Posts Tagged ‘language comprehension’

Secondary Reading Intervention

The Science of Reading Intervention Program for Ages 8-Adults

If you were tasked with developing a secondary reading intervention program from “the ground up,” where would you start and what resources would you consider using? I’ve been there and done that a few times with plenty of mis-steps and quite a few success stories.

Disclaimer: I’m the author/publisher of a reading intervention program for ages 8-adult. The following link will allow you to access the entire print portion of the program (not the corresponding Google slides):

Now to the heart of my question: “If you were developing a secondary reading RTI program from the ground up, what materials/programs would you include?”

That is precisely the question that 23 reading specialist colleagues faced 20 years ago in a large and diverse California school district. Our reading test percentiles were in the 40s and we were locked into what became balanced literacy instruction. Enter one of the first SOR programs: Open Court. With a generous grant, our district was able to hire and train another 24 literacy coaches in Open Court for beginning readers.

Our reading scores increased dramatically into the 70 and later the 80 percentiles. However, our ages 8-high school scores remained stagnant. Our reading specialists were tasked with creating both upper elementary and secondary reading curricula for grade-level and intervention to pick up where Open Court and our fantastic teachers left off. Our progressive district incentivized those of us who took the lead in writing program resources by freeing us up from teaching duties and allowing us to retain ownership of what we created. All of this to say that I’ve had the challenge and pleasure of creating a secondary reading intervention from “the ground up.”

A few suggestions:

For trained reading intervention teachers, a “add this, use that” piecemeal approach is fine; however, not so for most secondary teachers who are content experts, but not reading experts. Although the suggested resources in this post’s comments are terrific, inexperienced secondary teachers will feel more comfortable using one comprehensive program. Less training, less juggling and coordinating programs, less time management issues.

My next suggestion will definitely get some pushback. Beware of “one size fits all” claims regarding program materials. Yes, a high school student who does not understand the alphabetic principle has the same needs as a beginning reader, but the quickest way to shut down a secondary student or teacher is to squeeze a primary “square peg” into a secondary “round hole.” For example, using childish decodables are not acceptable; my 54 decodables feature teenage illustrations, themes, and plots.

Additionally, be careful to construct or use a program which has realistic time parameters. You’re not going to be able to cram 90 minutes of instruction into a 50 minute period. Select instructional resources which will allow you to prioritize, cut, and/or expand to your instructional minutes. In other words, flexibility is key.

One last consideration: I’m sure you are familiar with Scarborough’s Rope. Make sure that you incorporate both word recognition and language comprehension instruction in your intervention. Both are essential, but the latter is critically important for secondary students.

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Syntax and Pronouns

An outstanding fourth grade teacher posted in one of my favorite Facebook groups posted a question regarding syntax and pronouns. She asked how to get students to recognize pronouns and their antecedents to improve reading comprehension. Excellent question!
My response: You’re doing great work to recognize the role of syntax in limiting comprehension (specifically pronoun issues). We teachers, following SOR, are now doing  fine with word recognition, but not so great with the other side of the rope. However, research indicates the latter is critically important. According to J.F. Greene (2011)…
“Inadequate ability to process the syntax of language results in the inability to understand what is heard, as well as what is read. Beyond word knowledge, it is the single most powerful deterrent to listening and reading comprehension”
Suffice it to say that syntax is a key component of language comprehension development and that explicit, well-planned instruction will improve comprehension and writing sophistication.
What does not work is the haphazard mini-lesson approach or daily editing/DOL/bell ringers.
What does seem to work is an emphasis on sentence components (parts of speech, phrases, and clauses). I use this five step approach:
  1. Learn It! (the syntactic content and examples)
  2. Identify It! (a short practice section)
  3. Explain It! (analysis of challenging sentences featuring the syntactic focus)
  4. Revise It! (kernel sentences, sentence expansion, syntactic manipulation)
  5. Create It! (Short writing application with the syntactic focus in different genre) in my Language Comprehension program for grade 4-adult.
Here are four ten-minute lessons following these five steps on pronouns as a part of speech. More on pronoun antecedents, vague pronouns, misplaced pronouns, pronoun antecedent at the phrase and clause levels in the program. Pronoun Examples
If you’re serious about improving language comprehension, check out my Language Comprehension component of The Science of Reading Intervention Program if the instructional activities make sense for your grades 4-adult instruction in reading and writing:

Language Comprehension

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Scarborough’s Other Side of the Rope

We all know about word recognition, but what about Scarborough’s Other Side of the Rope?

