Author Archives: doctorsam7

About doctorsam7

Working with Dr. Kerns from Harris Stowe on several writing and action research projects. Love workshop teaching and teaching about workshop teaching. I have a blog https://doctorsam7.blog, all about Keys to Growing Proficient Lifelong Readers. I am President of the STLILA and Vice President of the MoILA.

Toward a complex view of the reading process: Advantages of looking at the strengths and weaknesses of all approaches and adapting our instructional practices accordingly by Dr. Sam Bommarito

 

Breadboard_complex creative commons licenseToward a complex view of the reading process: Advantages of looking at the strengths and weaknesses of all approaches and adapting our instructional practices accordingly.

Cyberspace is currently full of posts claiming that there is a one size fits all solution to improving reading, especially early reading. This solution focuses on intense systematic phonics instruction for all children. Close examination of such instruction shows it relies mainly on teaching synthetic phonics. Reading speed is valued over reading prosody. Some of the proponents claim there is just not time for comprehension concerns at the very beginning stages of reading. Comprehension comes later, perhaps as late as 3rd grade.   The pillars of this “simple view of reading” include vocabulary both comprehension. Yet the tests used by the proponents of this view to demonstrate gains are usually heavy on decoding and vocabulary and very light on comprehension. This can and should lead to questioning the face validity of such “reading” tests. My view is that they are more properly labeled as “decoding tests”.

When taking the courses for my doctorate one of the things I learned is that establishing a theoretical construct requires many observations over a great deal of time. However, it only takes one contrary observation to potentially call the whole construct into question. In the case of this simple view of reading I have some observations that seem to challenge the validity of their current construct.

First and foremost is the fact that Reading Recovery, which has been under steady attack from the proponents of the simple view of reading, has consistently been dubbed the most successful early reading program currently available. This observation was not made by the proponents of RR, but rather the independent government agency, the What Works Clearinghouse. It is a claim that has been made multiple times over multiple years. I did an entire blog about that and readers are welcome to review the statistical facts from that blog in their entirety:

https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/08/10/why-i-like-reading-recovery-and-what-we-can-learn-from-it-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

Here is a key chart from that blog post:

BETTER IW

I’m more than aware of the studies opponents cite, finding weaknesses and flaws in Recovery. Even strong advocates of RR like myself know there are limits and limitation to the program (as there are with virtually any program one would care to examine). I personally feel there are SOME students who will not benefit from RR. However I firmly believe that the data I cite in the blog indicates that it works with enough children enough of the time to make it a viable educationally significant option. The fact remains when early reading program are analyzed RR is the only one that consistently gets results in BOTH decoding and reading achievement/comprehension. The research cited by the What Works Clearinghouse indicates that code base approaches show gains in decoding but not in comprehension/achievement. Because of this I’ve come to call RR the “bumble bee” of the reading world. You see, according to the science of some individuals, the bumble bee should not be able to fly. But it does. In the case of RR, the bumble bee not only flies but actually outperforms all its code based competitors.

In a future Blog post Dr. Kerns and I are going to explore this observation along with others. There is the matter of research indicating that while code based instruction produces gains in work attack skills, past a certain point they fail to produce gains in reading comprehension/achievement. In that upcoming entry Dr Kerns and I will also look into look into the early research around Analytic vs Synthetic phonics. The upshot is that the research clearly indicates that there are students who benefit more from an Analytic approach, leading to the conclusion that neither approach should be exclusive in its use. In an earlier blog post I indicated that my mentor, the late Dr. Richard Burnett, professor emeritus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, maintained that the great debate in reading was never about phonics vs no phonics. While there are folks who feel no phonics is the best approach, the fact is that the majority of people from the whole language/constructivist point of view favored the use of some form of phonics. I was present at the 1995 IRA (now ILA) reading hall of fame session where Ken Goodman said that there was a place for phonics in a whole language program. My interpretation of what whole language/constructivist based individuals of that time advocated was that they favored a analytic phonics approach used on an as needed basis. Too often critics of this position employ what amounts to a “straw man” approach. They pick on only the weakest points advocated by their opponents and knock those down. They ignore the strong points. While that is an effective ploy in political debates it rarely results in uncovering the full reality of what is going on.

There is also the matter of how much time is needed to carry out an effective synthetic phonics program. A careful read of the NRP will indicate that at the time of the report there was no clear answer to that question. It is an important one. Do we really need to spend most (all) of the early instructional time on teaching synthetic phonics? Should we really effectively ignore comprehension (i.e. spend little or no time teaching comprehension) in the early grades? Or is it possible to create synthetic phonics instruction that is efficient enough to leave time for comprehension instruction? A careful look at the reading world circa 1985 demonstrates that leaders in the field like Pearson and Presley called for more direct teaching of comprehension. They cited the work of Durkin to uphold their belief the teachers of that era were in fact not teaching comprehension at all. At best, they were simply practicing how to answer selected kinds of comprehension questions. Since that time the majority of folks in the reading world have come to the conclusion that the explicit teaching comprehension strategies should be an important part of every literacy program. My opinion is that explicit comprehension instruction should be a part of every literacy program from the outset. Details of all these aforementioned observations and criticisms will be included in the future blog post which will include an extensive look at the research being alluded to here. I anticipate it will be several weeks before that is ready.

My point in this is not to totally discredit the use of synthetic phonics. In earlier blogs I have said there are definitely children who need that direct, intense systematic program. I also pointed out that following an as needed analytic program runs the risk of leaving large holes in students knowledge about phonics. There are ways to fix all the problems inherent in both these major approaches to phonics. At the moment the reading world seems locked in yet another debate (war) about early reading instruction. Critics of the critics of whole language point to the fact the attacks from the simple view of reading folks are really attacks on a straw man. Only the weakest points from the whole language constructivist views are taken. The charge is also made that sometimes their views are actually being totally misrepresented. My criticisms are not limited to the simple view of reading. I hear advocates of using an as needed analytic view of the reading process indicating that only their point of view works with kids. The fact is that SOME kids need some of the things advocated by the code based folks, and SOME kids need the things advocated by the constructivist based approach and, most importantly NEITHER APPROACH WORKS WITH EVERY KID EVERY TIME.

