Monthly Archives: February 2019

Introducing the special edition of the Missouri Reader- Poetry- a Path to Literacy by  Dr. Sam Bommarito, Co-Editor of the Missouri Reader

COVER FOR THE POETRY ISSUE

Introducing the special edition of the Missouri Reader- Poetry- a Path to Literacy by

Dr. Sam Bommarito, Co-Editor of the Missouri Reader

You may know that one of the hats I wear is that of Co—Editor of the Missouri ReaderMissouri Reader has been publishing for over 40 years now.  We publish between two and three issues a year. We are peer edited and have a highly qualified review board.  We do publish some very well-known literary leaders. But we also give teachers a chance to publish right alongside them Most often those teachers are graduate students at one of our state’s universities, though we do accept articles from all over the United States (and Beyond!). Details on how to submit are always found on the last page of each issue of the journal.  This latest issue is something very special. As you both read about it and then actually read the journal itself, you’ll see what I mean. For me personally the timing of this issue couldn’t be better. It’s my birthday today (don’t ask!). It’s also the first anniversary of this blog. Over 10,000 people have read it since beginning it last year.  In a way, things have come full circle. That first blog entry was written at Tan Tar Ra (Lake of the Ozarks, Mo.) at last year’s Write to Learn Conference. Next week Glenda (my Co-Editor) and I will be at this year’s conference making a presentation on Friday, March 1st..  It will be about this issue of journal (it’s that special). If you’re in the Midwest region come see us, links to all the registration information can be found in our journal. We are part of the Missouri State Literacy association which is a co-sponsor of the Write to Learn Conference.

Readers. I now want to editorialize a bit.  Please indulge me. It relates to the theme of our special issue, Poetry- a Path to Literacy.   Lately I’ve been wondering aloud why we have so many people writing about the need to return to joy in the reading and writing field (lots of titles about that lately). Why do we have a famous video called Don’t Read Like a Robot.  Why are some so determined to turn reading into a race?  Do we really need a nation of Robot Readers and Auctioneers? Or do we need a nation of students who know how to read like Storytellers? Storytellers around those long-ago campfires were the beginnings of what we now call civilization.  The historian in me thinks they were at the heart of the movement that separated human kind from the rest of the living creatures on our planet. To read a story like a story teller you’ve got to understand the characters, know what they act like, what they should sound like. I think that is why Rasinski calls prosody the gateway to comprehension. To read like a story teller is to return to the most basic of basics.  All the authors contributing to this very special issue of our journal hope that our readers find the ideas and resources in this issue that will help them get back to the real basics. Learning to read poetry well is one of the key things that make up what I call the real basics. I also hope the readers of this issue will find much of what they need to help create a nation of readers who know how to read like story-tellers. Perhaps then we would not have to worry about how to bring joy back to all aspects of literacy. The answer is so very simple. Read (and write) because you want to. Let your children do the same.

Pardon me, it’s nighttime and I suddenly feel the urge to build a very nice campfire. Then I think I’ll get out a copy of the new journal. I hear there are some wonderful things to read in it, poems and such. I hear that there’s a whole world of joy to find if you’re just willing to look. Please do have a look. You deserve some joy and so do your children.

POETRY!

Here is the link to the newest Missouri Reader:  https://joom.ag/o1ta

Happy Reading and Writing!

Dr Sam Bommarito (aka, the storyteller/poet/singer songwriter)

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

Five things that can lead to success in K-2 Literacy: A look at the old and the new (and they are both the same) By Doctor Sam Bommarito

OLD AND NEW creative commons

Five things that can lead to success in K-2 Literacy: A look at the old and the new (and they are both the same)

By Doctor Sam Bommarito

Regular readers may recall my Jan 11th blog post where I talked about the Shanahan/Berger podcast. It was done through Amplify. Folks who signed up for that podcast got a whitepaper from Amplify entitled Five leadership practices that drive success in K-2 literacy. It was written by Krista Curran, SVP and General Manager for Assessment and Invention. It reports on the results of interventions done in 11 schools where “mCLASS data showed exceptional growth in student literacy”. Details of all this can be found in the Amplify document, which was distributed by their website. What caught my eye was their overall conclusions about what “school leaders, teachers and other staff” did to contribute to that success. Here are the 5 things they listed:

