based instruction to target the discrete concepts and skills each student needs to master according to the assessment data. Whole class and small group instruction includes the following: phonemic awareness activities, synthetic phonics blending and syllabication practice, phonics workshops with formative assessments, expository comprehension worksheets, 102 spelling pattern assessments, reading strategies worksheets, 123 multi-level fluency passage videos recorded at three different reading speeds, writing skills worksheets, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards (includes print-ready and digital display versions) to play entertaining learning games.

In addition to these resources, the program features the popular Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable books (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each 8-page book introduces two sight words and reinforces the sound-spellings practiced in that day’s sound-by-sound spelling blending. Plus, each book has two great guided reading activities: a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns and 5 higher-level comprehension questions. Additionally, each book includes an easy-to-use running record if you choose to assess. 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. These take-home books are great for independent homework practice.

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

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading Intervention Programs

When teachers and administrators are looking for a reading intervention program, they will find no shortage of expensive, “research-based,” high tech options. Countless districts and school sites have invested huge slices of their annual general funds to purchase big publisher programs that have produced minimal gains in reading achievement. Perhaps the “You get what you pay for” truism doesn’t always deliver with regards to effective reading intervention programs.

The Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes comparable or superior resources to reading intervention programs costing thousands per student per year. What’s the difference, other than price?

  • Less computer-based instruction and fewer bells and whistles, but more teacher-student interactive instruction and learning. The Teaching Reading Strategies program uses pencil and paper diagnostic and formative assessments, rather than computer adaptive assessments, to guide instruction and monitor progress. The teacher makes the instructional decisions, not the software.
  • Other than the YouTube modeled reading fluency passages, the digital display Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books, and the digital display game cards, the instructional resources are designed for classroom display or print. Not every teacher has a PC, tablet, or Chromebook for each student. Plus, not every teacher wants the computer to be the primary teacher of reading to their students.
  • No huge teacher edition to have to reference constantly to plan lessons.
  • No need for multiple training days with publisher sales reps/trainers to learn the program.
  • Finally, this 1283 page program has been written by and field tested by a teacher just like you, Mark Pennington MA reading specialist.

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention Program) featuring the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight-adult. Ideal as both Tier II or III pull-out or push-in reading intervention for older struggling readers, special education students with auditory processing disorders, and ESL, ESOL, or ELL students.

This full-year (or half-year intensive) program provides explicit and systematic whole-class instruction and assessment-based small group workshops to differentiate instruction. Both new and veteran reading teachers will appreciate the four training videos, minimal prep and correction, and user-friendly resources in this program, written by a teacher for teachers and their students.

The program provides 13 diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files). Teachers use assessment-based instruction to target the discrete concepts and skills each student needs to master according to the assessment data. Whole class and small group instruction includes the following: phonemic awareness activities, synthetic phonics blending and syllabication practice, phonics workshops with formative assessments, expository comprehension worksheets, 102 spelling pattern assessments, reading strategies worksheets, 123 multi-level fluency passage videos recorded at three different reading speeds, writing skills worksheets, vocabulary worksheets, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards (includes print-ready and digital display versions) to play entertaining learning games.

In addition to these resources, the program features the popular Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable books (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each 8-page book introduces two sight words and reinforces the sound-spellings practiced in that day’s sound-by-sound spelling blending. Plus, each book has two great guided reading activities: a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns and 5 higher-level comprehension questions. Additionally, each books includes an easy-to-use running record if you choose to assess. 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. These take-home books are great for independent homework practice.

Detailed Teaching Reading Strategies Product Description

Simple Program Placement

The Teaching Reading Strategies program includes four assessments to help teachers properly place students in the program: the *Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment, the *Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessments, the *Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, and the Individual Fluency Assessment.

*Audio Files

Sound-by-Sound Spelling Blending

he scripted sound-spelling blending instructional sequence will help students learn to read all of the common sound-spellings in just 18 weeks of synthetic phonics instruction.

Syllable Transformers and Syllabication

Students practice sound-spelling syllable transformations and syllable patterns with whole class interactive practice and syllable worksheets.

Reading Fluency Practice 

Students practice reading fluency (modeled readings, repeated practice, cold and hot timings recorded on timing charts) with 43 expository articles, each written about a common or uncommon animal.

Each of the engaging articles is composed in a leveled format—the first two paragraphs are at third grade reading level, the next two are at the fifth grade reading level, and the last two are at the seventh grade reading level. Slower readers get practice on controlled vocabulary and are pushed to read at the higher reading levels, once the contextual content has been established. Faster readers are challenged by the increasingly difficult multi-syllabic vocabulary.

The Teaching Reading Strategies program provides two options for fluency practice: 1. Small group choral readings (no technology required) and 2. YouTube videos with modeled readings at three different speeds for each of the 43 articles.

Comprehension Worksheets

The SCRIP Comprehension Worksheets help students learn and practice comprehension cues (summarize, connect, re-think, interpret, and predict) to independently access the meaning of texts. The 43 expository articles are the same as those used in the reading fluency practice. Each worksheet includes five text-dependent comprehension questions and three context clues vocabulary words.

Reading, Spelling, and Vocabulary Game Cards

The 644 Reading, Spelling, and Vocabulary Game Cards are used in instructional activities and games. Three formats are provided: 1. Print and Cut 2. Phone Display 3. Tablet and Chromebook Display. You and your students will love the card games. Who says we can’t learn and have fun at the same time?