I’ll restate something I’ve said before. Both sides of this great debate (more accurately all sides in this great debate) need to explore the weaknesses as well as the strengths their own position They need to acknowledge that there are some strengths the opponents position. Teachers need to become adept in teaching phonics using all the various ways to teach phonics and they also need to become adept at teaching comprehension strategies. They must be allowed to use a variety of approaches so they can meet the needs of the diverse population of children they serve. We need to remember that beginning with the First Grade Studies and through the works of Allenton, research has consistently demonstrated that teachers make more difference than any particular reading approach. We need to empower teachers and give them the ability to help their students using the methods that fit each particular student. Fit the program to the child, not the other way round. I’ll have more to say on this point next week.

Regular readers of this blog know that my doctoral dissertation was on the topic of common ground. I found that the opposing sides of the great debate from that era had more instructional practices in common than they had that were different. I believe that if the current debate over reading changed into a dialogue about what works more children could be helped. The issue of what works needs to be addressed by more than the simple ability to decode. Reading without comprehension is not reading at all. It is simple decoding.  I detailed my position in the following blog post about calling for a reading EVOLUTION. You are welcome to read it:

https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/03/16/a-call-for-a-reading-evolution-no-its-not-typo-i-mean-evolution-by-dr-sam-bommarito

So as we begin the new year lets shift the focus of things from debate to dialogue. Let’s recognize that reading is a complex process. Let’s start asking what will help THIS PARTICULAR CHILD, rather than try to find something that works with every child every time. The search for the latter has never been very fruitful. I maintain we are much more likely to find a workable answer if we stop debating and start dialoguing. Reading is a complex process. Different children learn in different ways. Let’s start a dialogue around that. Let’s begin the reading evolution.

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (a.k.a. an evolutionary leader)

 

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.

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Don’t judge a book by its cover: 21st century implications of this age-old bit of wisdom by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Grandmas Kindle

Don’t judge a book by its cover: 21st century implications of this age-old bit of wisdom by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Something interesting happened at our house at Christmas time. My two grown sons decided it was time for my wife to join the 21st century with her reading habits. My wife is an avid reader. Sometimes she even reads in the tub. Occasionally that can have some undesired effects on the books she reads. So, wouldn’t it be nice if there were such a thing as a waterproof book. Turns out there is. It’s called the Kindle and that’s just what the boys got her Christmas.  Those who know me well know that I’ve been a longtime advocate of making use technology. This includes making use of technology in the teaching of literacy. So, this newest event in the Bommarito household provides me with an opportunity to reflect on just where technology might fit into a literacy program.

I have some fairly well-developed ideas around using technology in literacy. My very first presentation on this topic was at a national conference. It was the IRA (now ILA) conference held in 1985. My topic was Using Microcomputers in Reading.  My foundational ideas around the topic were really quite simple. Computers and the host of things they have spawned are fundamentally tools. Like any tool, they can be put to good use or bad.  My thinking around such how to use such technology was heavily influenced by Seymour Papert and his book Mindstorms.  Papert saw computers as tools of the mind.  When used as thinking tools (as opposed to electronic flashcards) they can actually help us think in new ways we could not think in before and do things we could never do before.  Think of the movie Hidden Figures. Think of the many wonderful things projects children have done using computers beginning with the lego-logo projects Papert helped to make famous. And yes I’ve read the research on overdoing screen time. So as is the case with all human endeavors, moderation is in order.

Mindstorms

I have a great deal of respect for my colleagues in the reading world and several of them have been expressing doubts and misgivings about using some of the technology available.  Some have even said they would never read a book using a Kindle.  E-books are suspect, and perhaps even substandard. I must respectfully disagree.

When I talk about the role (and potential role) e-books in literacy I usually begin by saying I don’t care whether a book has been published using the calligraphy of monks in the middle ages, the first printing presses, more recent computerized versions of the printing press or published as an e-book. My first judgement of any book is not based on the method of publication but rather on the books content and on the writing craft employed by its author. It is completely possible to create a really awful e-book. It is also possible to create a really awful paper book. But it is equally possible to create well written books using any of the methods of publication. As more people employ the technology, the number of good e-books available has increased. The most important takeaway here is that there is such a thing as a good e-book.

But, you may say, I just can’t curl up and read a good book on a Kindle (or similar device). Doesn’t seem right.  I respect that. However, many in the younger generation (and a few in the older generation) find it wonderful that they can bring their entire library with them on trips and such. The writing on my wife’s new Kindle has the look of paper, so it seems a bit less techi than some of its earlier versions. She can also vary the print size, something very handy for those of us at certain ages and stages.  I assure you she will continue to also read paper versions of many many books. But she has already conceded that there are some real advantages to the Kindle, including the fact it is water resistant (not entirely water proof).  My grandchildren have taken to it instantly. Grandma’s Kindle is a good thing and even has some of Grandpa’s Kindle versions of his favorite children’s books (grandma and I quickly learned how to share each other’s e-book libraries). Grandpa has been convinced of the utility of e-books for quite some time.

Using Kindle readers is certainly not the only way technology can be used in literacy. But it is one way.  Like all things, it should be used to fit the reader not the other way round. Those who don’t find it useful should opt not to use it. Those who find it useful some of the time should make use of it, in the tub and on the beach!!!  You need never worry about forgetting to take your favorite books with you when you’re off on vacation. Kindle readers are not the only technology to consider for use in a literacy program. I will have more to say about that point next week. In the meantime, excuse me.  I think I’m about to borrow grandma’s Kindle and read my copy of Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes. I’ve owned the kindle version of that book for a very long time! And today I’m supposed to be watching some of the Grandkids. As many of my readers know, they really love that particular book and they just love Grandma’s new Kindle soooooo… LG LG!

Doctor Sam Bommarito (aka long time techi, long time reader & very happy Grandpa!)

P.S. If you are a visitor from the internet and liked this blog please consider following it.  Just type in your e-mail address on the sidebar of this blog post. THANKS

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.

A happy and joyous new year to all my readers! Thoughts on where we’ve been & where we’re going with the blog by Dr. Sam Bommarito

happy-new-year-1900587_1280 free noncommercial use

A happy and joyous new year to all my readers! Thoughts on where we’ve been & where we’re going with the blog by Dr. Sam Bommarito

A Happy and Joyous New Year to all my readers! Since this blog started last February there have been 11,500 views from readers in 85 different countries.  That’s quite encouraging and I want to thank you all for your interest and support.

