Monthly Archives: June 2019

Please have a look at the newest Missouri Reader (free)- Lots of great articles to choose from! Dr. Sam Bommarito

As promised the newest issue of the Missouri Reader is ready. It can be reached at this link.

https://joom.ag/VMta

We e-mail a link out to all our members (Missouri Literacy Association- an affiliate of the ILA) using our membership list. We also blog and tweet out the link.  Please share the link with all educators you think may be interested in the topics presented. By doing that you help us carry out our own form of “word of mouth”, essentially word of mouth in the cyber world. The journal is free.

Glenda Nugent (my co-editor) and I are quite proud that we can carry out the forty plus year traditions of the journal. It started off as a “hard copy” journal and has now shifted to a cyber journal. We publish many well-known authors and literacy researchers. We also publish articles from many teachers, including teachers doing their first action research projects/first journal articles. It gives teachers a chance to share with their fellow teachers and also a chance to find out about publishing in a peer-edited journal. They get to publish right alongside more experienced writers and researchers. A look at our editorial board will show our board is well credentialed. We are grateful for their ongoing contributions to the journal.

If you are interested in submitting an article for the Fall journal, go to the last page of the current journal for details. I’ve included a screen capture of the front cover and the table of contents in this blog entry. These show you what’s in the journal. Once you get to the journal online, there are easy links to follow for all the articles. There is quite a variety (see below), so I think you will find something of interest to you.

Happy Reading and Writing, and I hope you enjoy the Missouri Reader and find it provides you with valuable resources and information. As I said before, please do share with anyone you think might be interested in the topics covered.

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito

Co-Editor of the Missouri Reader

LOOK OVER THE VARIOUS TITLES- FIND SOMETHING YOU LIKE AND CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO GO TO THE ONLINE JOURNAL AND READ IT! THERE ARE ARTICLES ABOUT GETTING STARTED IN THE FALL, SOCIAL JUSTICE, WRITING (WITH TONS OF LINKS TO RESOURCES) AND MANY OTHER THINGS.

https://joom.ag/VMta

Summer Issue of the Missouir Reader

Tab-e of contents

Tab-e of contents 2

 

 

 

 

Research demonstrating the effectiveness of differentiated instruction: One size does not fit all and never has- Part One (alternate title: Show Me the Beef!) by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Research demonstrating the effectiveness of differentiated instruction: One size does not fit all and never has- Part One (alternate title: Show Me the Beef!) by Dr. Sam Bommarito

BEEF WITH BACKGROUND NON COMMERCIAL

 

Quite a while back, there was a set of TV commercials based on the slogan “show me the beef.”  We are long past the point where the proponents of “the science of reading” need to do exactly that.  They are making claims that what they do works with most every child most every time (though the road might be bumpy they say). If they have actually found THE METHOD that works with every child every time here’s what we need from them to prove such claims are true for large populations:

What they need: Studies that show “science of reading” (SOR) has a near 100% success rate with all kids.

What they have: In England, which has mandated synthetic phonics for several years now, an improvement over previous test scores QUALIFIED YES. Near 100% success rate NO!!!!!!

What they need: Studies showing long term gains in COMPREHENSION using tests of COMPREHENSION. Studies demonstrating the gains stick over time.

What they have: Studies using the Dibels (mainly a measure of decoding) and vocabulary tests (vocabulary is only one component of comprehension). That kind of testing might do for pilot studies, but since they’re trying to encourage districts to spend large sums on their methods and hoping to change the landscape of reading instruction they need much stronger testing instruments than the ones they are currently using.

Some SOR proponents are already claiming victory (move over bub, they say) based on one or two years’ worth of results. Guess they haven’t heard of the Hawthorne effect or looked at the research showing that test gains based solely on a synthetic phonics approach often evaporate after a year or two.

So, I’ll try this one last time. Show me the studies demonstrating near 100% success. If you can’t, that means there are KIDS FOR WHOM YOUR METHODS DON’T WORK. You have an ethical obligation to address the needs of those children.  Show me the studies demonstrating long term gains in COMPREHENSION using actual tests of COMPREHENSION. In sum, show me the beef!!! Either that or admit your methods have limits and limitations. If you would do that, we could actually start a conversation around what methods work for which child and how to tweak each method so that we could find something that helps almost each and every child.   It could be the start of a reading evolution #readingevolution1 #showmethebeef/lit https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/03/16/a-call-for-a-reading-evolution-no-its-not-typo-i-mean-evolution-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

There’s more.