In 2001, Dr. Hollis Scarborough, a developmental psychologist, helped parents and teachers visualize the complexity, interconnectedness, and development of skilled reading over time with her reading rope infographic. The reading rope splits into two major strands: an upper language comprehension strand strand and a lower word recognition strand. Unlike other posts, I won’t share the visual to respect the good doctor’s copyright. I’ve spoken to Hollis and she is rightfully protective of that unaltered image!

Anyway, it is important to interpret the rope as it was originally intended. Dr. Scarborough used what were known as “pipe cleaners” (color coated wires used for arts and crafts) to intertwine each of these two strands. In other words, the word recognition and language comprehension components of reading instruction are not silos unto themselves.

As Gough and Tunmer describe their relationship, the product of word recognition and language comprehension is “skilled reading” (1986).

As is often said, but less often practiced, both strands are essential to effective reading instruction. However, most of us who adhere to the science of reading do tend to focus on the lower word recognition strand. Now, that is not to say that Balanced Literacy advocates are right when they characterize the science of reading movement as “phonics only.” There is certainly more to word recognition than phonics.

However, both camps (Balanced Literacy and Science of Reading) could certainly benefit from a renewed focus on language comprehension.

Now, why have reading teachers tended to shy away from teaching language comprehension? I’ll posit three answers:

  1. The components of language comprehension tend to be more abstract than those of word recognition. For example, teaching literary devices, such as metaphor, is less concrete than, say teaching the spellings of the long /e/ sound.
  2. Beginning reading teachers tend to be primary teachers (as opposed to reading intervention, EL, and ESL teachers). Primary teachers, understandably, tend to have more pre-service and professional development in word recognition than they do in language comprehension. And even secondary teachers will admit to never receiving university training in all facets of language comprehension: syntax and grammar come to mind.
  3. Teaching language comprehension is tough.

Language comprehension is one of the most automatic tasks that humans perform. Yet it is also one of the most complex, requiring the simultaneous integration of many different types of information, such as knowledge about letters and their sounds, spelling, grammar, word meanings, and general world knowledge. In addition, general cognitive abilities such as attention monitoring, inferencing, and memory retrieval organize this information into a single meaningful representation.

Van Dyke, 2016

My take is that it’s time to practice what we preach! Take the time to learn how to teach language comprehension and allocate instructional minutes to doing so.

The author’s The Science of Reading Intervention Program provides evidence-based, speech to print instructional resources (digital and print formats) in its word recognition component to accelerate reading achievement with solid phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension practice. The 54 decodables (one for each lesson) feature teenage characters and plots with word fluency, heart words, and comprehension questions. Sound boxes, personal sound walls, and speech to print phonics games for review.

The language comprehension component (the other side of the rope) includes lessons in syntax in reading and writing, advanced vocabulary/morphology, literary components, and executive function skills. Also, advanced fluency practice with expository modeled readings on YouTube.

Lastly, assessment-based instructional resources for “second chance” and transfer students.

Language Comprehension Program

Language Comprehension

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The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Assessment-based Instruction

There’s never enough instructional time to teach students who struggle with reading.


The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Assessment-based Instruction provides diagnostically-based instructional resources to individualize instruction for students grades 4–adult in 25 minutes per day for 18 weeks. Perfect for early-late schedules or Tier 3 pull-out instruction. Ideal for EL and ESL learners or students in Resource programs with IEPs. A great option for students in continuation school settings or community college and adult literacy programs with self-paced instructional modules.