I’ve added a “most read posts” category to the sidebar and put the top five posts for readership there. I will update the top five from time to time during the course of next year.  Right now the most read post this year was .  https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/08/24/what-i-learned-from-reading-recovery-and-how-it-helped-to-inform-my-classroom-practices-by-dr-sam-bommarito/ . There were over 2,500 views of this post.

I’m trying to stay true to the stated goal for the blog- finding ways to create motivated lifelong readers and writers.

In terms of things to come- I want to continue to explore the topic of code based vs. meaning-based approaches to reading. I want to look at both the strengths and limitations of each approach. Regular readers know that I posit that the reason the reading wars continue to rage is that neither side has all the answers. Too often folks from all sides report only the strengths of their positions and the weaknesses of the other sides position. To move from debate to discussion we must be willing to explore BOTH the strengths and the limitations of all approaches (including the ones we personally support!). I have been on a lifelong quest for common ground, practices that both sides might be willing to support. My dissertation was on that very topic. In that dissertation I found that the two sides to the debate in that era actually had more practices that they used in common than practices that separated them.  Is that still true today?  We’ll be looking to find out.

My personal favorite blog post for the year was the one entitled “A call for a reading evolution”. Have a look at it:

https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/03/16/a-call-for-a-reading-evolution-no-its-not-typo-i-mean-evolution-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

It envisions a change from debate to dialogue. For that to happen all sides need to admit that there are limitations to their approach (as well as the strengths we are so fond of pointing out).  Once that happens, once we admit to how complex an issue learning to reading really is, it might be possible to turn the great debate into the great discussion.  Dare to dream!

One new thing for the new year is that I will be pushing into a 4th grade classroom and helping the teacher of that classroom implement a writing workshop program.  I’ll be getting to see writing workshop through some fresh eyes. I’ll be sharing insights gained through this process.

Also, I am the Co-Editor of the Missouri Reader. I’m EXTREMELY excited about the upcoming issue, due out in February. David Harrison, a well published author and poet laureate for the state Missouri, suggested we devote an entire issue to the power of poetry. That is exactly what we did. The theme for the issue is “Poetry- a Path to Literacy”.  David has written an article especially for this issue. Many other folks will also weigh in on the power of poetry. These includes Tim Rasinski, Eric Litwin, Melissa Chessman Smith and Mary Jo Fresch just to name a few. When the issue comes out, I will devote a full blog post to it. I will also provide a link to this free cyber journal.

Missouri Reader is a professional journal sponsored by Missouri ILA.  It has been publishing 2 issues  a year for the last 42 years (so yes it was a paper journal before it become a cyber journal). It is peer reviewed (we’re always looking for review board members) and encourages articles from both university professors AND classroom teachers (we’re always looking for submissions, see the last page of each journal for information on how to submit).  Here is a link to the current issue https://joom.ag/7fWY. It contains interviews with Jennifer Serravallo and Eric Litwin and a wonderful article by Dr. Molly Ness about Think Alouds.  I hope you will continue to follow the blog so that you’ll get a front row seat when the new poetry issue comes out in February.

So…, have a joyous New Year. Help make literacy become something joyous for you and your students. Remember our goal is to find ways of teaching that fit the child. Fit the program to the child, not the other way round! That’s my final thought for this year and my first thought for next year.

All the best to you and yours and I HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL NEXT YEAR!!!!!

P.S. If you are a visitor from the internet and liked this blog please consider following it.  Just type in your e-mail address on the sidebar of this blog post. THANKS

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.

Why we do what we do in the after-school program- highlights for parents to consider by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Why we do what we do in the after-school program- highlights for parents to consider by Dr. Sam Bommarito

atwell quote from Molly Ness

Screen capture from the website https://www.drmollyness.com/

We are about to go on Christmas Break and I want to let the parents in the after-school program (The Reading Club!) know some of the key things we are doing in my part of the reading club activities and why we are doing them.  Members of the Club are in 1st and 2nd grade.  I think the readers of my blog will find what we are doing in the Reading Club quite interesting and informative.

  1. We start each session with a BRIEF read aloud by Dr. B.. Dr. B. tries to use his story telling voice and even talks about how to read like a story teller. Dr. B also notices tricky words. Some of the tricky words are not spelled the way they sound, so they can’t be sounded out (e.g. said, of). We are getting together a list of tricky words that we are learning by heart. THESE ARE THE ONLY WORDS WE MEMORIZE. For most words we try to figure out our own words (sound it out OR say the first sound and think of the clues). Dr. B. has been reading a lot of Eric Litwin books to them and all these books go into the choice library that they pick from for the start up of the reading session.

 

(WHY DO WE DO THIS). I am trying to model for them how to read like a story teller. Reading this way (instead of reading like a robot), results in much better development of meaning making skills and strategies. I am guided in how to teach them to read like story tellers (prosody) by the work of Tim Rasinski. The key thing I learned from Dr. Rasinski is that in order for a reader to read like a story teller they must REALLY understand the story. When they really understand the story they know how those characters should sound as they speak (e.g. villain, hero, etc.).  They know when they are at an exciting part of the story (so sound excited) or scary part of the story (so sound scared!). Reading like a storyteller promotes reading with understanding. Dr. Rasinski calls reading with prosody (reading like a story teller) the gateway to comprehension.   You can find out more about what I learned from Dr. Rasinski by reading my blog post about his presentation in St. Louis. ( 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). Also be sure to visit his website.(https://www.timrasinski.com/index.html)

 

  1. Each student gets to choose a book to read at the start of the Reading Club. They then share their book with a partner, they choral read i.e. they both read aloud together. They read each of the books  using a story telling voice. In that way they can help each other with tricky words. Many of these books are by Eric Litwin (Pete the Cat, Groovy Joe, et. al.!). As they finish each book they talk about their favorite parts before moving on to the next book. They know it is ok to read a book they’ve already read before if that book is a real favorite.

 

(WHY DO WE DO THIS). Teachers would call what we do at the start of book club self selected wide reading.  This is a powerful educational technique. I often tell the children that if I were their track coach I’d ask them to run. I’m actually one of their reading coaches, so I ask them to read.  BTW- that is also why I send home KEEP BOOKS each week (http://www.keepbooks.org/). This gives them books they can go home and read (and reread and reread). By the end of the year each child will have a large collections of books that belong to them. For readers not familiar with keep books, they are short predictable books, published by Fountas and Pinnell. They are inexpensive and designed to be taken home and keep (hence the name!). Each student gets to pick one book each week to take home and keep.