Five Leadership Characteristics

While recognizing the limits and limitations of a single study done with a relatively small N, I find the above conclusions intriguing. They reminded me of another project I was involved in a very long time ago. Back in the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s I was part of a Title 1 program in a “next to urban” district in St. Louis. As a matter of fact that district bordered on Ferguson. My building was Title 1, sometimes Chapter 1, depended on the year. We were twice given the Secretaries’ Award. That award went to Title 1 programs showing exceptional gains by their students. Winning the award meant the buildings in the district were in the top 1/10 of 1 percent of all Title 1 programs in the nation in terms of improving student’s achievement scores and other factors considered in giving the award. My building always had 90% plus free lunch, the yardstick used by Title 1 to determine what buildings would qualify for Title 1 services. The year I did my dissertation work, the first graders in my building had Gates-MacGinitie reading scores that were one full standard deviation above what one would expect in a building with that free lunch rate. In point of fact, their median score was at or near the 50 %’ile. What we were doing was working and working very well. I would point out that the measure of comprehension we were using measured vocabulary knowledge (about ½ the items) AND comprehension (the other ½), unlike some measures today that measure mainly decoding with some attention given to vocabulary and little or no attention given to directly measuring reading comprehension.

As I think back to the project I participated in and looked at the 5 points listed by this recent report it hit me that the teachers, staff and administration at my building (and the other elementary buildings in the district) were doing all the things mentioned by this recent report. Our tact may have been somewhat different in terms of interventions. We moved from a basal instruction, using a basal well known for it’s strong phonics program, to a guided reading/workshop model, a model that has some critics and doubters. However it REALLY worked for us and did so over a number of years. I always note (tongue in cheek) that the year after I left, my building’s reading scores went down dramatically. What changed was not the fact I left but rather the fact that new leadership came to central office and readopted the basal with the strong phonics program. Over the next few years reading scores went down dramatically. The district took years to recover from that change over. For readers of this blog- when I talk about “word callers” (and some folks take me to task for using the term) I’m talking about children who don’t comprehend because decoding was overstressed and comprehension was virtually ignored in early instruction. I worked with such children for years. I found those children thrived in the workshop environment. In this blog, I’ve often called reading recovery the bumble bee of the literacy world. According to some theories it should not fly at all. Yet it does. Shall I give a similar name to my old Title 1 project? By some theories it shouldn’t have worked at all. Yet in fact in worked better than most of the projects of it’s era.

Two thoughts here. One is that my district’s story serves as allegory for those who would ignore comprehension and focus entirely on decoding in the early grades. Based on my experience that is not a particularly good move for developing great readers (though it may develop great decoders). The other thought is that as folks design literacy programs might do well to look hard at the conclusions of the recently published white paper. I think it outlines ideas that all sides of the current reading debate could live with. As a matter of fact I would predict they would thrive if they used them. So I hope I’ve given my readers some food for thought here.

Next Week I hope do a blog entry on Missouri Reader’s upcoming issue. It on the theme “Poetry- the Game Changer”. The theme comes from an article David Harrison wrote as the anchor piece for the issue. Glenda (my co-editor for the Missouri Reader) and I are presenting the key ideas from this issue on March 1st, at The Missouri Write to Learn Conference held at the Tan Tar Ra resort, Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. Here is a link to the conference: http://www.writetolearnconference.com/

Next week also marks the 1st anniversary of this blog. The blog has had 10,000 readers since starting. WOW! Thanks to all of you who have come to visit over the past year. Please do keep coming!!!

Happy Reader and Writing

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, protector of bumble bees and other such amazing creatures)

Copyright 2019 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

 

 

 

 

Insights into the comprehension process: A reply from my former professor

GUTHRE

I got a rather extensive reply to my last post from a colleague for whom I have the utmost respect. Dr. Rocchio was one of my instructors when I was doing my graduate work at UMSL (University of Missouri-St Louis) in the 1970’s. I took the Content Area Reading Course from him. Later, that was a course that became mine for almost a decade as I taught as an adjunct at UMSL. His teachings in that first course greatly influenced how I handled the teaching of that course and my whole view about literacy instruction in general and literacy instruction for the older reader in particular.

 Please consider carefully what he has to say, it brings some new and interesting insights. It also brings series of 4 questions that I want to address collectively next week.  I want to thank Dan (we’ve been on a first name basis for quite some time) for following the blog and for providing the insightful commentary that follows.

 Dr. Sam (aka, Sam a former student of Dr. Rocchio)

Sam

I really appreciate the thought-provoking article on reading comprehension.  I am glad you included the work of Shanahan, the recent IES summary of research,  https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/PracticeGuide/14 and the work by Miller and Moss (2013).    I would agree with your proposition “that learning to have authentic conversations around various kinds of text is one road that can lead to improving reading comprehension.” In addition, I would agree “that teachers must provide direct instruction, and they must also scaffold students in to learning how to handle various level texts and text structures.”

