There’s More to Teaching Comprehension Than Building Background Knowledge- Excerpt from my Upcoming LitCon Presentation by Dr. Sam Bommarito

There’s More to Teaching Comprehension Than Building Background Knowledge- Excerpt from my Upcoming LitCon Presentation by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Next weekend I’ll be at LitCon talking about various literacy issues. One of them will be about TEACHING comprehension strategies (as opposed to naming them or describing them). Here’s a little of what I’ll be saying. For starters, I will be pushing back on those who champion the notion that providing background knowledge is more important than providing instruction in reading strategies.

In the presentation, I point out that Shanahan found Willingham’s claims that strategy instruction should be of “extremely limited duration” and that “students learn everything they need after two weeks of strategy instruction” to be on “extremely thin ice.” Link to Shanahan’s blog LINK, Link to my blog talking about Shanahan’s blog LINK.

I then talk about Duke’s idea that reading is much more than decoding words LINK. I also talk about her idea that it is clear that “if we explicitly teach and then give students lots of opportunity to practice specific comprehension strategies, their reading comprehension will improve….” This even includes students in the very early years of schooling LINK.  I also talk about what Duke had to say at the What Research says about Reading Instruction session at the 2019 ILA convention.  She said “It’s as though because we think content knowledge building is so important, we’re just going to ignore three decades of research on comprehensive strategy instruction,” said Duke. “This isn’t a zero-sum game saying, ‘if you can’t attend to content, then you can’t teach comprehension strategies’ or ‘if you teach comprehension strategies, you must not be paying enough attention to vocabulary or morphology.’”  LINK

I also talk about the importance of the Science of Reading Model that Duke helped to create LINK.

I then discuss a few highlights about what P.D. Pearson has to say about the Science of Reading comprehension. When talking to SOR advocates on Twitter, I found many of them liked the Layered Model of Effective Comprehension Instruction that Pearson includes in his YouTube presentation LINK. Perhaps that chart could become an area of common ground.

Pearson also points to studies that demonstrate that reading comprehension is not automatic, even when fluency is strong. I want to point out that Koon, Foorman & Galloway’s 2020 study found that about 1/3 of the students who did not pass the third-grade test were fluent. This indicates that factors other than fluency play a role in students’ comprehension difficulties and that it takes more than just decoding instruction in order to help those students in reading. LINK

Here is a slide about my advice for teaching comprehension strategies.

The bottom line is that just teaching students to name or describe reading strategies is not enough. It is critical that they also learn to internalize and apply comprehension strategies.  Effective comprehension strategy instruction must include the use of a gradual release model. That model must be carried out in a way that results in students internalizing and using the strategies. It is important to check that studies that claim to measure the effect of the teaching of comprehension strategies are transparent about whether the strategies were taught using gradual release. It is also important that the student use of the strategy is authentic. Once they know how to use it, it is far more effective to let them decide when to use it, and to reinforce its use by having students discuss how and when they used the strategy. As critics have pointed out, asking students to use strategies at times when they really don’t need them is a waste of instructional time.

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR DR. SAM

I will have a busy time in the next month or so. I’ll be interviewing Dr. David Andrews from the School of Education, Durham University and Eric Litwin, well-known children’s author and co-author of the book The Power of Joyful Reading LINK. I also have next week’s presentation at LitCon LINK. In addition, I also have upcoming presentations at  Write to Learn LINK, Missouri Early Childhood Conference LINK, and I’ll be doing a webinar for Pioneer Books LINK. Busy times!

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

English spelling and its problems: An interview of Masha Bell conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

English spelling and its problems: An interview of Masha Bell conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

There is a real need for researchers and teachers to talk with one another and learn from each other. The best of all worlds is when the researcher is also a teacher. The result in that case is the creation of valuable information in a form that other teachers can easily use. Masha Bell is one of those teacher/researchers. Her story is compelling. In the first part of the interview, Masha tells us her life story. She was born in  Lithuania. English was not her first language. She learned English after learning other, more phonetically based languages. When she did learn English, she was quite surprised at the inconsistent sound-symbol relations that characterize the English language. She made it her life’s work to study those sound-symbol relations. In the process of doing that, she became a teacher herself and later became a teacher of teachers. She has done serious research into that topic and written many books. She also shares her insights about this topic using her blog. The blog allows her readers to download useful charts and tables. Masha ends the interview with a powerful message for teachers. She pushes back against those who blame teachers for the current problems in teaching reading. She is passionate about arming teachers with the knowledge they need to understand the complexities of the English language. Her books and blog go a long way toward giving teachers the tools to do just that. And with those tools, she is helping to create a generation of teachers who are armed with the information they need to teach our children to read. Let’s look at what Masha had to say during her interview.