I am using Eric Litwin’s books for the in class weekly read aloud activity because they fit what research suggests good children’s books should do. Early level children’s books should include rhythm, repetition and rhyme. Reading such books actually help to lay down the neural networks children need for reading.  Brain researchers have found that over time, wide reading actually rewires the brain in a way that helps the child understand how to read. Eric’s books are exceptional in the area of having all three of these features. I’ve found the children love them. By now most of your children have a favorite Eric Litwin book. Ask them about it. Maybe visit the library over the break and check out that book for them (or better yet, make that book one of their Christmas gifts!). The important lesson the children have learned is that all readers should find favorite authors and read lots of book by them. After the upcoming break for the holidays we’ll be looking at some other authors and encouraging children to find a favorite author of their own. Visits to the library would help with that.

  1. Children are encouraged to have conversations about books after they read them. So far, we’ve kept these initial conversations simple, what is your favorite part? What do you think might happen next? THESE CONVERSATIONS ARE NOT TREATED AS TESTS. Here is a look at conversation starters we use and conversation starters that will be adding after the break.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Conversation starters

Why are we encouraging meaningful talk after completing the story? Children need to learn that reading is more than just saying all the words right. Reading includes making sense of what was said. Having conversations with their reading partners after finishing each book helps them understand that reading is all about understanding the message of the author.  At the very end of the whole session we try to have a whole group share time where they get to talk about their books with people other than their partners.  Try talking with your child about some of the stories they’ve read using some of these conversation starters. 

The preceding description of what we do in reading club and why we do it does not include all the activities done each week. Instead I focused on the activities we do that promote wide reading and conversations around books. Experts in the reading field say such activities are crucial. To find out more of what they say you might want to download this pdf from the International Literacy Association that came out just this week:

https://www.literacyworldwide.org/docs/default-source/where-we-stand/ila-power-promise-read-alouds-independent-reading.pdf

LEADERSHIP BRIEF ILA 2018

So, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday break. I hope you encourage your child to READ FOR FUN as part of that holiday break.  I hope you will have some wonderful conversations with them about what they are reading (and what you read to them). I promise you if they apply the idea of reading like a story teller it really helps make reading fun and something they really want to do. I will leave you with a quote from another of my favorite children’s authors. Here is what Mem Fox said about reading aloud: ““When I say to a parent, “read to a child”, I don’t want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate.”

So…, be sure to share some “chocolate” with your child over the upcoming break!

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, book lover & chocolate lover)

 

P.S. If you are a visitor from the internet and liked this blog please consider following it.  Just type in your e-mail address on the sidebar of this blog post. THANKS

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.

 

Things I’ve Learned from Our Very Youngest Readers: Thoughts on My Recent Talk with Parent Educators by Dr. Sam Bommarito

READ THIS TO ME

Things I’ve Learned from Our Very Youngest Readers: Thoughts on My Recent Talk with Parent Educators by Dr. Sam Bommarito

It’s said that the very best way to learn something is to teach it. That point was reinforced for me this week as I carried out my Inservice for parent educators in a local district. A very special thanks to the folks at Rockwood Schools for giving me that opportunity. So, what did I learn?

First of all, I learned just how important the idea that reading programs should be made to fit the child not the other way round really is. Nowhere is it more critical than with our very youngest readers, our kiddos who are age birth through three. Readers? Dr. Sam really?  Kiddos that young are really readers? The answer is yes, they are. But they can’t read Dr. Sam, can they? Well if you take the very narrow view that reading is decoding, then no they can’t.  But that’s not how I learned about what reading is.

As part of my doctoral studies (this was a very long time ago) I ran the reading clinic at my university for a year.  I did this under the supervision of one of my committee members. Back then when we tested a child in reading, we tested for listening comprehension, oral reading and silent reading.  The composite of the three resulted in an overall estimate of their ability to read. So back then we viewed the overall ability to listen to and learn from a passage as part and parcel of the reading process. I still do. Reading is so much more than just decoding the message.

The recent post from the Read Aloud 15 Minutes site referenced at the start of this article makes that point crystal clear. For the youngest readers it is critical that they have the experience of hearing the story and hearing talk about the story.

Talk.

It is part of their larger experience of learning all about their world and exploring that world.  The key to this stage in the process of learning to read being successful is that the “students” gain the background knowledge Marie Clay called the Concepts About Print. Clay was a pioneer in this respect. She was among the first to realize that there is a necessary step in the reading process that comes before learning the letters and before decoding the message.  It is the step in which the reader learns how print works. In our culture, print moves from left to right. Print carries the message. You know the drill.  As I talked to the parent educators, I knew I was preaching to the choir on all those points. They knew that brain research shows the brain of a child in this age group is not ready to learn letters and sounds. See my previous blog post for details. Going through this stage lays down the neural pathways that are needed to be successful later on when the stage for more direct instruction comes, usually at age 4 or 5. That is why I cringe when I see some of the advocates of direct instruction telling parents to teach their preschooler the entire system of sounding words.  The book of one such advocate reads like a graduate level text. For toddlers? Seriously? Doing what he suggests flies in the face of current brain research and of common sense. The fact remains children need this discovery oriented, constructivist-oriented stage if they are to succeed when the time does come for direct instruction. I did remember to say “laying down the needed neural pathways” didn’t I?!?

One surprise for me is that some of the parent educators were finding that even at this stage there are sometimes “reluctant readers”.  Toddlers who don’t seem to stay interested in listening to the story for very long. Interestingly enough, one of the parent educators seemed to have provided the answer to the question of what to do.  It seems that on one of her visits, at the very moment a parent asked her about a baby not seeming interested in books that very same child picked up the board book she’d brought for the session and started playing with it. Hmmmm.  Ages and stages.  It would seem that we must be careful not to project onto children of this age the expectation that they will sit and listen to long and involved stories.  Rather we must focus on providing the experience of dealing with print and all that involves. Listen to the written word, talk about the written word. Learn to appreciate the wonders humankind created when they learned to lay down the written word so that wisdom could be passed on from generation to generation.

So for me the biggest takeaway from this session was the realization of just how smart a teaching move Marie Clay made all those years ago.  Long before brain research further validated the practice, she recognized the need to take the time to create a print rich environment and a constellation of print experiences. She laid the groundwork for giving the advice we now give to all parents of young children (birth to three).  Read to them. Talk to them about what is read. Make the reading experience positive by learning to read like a storyteller. Reread those favorite books. Just as the book I referenced at the start says “I love your voice and all that you say…”

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (a.k.a., storyteller)

Happy Holidays- and KEEP READING READING READING!