SOR folks note that what districts around the nation are doing now in literacy instruction is ineffective. Literacy scores are low.  They claim the blame lies mainly with balanced literacy et. al. No question at all that literacy scores are low. Let’s remind the SOR folks they are part of what is going on now. So, in a sense, they are very much a part of this ineffective scene.  I’d anticipate they’d say, but you have to look at what individual schools/districts are doing and see which districts/schools are doing SOR practices well and getting good results.  Fair enough. Let’s do that. But then let’s ALSO do that for the districts currently doing what can be described as balanced literacy and doing it well. No strawmen please. Make this a 2019 version of constructivism not the 1967 beginnings of constructivism.  I’ve already found some really interesting things around the question of is there such a thing as a successful BL program.

Just this week the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) named this year’s Missouri Gold Star Schools. That program recognizes schools that perform at high academic levels or that perform at high levels while serving a significant proportion of disadvantaged students. One of the schools was from the Clayton district and two of them from the Francis Howell District. Both districts have programs that would fit the criteria for balanced literacy. I can easily name many other St. Louis area districts where reading scores are high and some form of balanced literacy is used. For good measure, I’m going to ask my constructivist friends out there to name districts from their area that meet the balanced literacy criteria and currently have high reading achievement scores. Please use the hashtags #readingevolution1 #showmethebeef/lit in order to make them easy to find. The point is that it is abundantly clear that there is such a thing as a successful balanced literacy program

Now I have one more “show me” to ask of the SOR folks. Show me a study (or studies) of districts using a representative random sample of Balanced Literacy programs, programs that would meet the criteria set by proponents of Balanced Literacy.  Then show me those results. Until you can do that please take a little more care about your pronouncements around the topic of Balanced Literacy.  What you’re saying now is incomplete and inaccurate.

In sum, there is abundant evidence that balanced literacy has worked well and is working well in selected districts. So how is it that SOR folks are convincing folks that BL doesn’t work? They’re doing it by a rather clever intellectual slight of hand.  Their logic is as follows: The current scene is not working well (TRUE!). Most districts in the current scene are using properly implemented BL (UNPROVEN/FALSE). So, BL doesn’t work (UNPROVEN BY THIS CURRENT ANALYSIS). The breakdown in their logic occurs because they are assuming most districts today are using BL and doing BL in the manner advocates of BL have described (with fidelity!). Not the case. The facts are that many districts aren’t doing it all OR say they do it but really don’t OR say they do it but in practice the are doing it badly, etc.  You get the picture. The only way to get a proper sample is to just look at those districts doing BL in a form approved by BL advocates and with fidelity to the form. When we do things that way (dare I say when we base our results on a proper scientific sample) I predict that the results will be quite different from what they are claiming now.

Introduction to Research In Differentiation. (Remember that differentiation is a cornerstone of many  BL programs)

 

My friend and mentor Dr. Dan Rochcio sent me this information recently:

Regarding differentiated instruction, I reviewed the Juel and Minden-Cupp ( 2000) descriptive research in four first grade classrooms.  It is still a classic in my mind.  They found that the two teachers who were most successful in improving students’ word analysis and comprehension skills were those teachers who provided the most differentiated instruction throughout the first grade.  For example, Teacher 4 focused on teaching direct systematic phonics with the low reading group, who lacked phonemic awareness skills and the ability to identify initial and final consonant sounds.  This approach lasted until February when she modified her approach based on her students’ ability to apply consonant and vowels sounds to larger chunks such as onsets and rimes.  But her instruction with two other homogeneous groups who had learned phonic strategies early in the year, focused more class time on teaching vocabulary, comprehension, and the reading and writing of text.  In addition, they found that the teachers who used both sequential letter-sound decoding and the use of analogies ( i.e., onsets and rimes) to decode new words were the most successful in helping the lowest level readers.  Another conclusion of this study supported the four phases of phonics learning researched by Ehri 2005).  My experience in teaching beginning reading and a review of research indicates that Ehri’s phases are crucial to delivering the type of differentiated instruction explained in Juel and Minden-Cupp (2000).  All kindergarten, first, and second-grade teachers need to learn how to apply Ehri’s four phases if they wish to successfully differentiate phonics and other word solving strategies in grades K-2.