Reading Comprehension Strategies

Teacher lessons, guided reading practice, and Reading Strategy Worksheets will help your students learn to self-monitor their reading and improve comprehension. Examples: How to Identify Main Idea and Determine Importance, How to Identify Fact and Opinion, Read-Study Method, How to Summarize, Authors and Readers’ Purpose, Close Reading, How to Infer, How to Visualize Text, Cause and Effect, and more.

Diagnostic Assessments

With canned reading intervention programs, teachers wind up spending too much time teaching what many of their remedial readers already know and too little time helping students practice what they do not know.

The 13 whole-class diagnostic reading assessments pinpoint the specific reading deficits for each of your students. Everything you need to teach (or not teach) is assessed and instructional resources match every assessment item.

The 13 program assessments include…

Syllable Awareness, Syllable Rhyming, Phonemic Isolation, Phonemic Blending, Phonemic Segmenting, Alphabetic Upper and Lower Case Letter Match and Alphabetic Sequencing, Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment, Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment, Outlaw Words Assessment, Rimes Assessment, Sight Syllables Assessment, Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, and an Individual Fluency Assessment

All assessment data is recorded on two comprehensive reading recording matrices for simple progress monitoring and placement in flexible small group workshops. Each workshop activity has a brief formative assessment to determine whether students have mastered the skill or need more practice.

Phonemic Awareness Workshops 

The Teaching Reading Strategies program includes extensive phonemic awareness activities which perfectly correspond with the phonemic awareness assessments. Students fill in the gaps to ensure a solid foundation for learning the phonetic code by learning to hear, identify, and manipulate the phonemes.

Workshops include alphabetic awareness, rhyming, syllable awareness and manipulation, phonemic isolation, blending, and segmentation.

Phonics Workshops 

Teaching Reading Strategies provides 35 phonics workshops, targeted to the vowel and consonant sounds phonics assessments.

Spelling Pattern Workshops

The 102 Spelling Pattern Worksheets correspond to each test item on the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment. Students complete spelling sorts, rhymes, word jumbles, and brief book searches.

Guided Reading: The Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Sam and Friends Phonics Books Hi-Lo Readers

Sam and Friends Phonics Books

The Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books features 54 eight-page decodable stories with teenage characters, high-interest plots, and non-juvenile cartoons. Each book has embedded reading comprehension questions, word fluency timings, and accompanying running records. The books are formatted as booklets for printing and digital display on phones, tablets, and Chromebooks.

Each book has focus sound-spellings (the same ones as in the Sound-Spelling Blending activity) and sight words. Students learn the blends and practice them in the decodable Sam and Friends books. The 5 comprehension questions per story are ideal for guided reading instruction and parent-supervised homework.

Additionally, all 54 books provide a 30-second word fluency practice on the focus sound-spellings and sight words with a systematic review of previously introduced sound-spellings and sight words. Your students will improve reading fluency as they develop automaticity with the common sound-spellings and high utility sight words.

Each story has a custom-designed running record assessment with 200 words. Teachers may choose to complete running records on unpracticed or practiced books and may decide to assess with every book, once a week, or at the end of the phonics collection.  

Writing Strategy Workshops

The Writing Strategy Worksheets will help your students learn how both narrative and expository texts are structured and composed at the sentence, paragraph, and chapter levels. Great practice for understanding textbooks! Understanding the reading-writing connection will improve both reading comprehension and writing.

Vocabulary Workshops

The 56 Vocabulary Worksheets used in this workshop focus on the CCSS Vocabulary Standards:

  • Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)
  • Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.)
  • Language Resources (L.4.c.d.)
  • Figures of Speech (L.5.a.)
  • Word Relationships (L.5.b.)
  • Connotations (L.5.c.)
  • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

You can help turn struggling and vulnerable students into confident and skilled readers with the Teaching Reading Strategies program.

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention Program) is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight-adult. Ideal as both Tier II or III pull-out or push-in reading intervention for older struggling readers, special education students with auditory processing disorders, and ESL, ESOL, or ELL students. This full-year (or half-year intensive) program provides explicit and systematic whole-class instruction and assessment-based small group workshops to differentiate instruction. Both new and veteran reading teachers will appreciate the four training videos, minimal prep and correction, and user-friendly resources in this program, written by a teacher for teachers and their students.

The program provides 13 diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files). Teachers use assessment-based instruction to target the discrete concepts and skills each student needs to master according to the assessment data. Whole class and small group instruction includes the following: phonemic awareness activities, synthetic phonics blending and syllabication practice, phonics workshops with formative assessments, expository comprehension worksheets, 102 spelling pattern assessments, reading strategies worksheets, 123 multi-level fluency passage videos recorded at three different reading speeds, writing skills worksheets, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards (includes print-ready and digital display versions) to play entertaining learning games.

In addition to these resources, the program features the popular Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable books (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each 8-page book introduces two sight words and reinforces the sound-spellings practiced in that day’s sound-by-sound spelling blending. Plus, each book has two great guided reading activities: a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns and 5 higher-level comprehension questions. Additionally, each book includes an easy-to-use running record if you choose to assess. 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. These take-home books are great for independent homework practice.

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

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

FREE DOWNLOADS TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF PENNINGTON PUBLISHING RESOURCES: The SCRIP (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict) Comprehension Strategies includes class posters, five lessons to introduce the strategies, and the SCRIP Comprehension Bookmarks.

 

 

 

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic ELA and Reading Assessments FREE Resource:

 

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Reading Out Loud

Biden Stuttering Challenge“Mr. Buh-Buh-Buh-Biden, what’s that word?” a nun asked Joe Biden in front of his seventh-grade classmates.