Masha has identified these as some of her most useful posts on blogspot.com:

For common words with reading problems

 http://literacyproblems.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/reading-problems.html

All tricky-to-spell words are listed as exceptions from the main spelling patterns for each sound

 http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/4219-unpredictably-spelt-common-words.html

7,000 words with regular/irregular spellings

https://literacyproblems.blogspot.com/2017/12/regularirregular-spellings-in-7000-words.html

The charts you can download from these blogspot.com posts are quite detailed. Here is one sample so you can see what I mean. This one deals with the inconsistency of many sounds associated with the vowels.

Here are some of the books Masha talked about during the interview. All are available on Amazon.

English Spelling and its Problems (Kindle 2020) LINK

Understanding English Spelling

Rules and Exceptions of English spelling.

Final Thoughts

I first want to thank Masha again for agreeing to the interview and for all she has shared. I am aware that some folks use the fact of the complexity of English spelling as a reason to say we don’t need to teach phonics. I do not subscribe to that idea, and neither does Masha. It is not a question of whether to teach phonics but rather when and how. That is a whole other topic. I do think anyone attempting to teach phonics will find Masha’s books and charts quite informative.

I’m going to have a busy time in the next month or so. I’ll be interviewing Dr. David Andrews from the School of Education, Durham University and Eric Litwin, well-known children’s author and co-author of the book The Power of Joyful Reading LINK. I also have upcoming presentations at LitCon LINK,  Write to Learn LINK, Missouri Early Childhood Conference LINK and I’ll be doing a webinar for Pioneer Books LINK. Busy times!

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

Willy Wood talks about what’s happening at the upcoming Write to Learn Conference: An interview by Dr. Sam Bommarito.

Willie Wood talks about what’s happening at the upcoming Write to Learn Conference: An interview by Dr. Sam Bommarito.

For those looking for a terrific in-person professional development experience, look no further than the Write to Learn Conference being held in Columbia, Mo, on March 2-3 this year. This in-person conference always has a great lineup of speakers and provides plenty of activities to help you network with friends while learning about some great literacy ideas.

GREAT SPEAKER LINEUP

MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
ARE FOUND IN THE INTERVIEW

Once again, Willy Wood has put together a wonderful program and lined up great speakers for the Write to Learn Conference. Here are the highlights of my interview with Willy Wood about what we can expect at Write to Learn 2023

Here is a link to the conference registration. Register soon, space is limited, and it looks like this conference will be sold out soon. LINK

Dr. Sam’s Future Blogs and appearances-

In January, I will be presenting two sessions at LitCon. I’ll also be doing a Webinar for Pioneer Valley Books about the merits of B.L. and the research supporting B.L. (and there is plenty of that despite claims to the contrary). I have an interview with Eric Litwin in February, and I will do a blog entry around that. In addition, I’ll also have a virtual conference in New York for an ILA group there. In March, I have two conferences in Mo, The Early Childhood Conference at Lake of the Ozarks, Mo, and the Write to Learn Conference in Columbia, Mo. That is the conference that is featured in this blog entry.  So, a lot is going on in the New Year.

Happy Reading and Writing.

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who, uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

A Holiday Message from Dr. Sam

A Holiday Message from Dr. Sam

I want to thank everyone for the well wishes for my wife’s speedy recovery. She is doing well, and the whole family is coming to our place for Christmas. Many of you know the story of the teacher who went to an upscale party. The host of the party asked her about what she makes. She looked him straight in the eye and said- “I make a difference.” So, Holiday greetings to all the teachers and all the folks involved in helping our children learn. The blog will resume next week!

Michele Dufresne, the author of many P.D. books & award-winning children’s books, talks about her books & her upcoming LitCon sessions- An interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Michele Dufresne, the author of many P.D. books & award-winning children’s books, talks about her books & her upcoming LitCon sessions- An interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

A special notice of thanks to everyone for the many well wishes for my wife after her accident. She is back home and doing much better. Again, thanks for your concern. Dr. Sam

For those of you looking for professional development books that give research-based practices that will enhance your word work in guided reading and wonderful award-winning children’s books to use to implement those practices, look no further than Michele Dufresne. Here is a biography outlining her background and many accomplishments.