 

References

 

Connor CM, Morrison FJ, Schatschneider C, Toste J, Lundblom EG, Crowe E, Fishman B.

2011a. Effective classroom instruction: Implications of child characteristic by instruction interactions on first graders’ word reading achievement. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness. 4:173–207. [PubMed: 22229058]

 

Connor CM, Morrison FJ, Fishman B, Giuliani S, Luck M, Underwood PS, Schatschneider C.

2000b. Testing the impact of child characteristics × instruction interactions on third graders’ reading comprehension by differentiating literacy instruction. Reading Research Quarterly. 46:189–221.

 

Dorn, L., & Schubert, B. (2008).  A comprehensive intervention model for preventing reading

Failure: A response to intervention process. Journal of Reading Recovery. Spring.

 

Ehri. L. (2005). Learning to read words: Theories, findings, and issues.  Scientific Studies of

            Reading.  92(2), 167-188.

 

Juel, C., & Minden-Cupp, C. (2000). Learning to read words: Linguistic units and instructional

strategies. Reading Research Quarterly, 35, 498–492.

Thanks Dan! Useful stuff! I especially like your use of the term “word solving strategies”. Says it all! I think your remarks help lay the foundation for what a COMPREHENSIVE program in phonics instruction might look like. Comprehensive in the sense that it uses multiple ways to teach phonics and integrates this with a SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TIME for comprehension work and writing.  I know I will be looking up more information around Ehri’s phases and sharing it with readers of the blog.  Readers, also know that I might try to pick Dan’s brain further about this topic. He really seems to be on to something here, doesn’t he?

All this sets the stage for Part 2 of this blog entry. Most likely, I will take that up week after next. Next week I hope to share the summer edition of the Missouri Reader with you – if all goes according to plan. Until then-

 

Happy  Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito aka the “show me the beef” guy from the “show me” state of Missouri!

 

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.

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

Exploring the limits of quantitative measures: The case for including qualitative studies in educational research. By Doctor Sam Bommarito

reading creatuve commons

 

One recent post on twitter indicated that the only real criteria for judging the worth of instructional methods are that they pass the test of randomized controlled trials. This randomized control statement is one important way of looking at things. However, like all things in educational research, there are limits and limitations to the use of “pure” science. This is especially true when looking at the instrumentation often used in conducting educational research.  Let me give two examples that demonstrate this point.

The first is the use of the Lexile system for measuring readability.  I have long maintained that measures of readability are really measures of decodability. They should really be called decodability formulas. For instance, a 4th-grade decodability means that a student performing at a 4th-grade reading level can decode it. In no way does it guarantee that the material in the book itself is actually 4th-grade material, more on that thought in a minute.

The components that go into Lexile measurements are fairly straightforward. See this link for an explanation of how they are determined: https://lexile.com/educators/measuring-growth-with-lexile/lexile-measures-grade-equivalents/ .

Key components include sentence complexity and vocabulary.  Overall the system does a fairly decent job of doing what it is supposed to do. It does give us a sense of what grade level a child’s reading ability needs to be to decode it.

There are critics of the Lexile system. I’m providing a link to this anti-Lexile post not because I agree with its conclusion (I don’t) but because it contains good examples of times when Lexile really gets it wrong. http://www.unleashingreaders.com/?p=8891.

TIMES WHEN LEXILES GET IT WRONG

Examples of Of where Lexile scores get it wrong.

 

 

I’ve seen the Grapes of Wrath example in many places. The content of Grapes of Wrath clearly does not fit the typical content for a 4th-grade classroom.  This particular example seems to be a favorite of the critics of Lexile measurements.

What to do, what to do?

Here is what to do. Do exactly what systems like Fountas and Pinnell do when they assign readabilities to books. In addition to the usual things (sentence complexity/vocab load) they look at the actual content of the book, how the book is structured, specific characteristics of the book and the degree to which the book that is measured matches the usual characteristics of books at that reading level. F & P’s system adds qualitative information that makes their product far more useful to classroom teachers.  When talking to teachers about which system to use when choosing a leveled text, I always recommend systems like F & P.  Fewer “surprises” like saying the Grapes of Wrath or the Color Purple are appropriate books for 4th graders.  The overall point here is that adding the qualitative element to the decodability measure makes It much more useful for educators. Quantitative measures can benefit from the addition of qualitative supplements.