P.S. If you are a visitor from the internet and liked this blog please consider following it.  Just type in your e-mail address on the sidebar of this blog post. THANKS

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.

Tips for Parents on How to Grow Motivated Lifelong Readers by Dr. Sam Bommarito

TIps for Parent @DoctorSam7 copyright 2017

PARENT TIP SHEET

The following is based on a presentation I’m scheduled to give next week to a group of parent educators in St. Louis.  Here are some of the key ideas from that presentation.

Key Take Aways From My Presentation

  • About those reading wars: The past 50 years has seen a spirited debate on how to best teach beginning readers. This presentation is based on a balanced, middle of the road approach.  For most children phonics needs to be taught. However, there are several ways to teach phonics (see my blog posts under the categories Decoding & Phonics and Ending The Reading Wars). I argue that since research supports the position that no one beginning reading method works with every child, that the key to successful reading instruction in early reading is to match the child up with a method that works for them. Fit the program to the child not the other way round. Starting with the First Grade Studies and through the work of Dick Allington research has consistently demonstrated that teachers make more difference than any one method. This means that in-servicing teachers in a variety of methods is critical to creating successful early reading programs. Participants are cautioned to examine the claims of some successful one size fits all “reading” programs. Too often these programs based their claims on measures of decoding skills only. The proponents seem to argue that reading achievement and comprehension automatically follow once decoding skills are established. Extensive work with comprehension is delayed, often until third grade.  Teachers like myself who have worked with children who are the product of such approaches are skeptical. Too often such an approach produces “word callers”, children who decode well but don’t remember or understand what is read. These children can be mistaken for children who have learning disabilities. This presenter takes issue with any approach that fails to include meaning making as part of the reading process. I recommend an approach that teaches decoding strategies and comprehension strategies concurrently from the very beginning stages of reading instruction.
  • Ages and stages When should formal instruction on letters sounds and letter names begin, how should that be done? We will review research like that presented in http://www.theorganizedmindhq.com/reading-too-soon/?fbclid=IwAR0XtYp8TuvrDHiTclb9_J4nLI0A_-MKBw79WjAV-A6zTkTTirUznYtnrhc The conclusion is that for the early years (birth through three), it is counterproductive to try to directly teacher letter sounds and names. The brain literally isn’t ready for that yet.  The key is to use a discovery approach to learning. Parents need to create a print rich environment in which children learn all the various Concepts About Print (print carries the message, in English writing goes from left to right, et. al). At this stage it is vital that children have things read to them, talk about things that are read, hear the various sounds that make up our English language.  This work in ages birth through three lays the foundation (creates the schema) for the formal instruction about how words work, letter sounds and letter names et. al. That instruction can (and should) begin starting no sooner than age 4.  Many children will leave the early stage (birth through 3) already knowing letter sounds and names. For those who don’t, instruction in those things can be provided using method(s) that best fit each particular child.

 THE NEXT FEW SECTIONS REFERENCE THE PARENT HELPSHEET I WILL DISTRUBUTE TO THE PARTCIPANTS OF THE PRESENTATION

  •  Supporting the emergent reader- Helping them Work for WordsWORK FOR OWN WORDS

While your child is reading to you, if they are stuck on a word don’t just give them the word. Instead try to help them work it out using the tips above. If they still don’t get it, then give it to them. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many words they’ll get on their own if you just give them that first sound to start with.

Also, everyone can make mistakes on their first cold read of a passage. If the child is in the habit of noticing their mistakes and correcting them THAT IS HUGE. Encourage it whenever it happens.

  •  Supporting the emergent reader- Reading to Remember/Talking About Books

Talk to them about books

You can ask about any one of these three things (not all three at once!). Use any of these three as a starting point to talk about the book. You can also ask them about favorite characters or favorite parts or new things they learned. THIS IS NOT AN EXAM. The idea is to get them to talk about their story. Knowing that you want to talk about their book encourages them to READ TO REMEMBER!

  • Supporting the emergent reader- Learning to Book Shop/Visiting the LibraryShop for books

Shop for books by interests not by level. Help them find that series or author that they want and they may “binge read”. Binge reading beats binge watching Netflix all to pieces! If the book they want is to hard for them to decode, still check it out and read it to them. Read it more than once. Share the reading with them. Make it a goal to visit the library periodically and check out books for them, books about things they are interested in!!!

OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS

The MegaBook of Fluency

  • Reading Like a Story Teller

 Rasinski & Smith Have a wonderful book called The Megabook of Fluency. Use the EARS rubric from that book to guide you into better fluency.  Read with Expression, Automatic Word Recognition, Rhythm and Phrasing, Smoothness.  The rubric is on page 316 of the book. Also check out their help sheet about reading with expression found on page 309.  In addition to these two resources, the book has tons of other activities parents can do to help their child read with fluency (PROSODY!).

  •  Supporting the emergent reader- Parents Should Act Like Books are Important & Wonderful (Because they are!)

xmas-presents creative commons

 Books can be (and should be) presents. With Christmas coming up look over some of these suggestions for books for preschoolers and emergent readers.

https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/50-chapter-books-for-preschoolers-and-3-year-olds

https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/read-aloud-chapter-books-for-4-and-5-year-olds/

https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/funny-books-for-kids/?fbclid=IwAR3iP-h7Wbkn8vJmp2DDrIZ9bjfS9rEeNKfF8Xso3EOSAQ6RrdAt2-SYK_s

https://padlet.com/sally_donnelly/BookRecommendations?fbclid=IwAR3t_xC8n5wFt-3ARWaEAG6J9sHMHKfz3vJ5g7HmOFYJ7RlXI5DcNOi6v44

Most of these suggestions come from the website https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/aboutcontact/

I’ve found it to be an excellent site for getting literacy ideas to use with younger children.

Parents should think hard about making a book one of this year’s Christmas presents. It can be the start of a great family tradition.

MEM FOX

So…, that’s the advice I’ll be giving to parent educators about what to say to parents.  It’s advice that can set the child down the path of becoming a lifelong reader. It’s advice that’s grounded in a solid research base.  It’s advice that can give their child a world of wonderful new experiences.

Happy Holidays- and KEEP READING READING READING!