Although it certainly makes sense to teach a comprehensive word recognition program to all struggling readers to ensure a solid foundation, some students and new transfer students will need second-chance instruction with more intense tutoring and practice in easily-managed small groups and independent practice. Only assessment-based instruction affords teachers the opportunity to address the diverse reading deficits of their students with targeted lessons. Make your instructional minutes count!

If time is limited, why waste instructional time with lengthy assessments?

The diagnostic assessments in this program are different. First, they are quick and easy to administer and grade (formatted in print, audio, and Google forms). Second, each assessment couples with short lessons to target each and every assessment item. And each lesson provides a short formative assessment to determine mastery. You choose which assessments need to be given and to which students.

Diagnostic Assessments with Mastery Matrices                                 

  • Vowel Sound Phonics Assessment (10:42 audio file)
  • Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessments (12:07 audio file)
  • Syllable Awareness Assessment (5:48 audio file)
  • Syllable Rhyming Assessment (5:38 audio file)
  • Phonemic Isolation Assessments (5:54 audio file)
  • Phonemic Blending Assessment (5:53 audio file)
  • Phonemic Segmenting Assessment (5:21 audio file)
  • Alphabetic Awareness Assessments (10 minutes)
  • “Pets” Fluency Assessment (2 minutes per student)
  • Heart Words Assessment (5:48 audio file)
  • Spelling Assessment (22.38 audio file)
  • Grammar and Usage Assessment (15–20 minutes)
  • Mechanics Assessment (10–15 minutes)

Corresponding Lessons (all individualized practice except as noted)

  • Phonemic Awareness and Alphabetic Awareness Lessons (Small Groups)
  • Phonics Lessons (Small Groups)
  • Expository Reading Fluency Lessons (YouTube Modeled Readings at 3 Different Speeds)
  • Spelling Pattern Worksheets
  • Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Worksheets
  • Heart Words and Phonics Games
  • Syllabication and Morphology Lessons
  • Executive Function Skill Lessons
Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Science of Reading Intervention Program

The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Word Recognition includes explicit, scripted instruction and practice with the 5 Daily Google Slide Activities every reading intervention student needs: 1. Phonemic Awareness and Morphology 2. Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling 3. Sounds and Spellings (including handwriting) 4. Heart Words Practice 5. Sam and Friends Phonics Books (decodables). Plus, digital and printable sound wall cards and speech articulation songs. Print versions are available for all activities. First Half of the Year Program (55 minutes-per-day, 18 weeks)

The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Language Comprehension resources are designed for students who have completed the word recognition program or have demonstrated basic mastery of the alphabetic code and can read with some degree of fluency. The program features the 5 Weekly Language Comprehension Activities: 1. Background Knowledge Mentor Texts 2. Academic Language, Greek and Latin Morphology, Figures of Speech, Connotations, Multiple Meaning Words 3. Syntax in Reading 4. Reading Comprehension Strategies 5. Literacy Knowledge (Narrative and Expository). Second Half of the Year Program (30 minutes-per-day, 18 weeks)

The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Assessment-based Instruction provides diagnostically-based “second chance” instructional resources. The program includes 13 comprehensive assessments and matching instructional resources to fill in the yet-to-be-mastered gaps in phonemic awareness, alphabetic awareness, phonics, fluency (with YouTube modeled readings), Heart Words and Phonics Games, spelling patterns, grammar, usage, and mechanics, syllabication and morphology, executive function shills. Second Half of the Year Program (25 minutes-per-day, 18 weeks)

The Science of Reading Intervention Program BUNDLE  includes all 3 program components for the comprehensive, state-of-the-art (and science) grades 4-adult full-year program. Scripted, easy-to-teach, no prep, no need for time-consuming (albeit valuable) LETRS training or O-G certification… Learn as you teach and get results NOW for your students. Print to speech with plenty of speech to print instructional components.

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