Another example is the whole idea around measuring fluency. As I mentioned last week, Tim Rasinski just did an excellent post about that. The post was from the Robb Review.

https://therobbreviewblog.com/uncategorized/making-kids-read-fast-is-not-the-goal-of-fluency-instruction-making-meaning-is/

Last week’s post is germane to this week’s topic because unlike measures like the Dibels which measures fluency solely as speed, Tim’s measurement is much more complete since it includes the use of a rubric based on the acronym E.A.R.S. (Expression, Automatic Word Recognition, Rhythm and Phrasing, and Smoothness). Dibels focuses only on speed.  Teachers using Dibels for instruction use a shallow view of the oral reading process that too often results in the creation of Robot Readers. These readers read in a monotone, lifeless manner. Such readers are not likely to use oral reading as a window to comprehension.

Tim had this to say in a Twitter post this week:

TIM RAZ

 

 

Tim’s post clearly indicates that when most of the literacy instructional time is used on phonics instruction with little or no time spent on meaning making the result can be the creation of word callers. This dove tales completely with my own experiences working with children placed in a basal that focused too much of its time on phonics and not enough of its time on things like Tim’s style of fluency (shall we call it prosody?), writing, and comprehension.  This isn’t to say there should be no time spent on decoding. This is simply saying that there should also be SIGNIFICANT amounts of time spent on the other components of the reading process.

Overall, Tim’s way adds a definite qualitative aspect to the mix.  Instead of just doing simple speed measures, teachers must carry out a somewhat more complex measure using his rubric. Does that make it less scientific?  For those who have taken courses in qualitative analysis, you know that if one takes the time and follows the procedures, one can get interrater reliability. It is completely scientific. Qualitative measures and qualitative statistics are perfectly capable of answering the question of whether or not the results of a study are simply the result of chance or the result of the experimental treatment.

This leads me to my big question. Is there a reason to also include qualitative studies when evaluating the efficacy of reading approaches?  I think there is. Qualitative methods pick up on things pure quantitative methods simply can’t.  Is this a case of advocating my science against your science? Not really. It’s a case of advocating my science (qualitative studies) IN ADDITION TO your science. It’s an acknowledgment that empirical approaches have limits and limitation. Qualitative approaches can make important value-added contributions to the study of literacy approaches. In sum, I’m not saying to replace purely empirical studies. I am saying that we should consider supplementing their findings with qualitative studies as we determine the efficacy of various approaches in the teaching of literacy. Tim has said in the past that the teaching of reading is both science and art. I’ve given the link to my post about his views around this previously. Here it is again.

https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/05/04/the-teaching-of-reading-as-both-science-and-art-a-report-evaluation-of-rasinkis-recent-presentation-in-st-louis-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

I wholeheartedly concur with Tim. The teaching of reading really is both art and science. I think the study of the efficacy of literacy approaches would benefit from the inclusion of qualitative studies. What do you think?

Til next time, Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito (a.k.a. the quantitative PLUS qualitative guy)

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.

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

Oral Reading Fluency: Exploring fluency practices suggested by the work of Dr. Tim Rasinski (Part Two) by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Fluent Reading

Oral Reading Fluency: Exploring fluency practices suggested by the work of Dr. Tim Rasinski (Part Two) by Dr. Sam Bommarito

 

While I was away on vacation, Dr. Tim Rasinski made a post in the Robb review that is quite relevant to our topic of reading fluency (I follow the Robb review- lots of good stuff there!). Here is a link to his post:

https://therobbreviewblog.com/uncategorized/making-kids-read-fast-is-not-the-goal-of-fluency-instruction-making-meaning-is/

==============================================================

Key ideas included:

  • The real goal of phonics instruction should be to “get kids to the point where they don’t have to use phonics.”
  • Fluency is not about reading fast; fluency is about reading in a manner that promotes meaning-making. He did an ORF score (speed test score) on recordings of arguably two of the most fluently read speeches in American history – Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” and John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address “Ask Not What Your Country…”. He found that “in both cases, Dr. King and President Kennedy’s readings of their speeches may have landed them in a remedial reading class based on their very low ORF scores.”
  • He urged caution in using the scores, e.g., DIBELS and AimsWeb ORF scores, or Hasbrouck and Tindal’s norms (Words Correct per Minute).
  • He also said that “For fluency instruction to truly work, we need to see the goal of fluency as expressive oral (and silent) reading that reflects the meaning of the text.