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, book shopper, advice giver, lifelong learner)

P.S. If you are a visitor from the internet and liked this blog please consider following it.  Just type in your e-mail address on the sidebar of this blog post. THANKS

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.

whatdowedoallday.com/aboutcontact

Developing the Concepts About Print Provides the Solid Foundation Early Readers Need to Become Successful Readers.  By Dr. Sam Bommarito

READ ALOUD neural networks from the Read Aloud 15 minutes website

Developing the Concepts About Print Provides the Solid Foundation Early Readers Need to Become Successful Readers.  By Dr. Sam Bommarito

In a little more than two weeks, I’ll be doing an hour long in-service for a group of parent educators from a local school district. In the way of full disclosure, my wife is among those parent educators. That fact makes me want to do an extra good job.  Thinking of what I should say to them has caused me to synthesize some views I’ve been expressing over the past few months. The core of those things is that one should fit the literacy program to the child, not the other way round. What does literacy for our very youngest children look like? What should it look like?

The topics of phonics and phonemic awareness will come up. My audience is going to want to know what to say to the parents of children ages Birth through 3 (the core group served by the Parents as Teachers program) and children 4-5, the children in preschool (some children from this group are also served, though they are not the predominant age group served).

The first thing I will tell the parent educators is that it is likely they wouldn’t be gathering for an in-service at all if it weren’t for the influence of the First Grade Studies. It’s been over 5 decades since the First Grade Studies were completed. For readers not familiar with this landmark study, the First Grade Studies compared the efficacy of the major approaches to reading of that era. Overall, they found no one approach worked best, every approach worked better when used with a phonics supplement and that teachers made more difference than methods of teaching in predicting the variance of reading achievement tests. The methods of analysis were not as sophisticated as those employed in today’s metanalysis, but these pioneering studies did have a major impact on our thinking about how to teach reading. Among the things that resulted from these studies was the conclusion that if we want to improve reading instruction for all children, we should invest in in-servicing our teachers. This makes sense. If one approach doesn’t work for a particular child, teachers would become knowledgeable in other approaches that might work for that child. The whole business of providing in depth in-service for teachers in a variety of literacy practices began with the First Grade Studies.  My own take about this point is that the education world recognized there would likely never be a one size fits all solution to the task of teaching literacy skills and strategies. So rather than promote a single method, our resources would be best used to train teachers in a variety of methods. This was based on the finding that good teachers seemed to make more difference in reading achievement than using any one particular approach or method. The First-Grade Studies are also credited with a shift from the Reading Readiness model of early reading, to today’s current model of Concepts About Print as the core of an early reading program. So what advice will I recommend these parent educators give to the parents of very young children?

First and foremost- encourage parents to create and foster a print rich environment for their children.  That means parents should be reading aloud to their children. It also means the parents should be providing that rich constellation of experiences that foster the development of the Concepts of Print. Children also need to see their parents reading and know that their parents consider reading an important life skill.  Parents need to talk about what they are reading to their children, so their children can learn how stories work. That includes talk around non-fiction and fiction (expository and narrative) works.

Currently, there are actually folks telling us to abandon the constructivist approaches often used with these youngest children and to revert back to directly teaching letter sounds and names from the very earliest of ages.  Put all the meaning making on the back burner and get the decoding skills done first. The problem is that the research seems to favor folks using approaches like Reading Recovery. Those approaches combine meaning making and decoding.  It is no accident that Marie Clay, creator of Reading Recovery is also the creator of the CAPs test. That is because CAPs form the core of her highly successful program in beginning reading.  Reading Recovery remains the most successful approach in improving reading achievement in early readers.  Readers are welcome to review the evidence I’ve compiled to demonstrate that the aforementioned conclusion is a research-based statement. The entries can be found under the Reading Recovery category on the side column of this blog.

Turning to things on the CAPS list, as children are read to, they learn important things about how print works. It is print that carries the message. In our system of reading, print moves from left to right. They learn to hear the sounds of various letters, the phonemes that are the building blocks of the written word. At this earliest stage it is not important that they be able to name particular letters and sounds (though they certainly can if they want to). Rather through listening, through talk, the child builds a background knowledge of the various sounds that are used to construct the written word. In addition to learning how words work, they also learn how stories go. They learn about beginning, middle and ends of story. They learn how some stories simply give information. They learn about the meaning carried by the print.

As children reach the age of 4 of 5 they are ready for more direct instruction in how words work. This does include phonics instruction.  But as readers can tell by reviewing my entries about phonics, there is more than one way to teach phonics.  Chief among them are analytic and synthetic phonics.  Again today there are folks who would like to ban the use of anything except synthetic phonics. That position flies in the face of decades of research demonstrating that different children learn by different methods.

I expect that most of the parent educators I will be talking to are already more than familiar with the idea of developing the Concepts About Print. In that sense I will be preaching to the choir.  But I will be making them aware that there is a large body of research supporting the kind of things the choir is doing. I also will make them aware of Rasinki’s work around fluency.  In my opinion (and the opinion of many other folks in the reading world) Rasinski is today’s foremost authority on the topic of fluency. He views prosody as much more than improving reading rate.  He wants readers to learn to read with expression. His newest book, The Megabook of Fluency contains a large number of resources to help teachers help students to obtain that end. He provides a rubric based on EARS, Expression, Automatic Word Recognition, Rhythm and Phrasing, Smoothness. The final page of his book lists 20 different strategies readers can employ to develop prosody and gives connections to pages in the book where teachers can find specific activities and resources. Rasinski views comprehension as an integral part of the reading process. For him, prosody is the gateway to comprehension. You see, for a reader to understand what voice a character might use, what the characters might sound like, the reader must first develop a basic understanding of the story as it develops. Readers who understand the story also understand when the story calls for an excited voice, a worried voice a happy voice et. al. This is another approach to teaching beginning reading that embraces the idea the meaning making and encoding are entwined (and should be entwined) from the very earliest states of learning to read.

So, that is the foundational work I’ll be calling to the Parent Educator’s attention. Job one for kids birth through three is to promote a set of experiences that promote all the Concepts About Print.  Readers are invited to notice the impact that reading the right kind of books at this early age can have.  My friend Eric Litwin talks about how his books do exactly that in a comment you can now find at the end of this post. I have to say that I agree that his books are among those I would use as read alouds for children birth to three in order to provide them with the rhythm,  repetition and rhyme they need to hear in order to lay down the neural networks they will need.  His books are also easy to talk about (and worth talking about). Talking about books after reading to children is a habit every parent of the youngest children should get into. Next week I will turn to some of the specific parent help sheets and ideas I’ve found on how parents can grow lifelong readers. These are readers that want to read. These are readers who understand from the outset, that reading is all about meaning making. More about that next week.