 

The real difference between the two comprehension models you described seems to lie in the basic framework of literacy instruction.  Shanahan suggests in his blog that most of the literacy instruction should be teacher directed and that literacy instruction should include the direct teaching of the following components for about 120 minutes/daily in grades 1-3:

 

  1. phonics or word analysis strategies (at the early grade levels)
  2. fluency
  3. general reading comprehension strategies focused mostly on the disciplinary structures of text and much of this with grade level text and above grade level text
  4. vocabulary or word knowledge with a focus on key conceptual knowledge
  5. writing instruction

 

I do agree with Shanahan https://shanahanonliteracy.com/blog/the-whys-and-hows-of-research-and-the-teaching-of-reading that we must include the teaching of complex texts that challenge our readers beyond what has been traditionally labeled a reader’s instructional level.

My most recent experience in third grade classrooms supported the close reading of complex text..  I worked with three third-grade teachers and the reading coach in the Lindbergh school district to develop a six-week economics unit that included 110 minutes/day of reading and writing workshop, and twenty-five minutes/day of social studies instruction.  We included the following components:

 

  1. whole group close reading of above grade level texts related to running a business and making a sellable product or service
  2. close reading of complex texts in guided reading groups
  3. teacher modeling of how to gather key ideas from text related to a student’s business plan
  4. followed by student independent searching for appropriate texts
  5. students reading of fiction and non-fiction texts at a variety of reading levels
  6. students writing about their reading ( e.g., developed a business plan)
  7. key vocabulary words were taught directly as they came up during the unit.

All students were highly motivated to develop their business plan and their sellable good or service.  What we learned is that texts used beyond the instructional level of students were made accessible by a combination of teacher read-alouds, shared reading, partner reading along with teacher scaffolding.  Results indicated that students of all reading levels were able to successfully read and write about texts above their reading level.

Some of the perplexing questions that arose from the Lindbergh district action research and the model of reading instruction suggested by Shanahan are these (Sam’s note I will address these questions collectively in my next blog entry):

 

  1. under what conditions is it appropriate to use grade level and above grade level texts in the literacy day for primary, and intermediate level readers?
  2. under what conditions is it appropriate to use instructional level texts with primary and intermediate level readers?
  3. how does this instruction differ for average, above average and struggling readers?
  4. how do teachers scaffold the teaching of disciplinary reading and writing strategies with texts beyond a student’s traditional instructional level?

Pearson’s work ( Research Foundations of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts( 2013) provides some guidance when he points out that “.integrated approaches have generally outperformed ‘encapsulated’ approaches on a variety of measures.” Pearson’s work on Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading (see this link http://www.scienceandliteracy.org/) suggests the value of applying key comprehension strategies within an integrated literacy/science framework.

Guthrie’s CORI model (see this link:  www.corilearing.com) provides some further guidance about how we might answer the questions above.  In fact, several of the recommendations from the 2010 IES practice guide are drawn from Guthrie’s work.  CORI’s literacy framework includes the following:

  1. an integrated content area/ literacy unit plan
  2. authentic texts at various reading levels
  3. the direct teaching of appropriate comprehension strategies
  4. fluency instruction
  5. writing instruction about the reading of authentic texts
  6. guided reading with various levels of students
  7. flexible supplementary instruction for struggling readers
  8. motivational supports such as student choice and hands-on activities

Allington’s 2015 (Reading Teacher article on Text complexity) notes the following: “…increasing the complexity of the texts used in elementary schools as the best strategy for enhancing reading achievement, as the CCSS authors recommend, lacks a base in the research evidence available.”  In addition, “we need better evidence of instructional scaffolding that might be best used to facilitate just how more complex texts can be used to enhance reading development.

I am an advocate of reading comprehension research that utilizes a comprehensive literacy framework like those developed by Pearson and Guthrie.  This type of research can help teachers understand how to best integrate all key literacy outcomes and content outcomes within a school day.  But the most useful research is that research performed in classrooms where the primary goal is to improve our students’ desire, self-efficacy, and ability to read to solve real world problems related to work, school, and the improvement of one’s community.

I would love to see additional research that follows the models suggested above. So, I hope others will share such work.

 

Thanks for listening.

Dan Rocchio, Ed. D.

Professor Emeritus

Maryville University

Response entry copyright 2019 by Dr. Dan Rocchio

Blog entry Copyright 2019 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.