=============================================================

Which brings us round to the story I was telling you before I left for vacation.  I volunteer one day a week doing literacy work at an elementary school. I had been using the idea of teaching kids to read like a storyteller in the after-school group all year.  About 20 1st and second graders participated.  We used one of the several techniques Rasinski reported on when he spoke to us in St. Louis. We paired off readers and had them read/reread poems and passages from favorite books.  We used several Eric Litwin’s books since they were at the right readability, were engaging and predictable.  When the after-school program ended, I asked one of the first-grade teachers if she would be interested in trying the reading practice with the whole class for a couple of weeks. She agreed.

We paired readers with somewhat higher scores with readers with somewhat lower reading scores. We allowed the children to self-select from poems that they were familiar with. This included some from trade books and some from the basal program. Partners could select the same poem OR they could each select a poem of their own.  Students practiced reading to each other daily. The teacher circulated in the room as the oral reading went on. The entire process took 10 minutes or so each day. I was present for this activity each Tuesday.

Students knew there would be a performance event at the end of the week. The classroom was using SeeSaw. The kids made audio recordings. The purpose of this little trial was to see if the primary teachers would be interested in trying this out during the school year next year. I’m happy to report that the results were such that both the 1st and 2nd grade is going to do this next year.

Here are some of the highlights:

The classroom teacher was surprised to see how quickly some of the “average” students improved in prosody. The stronger of the two partners were showing improvement as well.  The kids coached each other in how to sound more like storytellers.   One interesting anecdote came when I gave my usual talk about reading like a storyteller NOT like a robot. “Never read like a robot!” I said. One of the 1st graders raised his hand and said, “But Dr. B., what if the character is a robot? Then what?”  Hmmm. Guess you know how I answered.  You know, sometimes the kids learn more than you teach them!

I have parent permission to listen to the recordings, and over the summer I’ll be using the rubrics from Rasinski and Smith’s The Megabook of Fluency to assess those recordings.  I’ve talked about that rubric before. It uses the acronym E.A.R.S. Expression, Automatic Word Recognition, Rhythm and Phrasing, and Smoothness.  By the fall I expect to be able to use the rubric with some degree of reliability.

All four of the classes (2 first grades and 2-second grades) use the Raz Kids computer program.  I already have used the message feature of that program to talk to the after-school kids and give them advice about reading. The program allows both written and recorded messages. I think feedback on oral reading might prove useful.  Stay tuned- by the end of next year, I may have an action research project to report on!

Next time I want to take up the topic of the advantages of supplementing quantitative research with qualitative research.  I’ll explain how the startup I just described does exactly that.  I’ll also explore some of the limits and limitations of using only quantitative information.

Until next time, this is Dr. Sam signing off.

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito

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.

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

Back from vacation- Some thoughts about the “Bookends” of WWII found at Pearl Harbor By Dr. Sam Bommarito

Back from vacation- Some thoughts about the “Bookends” of WWII found at Pearl Harbor

 

Pearl Harbor “Bookends”                                                Plaque Marking Surrender Spot

Just back from vacation. Letting everyone know my regular posts will resume next Friday morning. My last day in Hawaii was spent touring the bookends of WWII. The bookends include the Arizona Memorial (the beginning) and the Battleship Missouri (the end). Our guide for the Battleship Missouri tour told the moving story of how General MacArthur handled the speech he gave at the end of the war.  He spoke at the surrender ceremony that took place on the deck of the Battleship Missouri. The guide noted MacArthur could have talked about all the horrors and injustices of the war. Instead here is the heart of what he said:

“It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past — a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.”

So, he chose to offer a message of hope at the end of the war. A message of healing for all sides. Perhaps this is a message worth pondering.  See you next Friday morning.

 

Dr. Sam