So until next week, this is Dr. Sam signing off.

Dr Sam Bommarito (aka, the CAPS guy, aka the reading is meaning making guy)

P.S. The study that came to be known as “The First Grade Studies” was done by Bond and Dykstra in 1967.  It appeared in RRQ (see screen capture below).  It has been the subject of a great deal of analysis and commentary including a special edition of RRQ in 1997 that marked the  30 year anniversary of the publication of the study.

Screen Capture 1st grade studies

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any particular group or organization. 

 

A Happy Thanksgiving to All My Readers by Dr. Sam Bommarito

 

thanksgiving-1 Public Domain

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!

It’s been a wonderful year and I have many things to be thankful for. From a personal standpoint I have my friends and family and share many wonderful things with them. Most recently was the annual Bommarito “Pie Day”. This year we made 10 pies. The grand kids helped. The pies will be used today  at the various Thanksgiving feasts attended by my grown children- including one being held at my house later today. See my Facebook page for pics.

From a professional standpoint things are going well. I’m happily flunking retirement (what did he just say?). I officially retired from full time teaching 3 years ago after a teaching career that began in 1970.  It’s still not over. I do volunteer work in an after-school program, help with the book giveaway programs, (one of them reaches ¼ million books to Title one children this year), make presentations at conferences and I belong to both NCTE and ILA.  I’m president of my local ILA group and will become Chairman of the State ILA group next year (darn they changed the title from President to Chairman). Our local ILA group is quite active and has 4 speakers a year. I started this blog 10 months ago and made MANY new friends. Thanks to all of them for their ongoing support and encouragement.  I’ve had nearly 10,000 views since starting and now have almost 1,200 subscribers (includes Word Press and Twitter). In the next few months my readers should expect blog entries and tweets around topics I’ve been presenting on at conferences. Also expect a series of blogs over the whole issue of bringing JOY and MEANING back into the teaching of reading, especially in the earliest grade.

I’m a newbie when it comes to WordPress. Readers please be patient.  Recently I learned how to add a spot for comments (PLEASE DO COMMENT, IT KEEPS THINGS INTERESTING AND INFORMATIVE).  On the sidebar there is now a place to subscribe (PLEASE DO IF YOU ARE “JUST VISITING”), and I’ve developed a place for categories (especially look at the entries around Reading Recovery- those have gotten the most reads so far).  For anyone new to the blog I join other friends who strongly support that wonderful program, and who have learned much from it over the years. More about that in future blogs.

So…., hope this Thanksgiving finds you well and enjoying things with friends and family. Remember to give thanks for all the wonderful things in your life.  I’ll be resuming the regular blog entries next week. In the meantime, eat Turkey have some pie and cherish the amazing moments I know you all are sharing today.

 

Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka a very lucky and very thankful person!)

GOBBLE GOBBLE

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.

 

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks- My Take on What Brain Research Says About Reading as a Meaning Making Process by Dr. Sam Bommarito

 

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks- My Take on What Brain Research Says About Reading as a Meaning Making Process

by

Dr. Sam Bommarito

1280px-Brain_diagram_fr Creative Common

 

I started teaching in 1970. Even though I’m “retired” I often joke that I am flunking retirement because I still do a such a wide variety of literacy activities. For instance, I write this weekly blog.  I work in an after-school program. I speak at various conferences. For the past several years I have taken part in BTAP, a program carried out by Harris Stowe University which is designed to train beginning teachers in the St. Louis public schools. I’ve written in this blog about my participation in various book give away programs. In addition, for the past three years I have been Co-Editor of the state’s professional reading journal. Throughout all this I try to keep current on what’s going on the world of literacy and education. Toward that end I am taking a three-part seminar that explores the implications of brain research for informing us about how children learn.  The course is called Teaching That Sticks: How to Teach so Students Actually Learn. It is being conducted by Willy Wood.

Willy Wood has long been an important fixture on our state’s literacy scene. He is the President of Open Mind Technologies and Educational Solutions International (https://www.willywoodteaching.comhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/willy-wood-81523620/)For a long time, his organization has implemented two annual conferences. One is the Missouri Early Learning Conference. That is the very same conference where Bill and I finally met Mary Howard face to face just last week. Mary did an extraordinary job of talking about RTI and guided reading.  The other is the annual Write to Learn conference. This is the very same conference where I first met Eric Litwin as he conducted a full day preconference session on using music in teaching literacy. In the way of full disclosure, the Missouri Literacy Association (an ILA affiliate) is one of the sponsors of each of these events. I am the president elect of that organization. In addition to organizing these conferences Willy also does presentations/keynotes all around the country on the topic of brain research.  From time to time he also does seminars like the one I am attending.  Participants in my session include a University Professor who teaches reading to pre-service teachers, classroom teachers, reading specialists, reading coaches and even a couple of math teachers.   The seminar is proving to be a worthwhile experience.

I’m learning a lot during his sessions.  Willy is going over the basic nuts and bolts of what brain research can teach us about how students learn and how we can use that knowledge to improve our own instruction. I’m learning about how short-term and long-term memory works. This is crucial, since the brain seems to be designed to forget much of what we take in, often within 24 hours of our first encountering it.  The trick for long-term learning is to get things we want students to retain to move from their short-term memory into their long-term memory. Willy was quite adept at doing this. For instance, he showed us a method for remembering a random list of 20 facts. He used a technique called pegboard. It really worked. By the end of the second class I was able to easily remember 10 facts. Please keep in mind I have long had the reputation of being the quintessential absent-minded professor, so for that method to work that quickly on me was truly amazing.  Some of my classmates were able to consistently remember all 20 facts. This was at the end of a single session. Impressive. However, there is much more to this seminar than simple memory tricks.  I relay this example to you simply to show the power of applying the principles of what he is teaching.