Michele Dufresne’s Biography

Michele Dufresne is a former literacy specialist who turned her commitment for teaching children to read into a major focus of her writing, speaking and teaching. She is the best-selling author of the Bella and Rosie series and many other fiction and nonfiction books used by teachers nationally and internationally.

Together with Jan Richardson, she has authored the best-selling Literacy Footprint Guided Reading System published by Pioneer Valley Books which has become an indispensable part of helping teachers deliver high-quality guided reading to students in K-6 classrooms. In Fall of 2019, Michele’s new book, co-authored with Jan, The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics, was published by Scholastic. She is also the author of Word Solvers: Making Sense of Letters and Words, published by Heinemann books. She has recently worked on a collection of new Pioneer Valley books that provide teachers with high-quality, engaging decodable books. She has also recently worked on new high-interest fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels with myths. Her book Oki and the Polar Bear won the 2017 Moonbeam Silver award.

Michele holds a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts. She has been a classroom teacher, language arts specialist, Title 1 Director, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, and consultant in school districts across the United States.

When not writing or working with children and teachers in schools, Michele enjoys taking her dogs for walks and playing with her four grandchildren, Jaxson, Harper, Mae and Simon.  She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts (when it is warm) and St Augustine, Florida (when it is cold!)

She continues to work on improving literacy education and increasing students’ access to books that engage and support children who are learning to read. 

Here are the talking points covered in Michele’s YouTube interview. They are time-stamped in order to help you locate the topics of most interest.

These are the sessions Michele will be conducting at LitCon 2023. LitCon will be in Columbus, Ohio, again this year. Michele’s sessions are held on Sunday, Jan 29., see details below:

Here is a link to LitCon LINK.

Michele’s books

The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics LINK

Pioneer Valley Storybooks LINK

Dr. Sam’s Future Blogs and appearances-

Sometime very soon, The Robb Review will be publishing a summative blog that I wrote entitled A Centrist’s Perspective on Reading Wars: Educators Need to Use Common Sense to find Common Ground. That blog summarizes the things I’ve been saying about the reading wars over the past four years.  In January, I will be presenting two sessions at LitCon. I’ll also be doing a Webinar for Pioneer Valley Books about the merits of BL, and the research supporting BL (and there really is plenty of that in spite of claims to the contrary). I have an interview with Eric Litwin in February, and I will be doing a blog entry around that. In addition to that, I’ll I also have a virtual conference in New York for an ILA group there. In March, I have two conferences in Mo, The Early Childhood conference at Lake of the Ozarks, Mo, and the Write to Learn conference in Columbia, Mo.  So, I’ll have a lot going on in the New Year.

Happy Reading and Writing.

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

P.P.S. Just in case you might want a virtual presentation or classroom visit- e-mail me at bommaritosam@yahoo.com

My blog post will be delayed one week

I will not be posting a blog today. My wife was involved in an auto accident. She spent time in the ICU. She is now home and recovering. I will resume blogging next week.

Below is a first responders’ jpg. I want to give special thanks to all the folks who helped her through this. I want to use the jpg below to remind everyone that all first responders are heroes who have our backs every day. We all owe them a great debt.

Dr. Sam

Rethinking Reading Policy in the Science of Reading Era: What Paul Thomas will be saying at LitCon this year. An update by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Rethinking Reading Policy in the Science of Reading Era: What Paul Thomas will be saying at LitCon this year. An update by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Paul Thomas will be a featured speaker again at this year’s LitCon conference. Details about the conference will appear at the end of this blog entry. Let’s first find out a little bit about Paul.