It’s a seventh grade in a Catholic school in Delaware. The teacher, a nun, is doing a read-around of a story about Sir Walter Raleigh. Students take their turns reading out loud in front of the class. Some are nervously awaiting their turns; others, like young Joe Biden, are petrified. Why so? Biden is a stutterer. The nun calls upon Biden to read. Biden is not surprised; he knows that he is the fifth student to be called upon, because the nun is choosing students in alphabetic order. Like many students, instead of reading along silently with the other students, Biden has been practicing the paragraph he predicts will be his to read. Biden begins to read out loud and stumbles over the word, gentleman. The nun cruelly mocks him to correct his pronunciation.

“Mr. Buh-Buh-Buh-Biden, what’s that word?” the nun asks.

Biden says he rose from his desk and left the classroom in protest, then walked home. The family story is that his mother, Jean, drove him back to school and confronted the nun with the made-for-TV phrase ‘You do that again, I’ll knock your bonnet off your head!’ I ask Biden what went through his mind as the nun mocked him.

‘Anger, rage, humiliation,’ he says. His speech becomes staccato. ‘A feeling of, uh… it just drops out of your chest, just, like, you feel … a void.’

“What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say,” John Hendrickson, The Atlantic

Other sources confirm that bullying was not limited to this one instance with the nun: “As a child, Biden struggled with a stutter, and kids called him ‘Dash’ and ‘Joe Impedimenta’ to mock him. He eventually overcame his speech impediment by memorizing long passages of poetry and reciting them out loud in front of the mirror” (https://www.biography.com/political-figure/joe-biden).

Biden recounts how he coped with reading out loud in front of the class when students would take turns reading a book, one by one, up and down the rows: “I could count down how many paragraphs, and I’d memorize it, because I found it easier to memorize than look at the page and read the word. I’d pretend to be reading,’ Biden says. “You learned early on who the hell the bullies were” (Hendrickson).

Did you know?

“In the most basic sense, a stutter is a repetition, prolongation, or block in producing a sound. It typically presents between the ages of 2 and 4, in up to twice as many boys as girls, who also have a higher recovery rate. During the develop­mental years, some children’s stutter will disappear completely without intervention or with speech therapy. The longer someone stutters, however, the lower the chances of a full recovery—­perhaps due to the decreasing plasticity of the brain. Research suggests that no more than a quarter of people who still stutter at 10 will completely rid themselves of the affliction as adults” (Hendrickson).

Vice-President Biden largely overcame the repetitious stammering that is widely understood as stuttering. With the help of brief speech therapy and practice, Biden’s stuttering is nowhere near as pronounced, nor as problematic, as that of King George VI. You no doubt have seen the Academy Award Winner, The King’s Speech and the king’s struggles with public speaking. However, Biden still blocks on certain sounds. In The Atlantic article quoted above, Biden describes in detail and models how he prepares for speeches and debates. He writes out key phrases and clauses and uses his own coding system of marks and slashes to indicate accents, pauses, and breaths. When speaking extemporaneously, Biden uses circumlocution (word or phrase substitution) as a coping strategy to switch to more easily pronounced sounds. Often, people notice what appear to be unnatural pauses as Biden searches for alternate words. Occasionally, these substitutions produce forced syntax (the order of words in a sentence) or even gaffes. Obviously, Biden’s stuttering doesn’t explain all of his verbal miscues, but perhaps more can be attributed to this challenge than we think.

For our purposes, Joe Biden’s story can be instructive as we teach and practice reading in the classroom. 

A few points from this M.A. Reading Specialist (yours truly), who of course, loved to read out loud in class:

Why Reading Out Loud is Important

Reading out loud helps developing readers practice their reading skills. Only by practicing reading out loud can students hear and adjust to pitch, vocal variation, accents, and attention to punctuation (Shakthawatt). Additionally, reading research confirms that reading out loud improves automaticity in terms of sounding-out phonetically regular words, blending multi-syllabic words, and recalling sight words (non-phonetic memory words). These skills do transfer to silent reading fluency.

Reading out loud is a necessary social skill. Students need to be prepared for public speaking. Adults will be called upon to read in front of audiences in meetings, business, church, etc. Again, allowing student to practice in advance, as Vice-President Biden does, affords optimal performance and less stigma.

When teachers listen to students reading out loud, the teacher can provide helpful feedback and correction. Obviously, teachers can’t correct a student’s silent reading.

What Kind of Reading Out Loud is Effective

Assessment: 

Most teachers use individual fluency assessments (download a free diagnostic at the end of this article) in which students read out loud for a set time. Teachers record the number of words read during the prescribed time, less the miscues, on a progress monitoring matrix. reading assessments to monitor reading fluency progress are we, but the one student-teacher reading is a controlled experience. Ensuring that the assessment is administered privately, away from the class, will reduce student anxiety and produce more accurate results.

Many teachers use running records to analyze and correct student miscues during guided reading. Suggestion: Rather than pulling aside a student to read individually, why not sit behind or next to the focus student and listen in as all students in the group are reading?

Practice:

Use choral reading fluency practice in which students are grouped by fluency levels. The student reads with others, not to others.

Practice reading with a modeled reader. Online readings at the students’ challenge levels is helpful and improves fluency, including accuracy and speed. Check out my reading intervention program below, which includes 43 YouTube expository articles, read at three different speeds for ideal modeled reading practice.

Repeated readings out loud produces transferable gains to cold, unpracticed reading. One effective technique is for a guided reading group to non-chorally read with six-inch quiet voices (not whispering) short texts over and over again. In other words, students read at individual paces, not in unison with others. To facilitate, the teacher can stagger start times. Students get used to the white noise of others quietly reading, and teachers can listen in to individuals and even take running records.