Here is an interview I did with Paul last year. Here are the topics we discussed. They are time-stamped.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. (01:30)

2. Recent issues of RRQ and P.D. Pearson’s new book have led many to believe that it is “not settled science.”  What is your take on that? (02:50)

3. Does it make sense to effectively ban selected practices found in balanced approaches to reading, e.g., reading Recovery, workshop teaching or guided reading? (6:45)

4. What is your take on some SOR programs, including retention in 3rd grade, as a part of the program to raise test scores? (10:47)

5. Cambourne and Crouch recently said we should stop using the Reading Wars metaphor and replace it with the metaphor of the Reading Quilt- with different “sides” adding different pieces to the quilt. Do you see any hope for that point of view? Do you see hope for an end to the divisive discourse?  Do you see hope for ending the reading wars? (13:20)

6. Final thoughts (24:00)

Here is the YouTube interview: https://youtu.be/qoyxLyHP53M

Since doing the above interview, Paul has had much to say about the social media version of the science of reading. Last April, Paul challenged Emily Hanford’s reporting on  Dr. May’s longitudinal study of Reading Recovery LINK. He pointed out that a British study published near the same time as the study Hanford reported showed that Recovery did demonstrate a positive long-term effect on reading achievement. Yet Hanford chose to ignore that study. My own criticism of Hanford’s position pointed out how she also slanted her reporting on Dr. May’s longitudinal study in her recent podcast. She reported on the study in such a way that it appeared the study proved Reading Recovery doesn’t work. When presenting the study at the AERA conference,  Dr. May’s answers to inquiries about Reading Recovery were the opposite of what Hanford had implied. Dr. May said, “schools should give Reading Recovery to students and ensure they follow up on them later.” LINK.   

At this year’s LitCon, Paul will be diving deep into the issue of what reading policies should look like in the era of the Science of Reading, especially considering all the misdirection and misinformation that have appeared lately in social media.

Here is a link to his video about his upcoming appearance. In it, he promises to give ideas around how to stop doing the same things we have done repeatedly for the last 100 years and instead try something different.

Here is a link to Paul’s Book: https://https://www.infoagepub.com/products/How-to-End-the-Reading-War-and-Serve-the-Literacy-Needs-of-All-Students-2nd-edwww.infoagepub.com/products/How-to-End-the-Reading-War-and-Serve-the-Literacy-Needs-of-All-Students

Follow Paul on Twitter: @plthomasEdD 

Here is a link to Paul’s blog: https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

Here is a link to Paul’s newest blog post about problems with the way media covers SOR: https://www.infoagepub.com/products/How-to-End-the-Reading-War-and-Serve-the-Literacy-Needs-of-All-Students-2nd-ed

Also see Thomas, P.L. (2022). The Science of Reading movement: The never-ending debate and the need for a different approach to reading instruction. LINK

Here is a link to the LitCon 2023 website: LINK

Over the next couple of months, I will continue blogging about interviews with various literacy leaders. Eric Litwin and Lester Laminack have both agreed to be interviewed. I will also be doing a guest blog for the Robb Review. So it will be a busy and productive time.

So, until next week,

Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.

Let’s use common sense to guide the way to common practices: A centrist’s advice on traversing the current social media debate about best practices in reading by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Let’s use common sense to guide the way to common practices: A centrist’s advice on traversing the current social media debate about best practices in reading by Dr. Sam Bommarito

In the past few weeks, the current debate on social media has heated up to the boiling point. If one is to believe some social media posts, all that has come before in reading has failed. Publishers of the old ways of doing things continue to publish only because of the money made on those products. The products themselves are complete failures. There is a knight in shining armor on the horizon. That would be the new ways being advocated by some vocal proponents who claim they have found the answers we need to solve our nation’s reading problems. The answer lies in throwing out all the old and replacing it with their methods and products. In this week’s blog, I will again push back on this social media version of the Science of Reading and offer ideas about a different way to proceed. Here are some points to consider:

  1. When looking at the claims of some SOR advocates on social media, it is a buyer-beware market. With her permission, I am presenting a Twitter thread posted by Jordan Page. The thread illustrates the point that it is a buyer-beware market:

Jordan’s experience is typical of many educators who go looking for new programs. Publishers use labels like Science of Reading or Research-Based to sell products, whether the labels really fit or not. Research has become weaponized LINK. Rachel Gabriel warns that not all research is created equal. Here is a screen capture from her RRQ article LINK.

As part of the “buyer beware” way to approach the acquisition of materials and programs, educators would do well to ensure the research used to prove the value of such programs is examined carefully. Ensure the research comes from peer-reviewed sources and the measures used in the studies are appropriate.