Paired reading out loud can be beneficial if care is provided to match students, in terms of reading fluency levels, and compatibility.

What Kind of Reading Out Loud is Not Effective

Isolated reading out loud in front of peers is counter-productive, not only for stutterers, but also for below grade level readers, ELL, ESL, ESOL students, special education students, shy students, etc. Traditional methods of isolated reading out loud include the following: round-robin (take turns in a certain order to prevent surprise), popcorn (call on students to intentionally surprise and ensure that they are following along), and guided reading, in which students take turns and the teacher completes running record assessments of the individual readers.

Don’t use individual students to read through a story (even if students volunteer to read). First, calling on individuals to read interrupts the flow of the reading and reduces listening comprehension. Second, why select a non-fluent reader, who will make mistakes, or even the best student reader in class and so ensure less than optimal listening comprehension? Instead, to facilitate optimal listening comprehension and the best modeled reading, the teacher or audio book narrator should read the story out loud with occasional pauses to discuss a passage. To build independence, avoid reading every line of text out loud. 

Don’t practice any individual reading out loud that takes away from the entire class reading out loud. Any form of individual reading in which a student only reads out loud for 30 seconds in a 15 minute read-aloud is not adequate practice.

Not all choral reading practice is ideal. When students, led by the teacher, are expected to read chorally, the teacher is forced to read too-slowly for the fluent readers, just right for some readers, and far too quickly for less fluent readers. Teachers can’t put what belongs in a small group or individual box into a whole class box. Only practice choral reading in the context of level reading fluency groups, in which each student is reading at a certain reading fluency.

Get the The Pets Fluency Assessment FREE Resource:

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention Program) is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight-adult. Ideal as both Tier II or III pull-out or push-in reading intervention for older struggling readers, special education students with auditory processing disorders, and ESL, ESOL, or ELL students. This full-year (or half-year intensive) program provides explicit and systematic whole-class instruction and assessment-based small group workshops to differentiate instruction. Both new and veteran reading teachers will appreciate the four training videos, minimal prep and correction, and user-friendly resources in this program, written by a teacher for teachers and their students.

The program provides 13 diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files). Teachers use assessment-based instruction to target the discrete concepts and skills each student needs to master according to the assessment data. Whole class and small group instruction includes the following: phonemic awareness activities, synthetic phonics blending and syllabication practice, phonics workshops with formative assessments, expository comprehension worksheets, 102 spelling pattern assessments, reading strategies worksheets, 123 multi-level fluency passage videos recorded at three different reading speeds, writing skills worksheets, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards (includes print-ready and digital display versions) to play entertaining learning games.

In addition to these resources, the program features the popular Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable books (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each 8-page book introduces two sight words and reinforces the sound-spellings practiced in that day’s sound-by-sound spelling blending. Plus, each book has two great guided reading activities: a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns and 5 higher-level comprehension questions. Additionally, each book includes an easy-to-use running record if you choose to assess. 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. These take-home books are great for independent homework practice.

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

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

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The Science of Reading

The Science of Reading

The “Science” of Reading

Recently, the embers of the never-ending American reading wars have been stirred to flames with the buzzphrase: The Science of Reading. It’s all over teacher Facebook groups, in blogs, and in professional development PowerPoint® presentations. If you will, permit me to grapple with that phrase, as well as the attitudes and motives behind those using it. Before I begin, please notice that I have chosen not to cite any empirical reading research; I assure you that this is not an oversight.

Let’s start this analysis with the cold, hard facts. Most young, beginning readers have minimal problems learning how to read, irrespective of the instructional methodology. Explicit, systematic phonics seems to work fine, as does a “balanced literacy” approach based upon read alouds and guided reading. Much to the befuddlement and chagrin of die-hards from any instructional reading camp, this good news is validated by research and experience. And we’re not just talking about recent research and experience.

For my master’s thesis, I analyzed the impact of the 1836–1837 first editions of the McGuffey Readers. Along with future editions, these basals helped three generations of school children learn to read with instructional techniques that would raise the eyebrows of every reading specialist and reading teacher today.

In my career as an educator, I’ve taught reading and coached teachers at the elementary school, middle school, high school, and community college levels in both upper and lower socio-economic status districts. I’ve seen plenty of instructional approaches and analyzed plenty of data derived from a plethora of reading assessments. I can say, unequivocally, that a variety of approaches seem to work, and not just for young, beginning readers. Much of my career was in secondary education, working both with students reading far-below-grade-level and with the best and brightest students who knew how to read, but did not have the high levels of reading comprehension requisite for understanding challenging text. From these experiences, I’ve found the maxim that “What works for me (or some students) may not work for you (or some students)” to be validated countless times with older readers who significantly improved their reading skills with a wide variety of instructional approaches. So much for THE Science of Reading.

Reading Science

“Science” of Reading

And now for a bit of advice to fellow teachers. Parents, administrators, reading researchers, students, and anyone else may stop reading at this point, because this is “inside stuff.”

If you’ve been teaching a few years with different age levels, my take is that you’ve probably noticed that there’s more than one way to skin an instructional cat. My apologies to the two felines in the room as I write, as well as to my vegan daughter-in-law. Although you have success with a particular instructional reading method (or any curricular skill), you know colleagues who have quite different approaches, yet these approaches seem to work for them and their students by any measure. Of course, you see your approach as better informed by reading research, brain research, experience, or… than that of your colleagues’ instructional methods, but your colleagues probably feel the same about your teaching approach, as well.