  • Some of the reporting on social media uses slanted misleading evidence. This is especially true of research claiming to prove that the most used publishers are selling flawed products despite the evidence that shows the methods are flawed. I respectfully disagree with what many of these folks are saying. As I discussed last week, they sometimes use “discount and discredit” tactics designed to “prove” the alternate methods don’t work LINK. For this reason, I have labeled this group the social media branch of SOR to set them apart from other SOR advocates.

One clear example of misdirection and selective reporting can be found in the recent media postings about May’s study about the long-term effect of Reading Recovery. That study was reported as showing that over time Reading Recovery students got worse, i.e., not only did they fail to keep the gains made in recovery, but they actually moved backward. Let’s look at a screen capture of what Dr. Billy Molasso, Ph.D., in a Nov 14th advocacy alert for the Reading Recovery Community.

Links from the screen capture

Hurry, Fridkin and Holliman’s study LINK

Multiple longitudinal studies. LINK

The study had a 75% attrition rate (a major red flag), and as the last two bullet points indicate, the author of the May study still favored the use of Reading Recovery. Omitting that demonstrates reporting designed to prove a point rather than reporting that rises to the standard of good journalism. I advise taking a buyer-beware approach when dealing with these social media versions of the Science of Reading. This is just one of many examples of the incomplete, slanted, and misleading reporting done by many of the folks in the social media branch of SOR.

  • Another social media branch of the SOR is made of individuals providing services to Dyslexic children. Frequently they have very narrow views of what constitutes good instruction in reading. They focus mainly on teaching phonics and use only synthetic phonics to do that. I question whether their approach reflects the best practices indicated by this comprehensive review of the research around dyslexia reported in the RRQ LINK, to the review.

Part of my reason for that concern is that these individuals are often evasive about how much time they spend on comprehension. A few have admitted they leave comprehension to others. Often, when they do check for comprehension, it is at a word or sentence level, not a passage level. There is virtually no evidence that they teach comprehension strategies at a passage level. This precludes any extensive use of what Duke has called the Science of Reading Comprehension. LINK

When considering this manner of delivering reading instruction, a method I characterize as Phonics First, Comprehension Later, district leaders should consider whether such a course will result in improved comprehension. Consider the slide from P.D. Pearson from his YouTube presentation on the Science of Reading Comprehension. LINK

Pearson’s information (which includes 86 studies) certainly calls into question the Phonics First, Comprehension later approach. The information that 1/3 of the students not passing the 3rd-grade test were fluent also should give one pause about an approach that relies almost exclusively on improving decoding. Frequently the Phonics First, Comprehension later, folks report their results using tests focused mainly on decoding. Please consider what students will be required to do on the end-of-the-year state reading tests to see if that is a sufficient test of the worth of the Phonics First, Comprehension Later programs. See Box 1 below. It lists what is required on state reading tests. It is taken from an article by Nell Duke LINK.

  • The centrist point of view- what is it?

What is a centrist? (taken from my 10/22/2022 blog LINK. Those who follow this blog know that for the past four years, I have explored the issues surrounding the so-called reading wars LINKLINKLINK. One of my followers, Judy Boksner, described a centrist this way:

(Be sure to visit Judy’s YouTube Channel LINK)

This slide gives the key to why I am a centrist:

  • Here is one explanation of why students are not learning to read. It is an excerpt from my 09/18/22 blog LINK:

I ENDED THAT BLOG ENTRY WITH THE FOLLOWING:

I’m back to my mantra. “Let’s use common sense to find common ground.” Let’s recognize that what works with one child doesn’t always work with another. Let’s put a moratorium on talking about what’s wrong with “the other side(s) methods and instead ask- is there anything from the other side(s) ideas that I can use to help my kids when my preferred methods don’t work? In my original post about this four years ago, I called this creating a reading evolution LINK.

Please note that this final analysis includes the scenario of districts using ideas from balanced reading and SOR. That is what I hope the centrist point of view will lead to—finding common ground by using ideas from both sides.

Dr. Sam’s Blog in the Coming Weeks.

Starting next week, I will continue doing blogs about various literacy leaders. The first will be about P.L. Thomas, with information on his upcoming appearance at LitCon.

So, until next week,

Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who, uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching

Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the author’s view and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

P.S. If you found the blog through Facebook or Twitter, please consider following it to ensure you won’t miss future posts. Use the “follow” entry on the sidebar of the blog.