If my observations make sense in light of your own professional teaching experience, you may concur with these conclusions:

  1. We need to respect each other’s different instructional approaches and be open to learning something from our colleagues.
  2. We need to avoid the absolute statements, claiming one or the other approaches has exclusive claims to the science of reading. Remember the old test-taking tip: “Absolute words, such as always, never, all, or none tend to be part of wrong answers.”
  3. We do value research; however, what we don’t know far outweighs what we do know regarding reading instruction (and what we do know certainly varies), so let’s maintain a bit of humility as we learn and teach.
  4. Be “street-wise” regarding those who claim to know The Science of Reading. Education is a business. Selling something new and improved is as old as the hills. Unfortunately, many reading researchers have published books which tend to skew the research in favor of their particular instructional reading approach. Disclaimer: I’m selling, too. See my author promo below.
  5. For newer teachers, follow Hans Solo’s advice to young Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: “Don’t get cocky, kid.” Hold your deeply-held theoretical and pedagogical convictions loosely in you hands. You might just change them. I have.
  6. For older coaches and teachers, don’t be stuck in the mud and so entrenched in your own beliefs and ways of doing things that you stop learning and experimenting. Don’t undervalue newer teachers.
  7. The chief variable to my mind, in terms of reading improvement, seems to be the passion, work ethic, and skill of the teacher, not The Science of Reading.

Mark Pennington is the author of a decidedly eclectic reading intervention program.

*****

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive assessment-based reading intervention curriculum, the Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLEIdeal 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. Phonological awareness, phonics, syllabication, sight words, fluency (with 128 YouTube modeled readings), spelling, vocabulary and comprehension. The 54 accompanying guided reading phonics books each have comprehension questions, a focus sound-spelling pattern, controlled sight words, a 30-second word fluency, a running record, and cleverly illustrated cartoons by David Rickert to match each entertaining story. These resources provide the best reading intervention program at a price every teacher can afford.

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

Want to teach the most efficient Greek and Latin word parts, based upon the latest high frequency research?

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Who says you can use diagnostic phonics assessments to inform guided reading instruction? Want to have the best of both worlds to pinpoint instruction? Check out the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books, Diagnostic Assessments, and Running Records. Get both vowel and consonant comprehensive whole-class phonics assessments with audio files AND 3 guided reading phonics books with focused phonics patterns, comprehension questions, 2 new sight words, 30-second word fluencies, and running records.

Get the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books, Diagnostic Assessments, and Running Records FREE Resource:

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Reading is Like Driving

Good Drivers Multi-task

Driving is Like Reading

Reading is a lot like driving. Let’s stick with a car for the purposes of our comparison.

Everyone knows that driving a car is a complicated process. No one jumps into the driver’s seat and begins driving without some sort of instruction. Driving is especially challenging because it involves multi-tasking. To be able to drive, the driver must understand how the car works, know how to use the machine, remember and apply the traffic rules, and interact safely with their driving environment all at the same time!

Good drivers understand each of these four components and remember to apply each of these tasks simultaneously and automatically. Bad drivers don’t understand or don’t remember to apply some or all of them. However, the good news is that even bad drivers can learn the concepts and skills to improve their driving with good teaching and practice.

Unfortunately, good drivers often develop bad habits over the years. Of the four components, the most frequent bad habit involves how drivers interact with their

Distracted Driving with Phones

Distracted Driving

environment. Let’s face it, sometimes we choose to add a multitude of distractions to our driving environment, even though we know we shouldn’t. Other times, we unintentionally fail to interact with our surroundings.

For example, most of us who have been driving for years have had a similar experience: We get on a familiar road to a familiar destination and our minds begin to wander. We arrive with the realization that we have absolutely no memory of driving to that place. We were truly on autopilot.

Of course, we must have had some degree of environmental awareness in order to arrive safely at our destination; however, most of us would agree that the interaction with our environment must have been less than optimal and the lack of any driving memory is certainly troubling.

So, let’s see how the driving process compares to the reading process.

Like driving, reading is a complicated process—more so than many of us realize. Decades of reading research have refuted the popular notion that reading is a natural, developmental process akin to oral language development (Gough & Hillinger, 1980; Lyon, 1998; Wren, 2002; Moats, L, & Tolman, C 2009). Simply put, children do not learn to read as they learn to speak, through natural exposure to a literate environment.

We now know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that reading is taught, not caught. No child, nor adult picks up a book, article, newspaper, or poem and reads without having had some form of instruction. Now, of course the quantity and quality of instruction varies, and many adults will not remember how they first learned to read, but they certainly were taught to do so.

Now, let’s return to our two-fold definition of reading, which we developed in our first two lectures: Reading is reading comprehension and reading comprehension is understanding and remembering what we read.

Good Readers are like Good Drivers.

Reading is Like Driving

To be able to understand and remember what is read, the reader must know how reading works, apply the phonetic tools, understand the meaning and order of words, and monitor the reader-author relationship. And, yes, like good drivers, they can multi-task.

Good readers apply these four components simultaneously and automatically. Struggling readers don’t understand or don’t remember to apply some or all of them. The good news is that both weak and strong readers can learn and practice the concepts and skills to improve their reading comprehension and retention.

However, like good drivers, good readers often develop bad habits over the years. Of the four components, the usual culprit is how readers interact with their reading environment and author’s text.

For example, most of us, like the distracted driver I spoke of, have had this experience infrequently or frequently while reading: We turn the page in a book or scroll down on our phones and our minds begin to wander as we read. We finish reading and come to the realization that we haven’t the foggiest idea about what we just read. We did read the words, but we did not understand them, nor remember any of the information or ideas. Some of us would swear to having read, say Beowulf, in the same manner when we were high school seniors.

Now you may have noticed that I used italics for the words reading and read, because although we pronounced the words, we really didn’t read them, using our definition of reading comprehension. If we don’t understand or retain what we have read, we really haven’t read.

*****

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Reading Intervention Program) is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight-adult. Ideal as both Tier II or III pull-out or push-in reading intervention for older struggling readers, special education students with auditory processing disorders, and ESL, ESOL, or ELL students. This full-year (or half-year intensive) program provides explicit and systematic whole-class instruction and assessment-based small group workshops to differentiate instruction. Both new and veteran reading teachers will appreciate the four training videos, minimal prep and correction, and user-friendly resources in this program, written by a teacher for teachers and their students.

The program provides 13 diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files). Teachers use assessment-based instruction to target the discrete concepts and skills each student needs to master according to the assessment data. Whole class and small group instruction includes the following: phonemic awareness activities, synthetic phonics blending and syllabication practice, phonics workshops with formative assessments, expository comprehension worksheets, 102 spelling pattern assessments, reading strategies worksheets, 123 multi-level fluency passage videos recorded at three different reading speeds, writing skills worksheets, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards (includes print-ready and digital display versions) to play entertaining learning games.

In addition to these resources, the program features the popular Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable books (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each 8-page book introduces two sight words and reinforces the sound-spellings practiced in that day’s sound-by-sound spelling blending. Plus, each book has two great guided reading activities: a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns and 5 higher-level comprehension questions. Additionally, each book includes an easy-to-use running record if you choose to assess. 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. These take-home books are great for independent homework practice.

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

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

FREE DOWNLOAD TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF PENNINGTON PUBLISHING RESOURCES: The SCRIP (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict) Comprehension Strategies includes class posters, five lessons to introduce the strategies, and the SCRIP Comprehension Bookmarks.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , ,

W Vowels and Y, L, H, M, R, and N While We’re At It

The W is a Vowel Sometimes

Save the W!

Save the w! (As a vowel, that is)

 
Wow, it’s rare for me to disagree with Grammar Girl… As a reading specialist, we love rules. If a word doesn’t fit, we figure a way to make it do so:) My speech therapist colleagues will back me up on this generalization.
 
In a related article, Grammar Girl reminds us that a vowel is a sound, not a letter. Nicely done! We form these sounds into two ways. 1. Some vowel sounds are made with the mouth in one position and with one sound. These vowel sounds are called monophthongs. Examples: got, go, know 2. Other vowel sounds start with the mouth in one formation as one vowel sound and slide into another formation as two vowel sounds. These vowel sounds are called diphthongs. Examples: coin, joy, out, and cow.
 
Grammar Girl states that “you could argue that W does indeed represent a vowel.” She cites the diphthong /ow/ as her example. But then she continues, “maybe to you the word ‘cow’ sounds like it ends with the consonant ‘wuh’ instead of the vowel ‘oo.’” Just as with the diphthong ‘oy,’ phoneticians disagree.”
 
Yikes! Houston, we’ve got a problem. In fact, we have a few. To be picky, it’s not the consonant, “wuh.” All consonants have clipped sounds. When we teach students, we blend /w/ /e/ /s/ /t/ (four sounds), not “wuh” est. Also, the vowel “oo” does not have the /ow/ sound, it has the /oo/ as in rooster or /oo/ as in foot sound.
 
Now the to meat of the matter regarding the w vowel sound. Okay, vegetables for my vegan friends.
 
To say that “…phoneticians disagree that the w is not a vowel, but may indeed be a consonant” is news to me. If so, these phoneticians are certainly making exceptions to our cherished rules. In fact, they have now added a new sound-spelling for the /ow/ sound: the _o or o_ as in /c/ /o/ /w/. They also have violated our CVC syllable rule, because their new /o/ is certainly not a short vowel sound.
 
Furthermore, Grammar Girls offers this solution to the problem of identifying a w as a vowel at the end of the diphthong: “So my recommendation is just to say that the combination O-W represents the diphthong “ow,” and stop there, just like we did for the O-Y and the diphthong ‘oy.’”
 
This solution seems an “easy out” to the argument as to whether or not the w can serve as a vowel, but in the real world of teaching students to read, this solution is counterproductive.
 
Somehow, Grammar Girl took us back to letters, not sounds, for vowels. Grammar Girl recommends saying, “The O-W represents the dipthong ‘ow’ …the O-Y… the diphthong ‘oy.'” No. We’ve already established that vowels are sounds and that the diphthong /ow/ has two distinct sounds. It really does matter that the w is a vowel.
 
Practically speaking, beginning readers, remedial readers, students with auditory processing challenges, and ESL, EL, and ELD students need to learn not only the a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y monophthongs, but also the diphthongs as well. Again, a vowel sound may actually have two sounds and students have to practice their mouth formations, sounds, and the sound-spelling options.
 
When students read cow, we want to hear three separate sounds: one consonant /c/ and two vowel sounds distinctly pronounced as /ow/. Without all the mumbo-jumbo, we teach students that cow has two vowel sounds spelled as a vowel team.
 
Now that we’ve saved the w as a vowel sound, let’s stir stir up the pot a bit more. Other letters (in addition to our cherished w) may also serve as vowels. Examples: h and y as in rhy/thm, l as in bu/gle, r as in mur/der, ar/mor, mir/ror, m as in bottom, and n as in mutton.
Linda Farrell has a nice article on the difference between digraphs and diphthongs with plenty of examples HERE.
 *****

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the Teaching Reading Strategies intervention program and the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books.

Get the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books, Diagnostic Assessments, and Running Records FREE Resource:

Guided Reading Phonics Books Literacy Center

Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

 

 

 

 

Grammar/Mechanics, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Use Running Records with Decodable Text

Running Records with Decodables

Running Records with Decodable Text

Running records provide an effective means of reading assessment. Using running records helps teachers determine the strengths and challenges of individual readers. From these periodic  observations of the reading process, teachers can make informed choices as to how to help students improve their reading. Running records also help teachers select which books and reading resources will provide optimal instructional and independent reading levels within, as Vigotsky termed, the individual’s zone of proximal development.

The MSV (meaning, structure, and visual) cueing strategies readers use to make meaning of text provide the teacher a window into the complex process of reading. Good readers apply a balance of semantic, syntactic, and graphophonic skills to interact with the author and comprehend narrative and expository text.

Frequently, the visual (or graphophonic) cueing skills require remediation with below grade level readers. The visual cues rely upon auditory cues to map phonemes (the speech sounds) to the orthographic (spelling) rules and patterns. Because learning the sound-spelling system is a complex skill, a multitude of reasons may contribute to phonics deficits, including but not limited to a lack of phonemic

Remediate reading

Catch up and keep up!

awareness, the lack of explicit and systematic phonics instruction in kindergarten-second grade, ear infections, little literacy support at home, school attendance, transiency, poverty, etc. However, the good news is that sound-spelling deficiencies can be effectively remediated to enable students to develop the automaticity necessary to fluently attend to the meaning of the text.

All too often teachers and parents assume that if children are reading and spelling (decoding and encoding) below grade level after the primary grades, these students will be doomed to remedial or vulnerable reader status for the rest of their lives. This is not the case if prescriptive diagnostic assessments determine individual strengths and weaknesses, and caring and informed teachers and parents provided the appropriate assessment-based instruction to address to build on the strengths and teach to the deficiencies. Indeed, students can catch up, while they keep up with grade-level instruction. Running records can be helpful formative assessments to monitor the effectiveness of interventions and to adjust resources and instruction to best meet the needs of the individual student. Running records can be particularly helpful to monitor phonics and sight words acquisition.

First of all, before we get into the how-to section about using running records, let’s first agree that no one teacher, reading guru, or reading program has cornered the market on what must constitute running records, how to use running records with or without guided reading, and how often teachers should do running records with their students. Running records are simply one helpful instructional tool to improve reading; there are other ways to do so without using running records. Now that these caveats are out of the way, following are a few tips to make the most of running records with your students. Following these tips, I’ll provide a nice running record form that works especially well with decodable text. Of course, the form also works for leveled books. Plus, since our focus in this article is on decodable text, I’ll provide three FREE Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books for you to use with your new running record form. See the end of the article.

How to Use Running Records with Decodable Text

1. Determine which students need decodable text and specific instruction in the alphabetic code. In other words, which of your kids have not yet mastered their phonics? You could certainly use running records for a month or two to determine which sound-spellings each child knows and does not know. However, a diagnostic assessment gets those results quicker and more efficiently. Remember that running records are primarily formative assessments, not diagnostic. I strongly urge teachers to use comprehensive, not random sample, diagnostic assessments. A random sample phonics inventory or spelling inventory which indicates problem areas necessitates further, more refined assessment to pinpoint teachable sound-spellings. Why not give comprehensive, teachable assessments up front to any of your students whom you suspect may need visual (graphophonics) instruction. Good assessments will indicate which levels of decodable books will be appropriate and not appropriate for your individual students. You don’t want to force Johnny to read short vowel books if he only needs help with his diphthongs. Teachers can assign these books and teach individually, or teachers can group students with the same instructional needs and teach them the un-mastered sound-spellings in guided reading groups, perhaps in rotating literacy centers, early-late reading sections, reading intervention pull-outs, etc.

The author recommends two diagnostic placement assessments to place your students in the right decodable texts with the reading resources that will improve your students’ reading in the shortest amount of time: The Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment and The Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment. Go ahead! Download both of these assessments (each even has an audio file including test directions and the assessment itself to make life easier) to ensure that you are placing your students in the right books.

Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment

Use this comprehensive 52 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of short vowels, long vowels, silent final e, vowel digraphs, vowel diphthongs, and r-controlled vowels. The assessment uses nonsense words to test students’ knowledge of the sound-spellings to isolate the variable of sight word recognition. Unlike other phonics assessments, this assessment is not a random sample of phonics knowledge. The Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment includes every common sound-spelling. Thus, the results of the assessment permit targeted instruction in any vowel sound phonics deficits. The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes corresponding worksheets and small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this assessment.

Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment (10:42) *

Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment

Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment

Use this comprehensive 50 item whole class assessment to determine your students’ mastery of consonant digraphs, beginning consonant blends, and ending consonant blends. The assessment uses nonsense words to test students’ knowledge of the sound-spellings to isolate the variable of sight word recognition. Unlike other phonics assessments, this assessment is not a random sample of phonics knowledge. The Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment includes every common sound-spelling. Thus, the results of the assessment permit targeted instruction in any consonant sound phonics deficits. The author’s Teaching Reading Strategies reading intervention program includes corresponding worksheets and small group activities to remediate all deficits indicated by this assessment.

Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment (12:07) *

2. Decide why you want to use running records with decodable texts. If your purpose is to measure progress, assign an unpracticed decodable story which introduces a specific sound-say the /ow/ as in cow sound and complete a running record. After teaching the book or books which focus on the different /ow/ sound-spellings, post-test on the introductory story to measure progress. However, if your purpose is to monitor progress, use practiced decodable stories to determine what has been learned to mastery and what requires still more practice.

3. Decide how often you wish to complete running records and with which students. A few guidelines will be helpful: If a student has severe phonics deficits and is working on short-vowel and consonants/consonant blends mastery, running records should be performed more often than if the student has mastered all short vowels and consonants, consonant blends, long vowels and vowel teams, diphthongs, and r-controlled vowels, but is still working on derivational language sound-spelling patterns, such as the schwa. Keep in mind that assessing with running records is instruction, but you do have other subjects to teach! Once per week for more needy students and once at the end of a phonics collection-say, diphthongs, for less needy students makes sense.

Logistics

4. Where you do running records matters and deserves some planning. Ideally,  a quiet corner of the classroom or a table and chairs outside the classroom, if weather and classroom supervision so permit, make sense. Running records takes concerted concentration for both student and teacher. By the way, assessing with running records is not rocket science. A well-trained instructional aide or parent can be a life-saver in helping you with running records. Of course, you the teacher need to analyze the results and adapt instruction accordingly.

5. Find the decodable texts that will match both your students’ instructional needs and level of maturity. Please don’t use primary stories with primary characters and illustrations for older readers. Yes, these older students may need work on the short vowel /a/, but every effort must be made to provide dignity to struggling readers if we want to keep them motivated to learn and become life-long readers. Additionally, find running records which include the text of the student’s story or scan, paste, and copy the story to a blank running record or form. Ideally, use running record forms which include word counts. I personally don’t believe that a student needs to read the entire story to give the teacher the necessary data for a running record. Most teachers have students read from 150-250 words during a running record reading to ensure an adequate sample size. I use exactly 200 words for each running record in my Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books to avoid word counting and minimize calculations. (KISS) Keep it simple, stupid, always works for me.

6. The teacher writes the student’s name, date, and teacher’s name on the running record form and instructs the student to concentrate on reading the story for meaning. Help the student relax and enjoy the one-on-one time.

7. Say, “Ready, begin.” The student begins to read the story and the teacher uses coded responses to assess the student’s reading performance. Please note that the teacher may choose to use some or all of the marks for different running records.

Key Running Record Marks

  • E = Error
  • SC = Self-Correction
  • M = Meaning (Semantic Miscue)
  • S = Structure (Syntactic Miscue)… sentence structure and grammar issues
  • V = Visual (graphophonic)… phonics, onsets and rimes, and sight word problems

The student reads the story until the 200th word has been read, or teachers can allow the student to finish the story if time permits. At this point the teacher may choose to ask the student to do a re-tell if the entire story has been read or not.

Analysis

8. The teacher uses tally marks in the columns to the right of the story text to tally the errors, self-corrections, and categorize the types of errors (Meaning, Structure, or Visual) and types of self-corrections (Meaning, Structure, or Visual).

  • E Rate = How many errors out of the words read
  • A Rate = Accuracy Rate… Words read, e.g. 200 – (errors ÷ 2) = % of accuracy
  • A Rate is used to adjust reading levels for leveled books
  • SC Rate is the self-corrections + errors % self-corrections to develop a ration of 1: ____
  • Word fluency is the # of words read correctly, including self-corrections, but excluding teacher-prompted words

9. The teacher then determines the error rate, accuracy rate, and self-corrections rate, using the formulae on the running records form. Teachers familiar with running records will especially appreciate the design of the FREE running record provided at the end of the article. Each running records assessment has exactly 200 words. No counting is necessary! The first 200 words of each story constitute the running record. And it’s all on one page!

Reader Observation Remarks

10. Make additional pertinent comments on your running record observations. Because running records affords teachers with such an intimate look at the student’s reading process, it would be a shame to ignore this qualitative data and solely concentrate on the quantitative data. For example, the graphophonic data themselves include both decoding and sight words. Making note of these different error miscues certainly makes sense. The fluency, inflection, attention to punctuation, concentration, posture, eye movement and other factors may be important to note, remediate, and monitor. My running record form includes these components as check boxes to serve as reminders and to save the time it takes to write out comments.

11. Have the student complete a re-tell of the story or section of the story read. Make comments on the students’ knowledge or story structure, sequencing, and comprehension.

12. Ask both recall and inferential questions about the text and make comments on the students’ answers. Stay text-dependent; don’t wander away from the text with application questions on how the story relates to another story or the student’s life. Of course, these are interesting questions and may build comprehension, but the purpose of running records with decodable text is to assess a particular reading and the sound-spelling skills taught in the text. Note that the FREE decodable books at the end of the article each have five embedded comprehension questions, one for each of the SCRIP comprehension strategies (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict).

13. The teacher may write evaluative notes and recommendations for interventions and/or resources in the Comments/Interventions/Resources section at the bottom of the running records form. Remember that assessment without assessment-based instruction is simply paper-pushing. Make use of your running records to refine instruction for each student.

Note that the last step when using running records for leveled readers is to determine whether the level of text is too easy, too hard, or just right for instructional guided reading and/or independent reading. The teacher move students up a level if the student has read at an independent level or down a level if the student has read at a frustration level. However, because  decodable readers are not leveled readers (determined by vocabulary, sentence length, etc.), level re-assessment is not needed.

Good decodable books have a sound-spellings and sight words instructional sequence in which successive books build upon and review the sound-spellings and sight words in the previous books. Each book is a link in the chain which should build a solid reading foundation in the visual (graphophonic) cueing strategy for your students. Many teachers who use guided reading instruction choose to allot two days per week to decodable texts and two days per week to controlled vocabulary leveled books.

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the Teaching Reading Strategies intervention program and the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books.

 

Get the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books, Diagnostic Assessments, and Running Records FREE Resource:

Guided Reading Phonics Books Literacy Center

Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

 

 

 

 

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