The aha moment for me as a reading teacher came when he started talking about what brain research shows about how we learn. We learn by tying the new to the old. This was the very same conclusion reached by advocates of the meta-cognitive theory.  What is different about this iteration is that brain researchers have actually started learning about where things are stored in the brain by directly observing brain activity.  This was the stuff of science fiction when I was growing up. Now it is a routine part of scientific research.  I believe that brain research clearly demonstrates that those of us who have been saying that building background knowledge and experience (please think- the Concepts About Print), were very much on the right track. My conclusion is that the sound symbol knowledge that some of my colleagues are so concerned about lately can’t happen until and unless the early learner first has a solid background in hearing the sounds, print experience and how print work.  Marie Clay was right about what she did in Reading Recovery. Perhaps that is why Reading Recovery remains the most effective early reading intervention currently available. I think of it as the bumble bee of the literary world. According to some theories the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly.  But they do. As a matter of fact, this bumble bee of the literary world flies better than any of the programs its critics recommend.  See my blog post https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/08/10/why-i-like-reading-recovery-and-what-we-can-learn-from-it-by-dr-sam-bommarito/ for the data that demonstrates that this is a research-based statement.

Another thing Willy demonstrated that has important implications for reading and reading instruction is the fact that we remember things best when they are learned in a meaning-based context. He divided our class into two groups. Both were given a memory task.  One was structured so the group was given the information in a meaningful context. The other was structured so that the very same information was given but given as isolated fact. The meaning-based group outperformed the isolated fact group by a factor of more than two to one. Willy then explained that there is a large body of research indicating that things learned in a meaningful context are much more likely to be remembered (Teaching That Sticks). That research-based fact makes me think that those of us that maintain that reading first and foremost is a meaning making process are on the right track.  It helps to explain why in my own experience, children who learn sight words via wide reading, or using things like Rasinski’s Fry Phrases (high frequency word presented in a phrase rather than a single word) learn their sight words much better/faster than students using the flash card method.

By now the reader is aware of where I am going with this.  Over-emphasizing breaking the code may produce good word callers. Check the “tests” advocates of such approaches use and you’ll find they are primarily tests of decoding, not of meaning making or reading achievement.  Add the element of meaning making, as Reading Recovery does, and suddenly you have an approach that measures well on both decoding and meaning making. It raises reading achievement. For my money raising reading achievement (INCLUDING COMPREHENSION!!!!) is the gold standard for judging the effectiveness of reading programs. What I’m learning from the brain research folks seems to support what the advocates of the position that reading is fundamentally about meaning making have been saying for several decades now.  In my opinion, there really is a very strong research base for the notion that reading is fundamentally a meaning making process,  In short, that position is very much a research-based position.

So, those are some of the aha moments I had during this seminar on brain research. Until next week, this is Dr. B. signing off

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka firm believer in the position that reading is fundamentally a meaning making process)

P.S. If you are a visitor from the internet and liked this blog please consider following it.  Just type in your e-mail address on the sidebar on the blog post. THANKS

Dr. B.

 

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.

What I Learned from Reading Recovery and How It Helped to Inform my Classroom Practices (a repost of an important blog) by Dr. Sam Bommarito

 

by Dr. Sam Bommarito

This week I’ll be presenting at the Missouri Early Learning Conference. I’ll also be attending a keynote by Mary Howard who will also be at that conference. Really looking forward to both things. So, for this week I’m reposting a blog entry that set a personal record for me, over 1000 views. It’s about reading recovery. Hope you enjoy it (again!).

I’ll begin by saying what this blog entry is not about.  It’s not about trying to move Reading Recovery practices directly into the classroom or to create some pseudo Reading Recovery program. As I said in an earlier blog if you want Reading Recovery like results, then get your teachers trained by certified RR trainers and implement RR with fidelity. This blog entry is about following the advice I received at my very first RR conference. Before trying to move any Reading Recovery practice into the classroom, first visit the theory behind the practice and then adapt the practice classroom setting.

Like Dr. Mary Howard and many others, I mark my career in two parts, how I taught before my recovery training and how I teach now. What now follows are reflections on some of the most important takeaways I have from RR. They are things have helped me become a better teacher and a better teacher of teachers.

Takeaway one- I learned to be a kid watcher and to make effective use of my knowledge of the three cuing systems. Fit the program to the child, not the other way round.

Yetta Goodman coined the term kid watcher and laid the foundations for the science of miscue analysis. Her initial observation was simple but profound.  You can’t read a child’s mind. So, you can’t directly see how a child is thinking and problem solving as they read. You can however observe the child’s actions as they read.  By seeing what the child is trying (or not trying) as they problem solve their words you can get a sense of what strategies the child is (or is not) using as they read.  Quite a number of years ago at a Mid Missouri TAWL conference, Yetta reported that Marie Clay and her husband Ken Goodman concurrently came up with the idea of using the three cueing systems. Ken used the names given to the three cueing systems by his chosen field of linguistics. They were Semantic, Syntactic and Grapho-phonemic. Concurrently Marie Clay began looking at what I think are the very same three cueing systems naming them Meaning, Structural, and Visual. Both Clay and Goodman used the notion of miscue analysis.  By looking at what cueing system the child was using when making an “error”, one can tell which (if any) of the three cueing systems the child was using. So, for Clay and Goodman, errors were not really errors at all. They were attempts to use the cueing systems that misfired. Hence the name miscue.

By systematically recording which cueing system (if any) the child was using when their attempt misfired (miscue), teachers can glean a lot of information on what the child is attempting to do as they problem solve their words. Teachers can also tell whether the child is crosschecking, i.e. using more than one of the cueing systems at the same time.  Suddenly teachers could know what the child was thinking as they problem solved their words. By careful observation and record keeping (especially the use of running records) teachers can get ideas on what the child needs to learn to make a balanced use of all three cueing systems. Our field abounds with excellent sources on how to make use of this incredibly valuable information.  It seems to me that by using this information teachers can become mind readers after all!!

Takeaway two- I learned how to prompt and most importantly learn how to prompt near point of error.

F & P and Calkins have written extensively about prompting. F & P even have charts and apps to help the teacher to know what to say.  Key prompts for problem solving words would include- Does that look right? (does it look like the word you just said), Does it sound right? (is that syntactically correct, is that the way we usually talk), Does it make sense? (does what you just said make sense, fit how the story is going?). Prompting to crosscheck includes calling attention to the cues not used. For instance, if a child says a word that fit the picture but did not fit the letters in the word you might say “What you said makes sense, but does it start with the right letter? What word would also make sense but start with this letter <point to the letter, maybe even say the letter sound>.  There are a host of other ways to prompt, including prompts to help comprehension, but right now I’m focusing on prompts for problem solving words.

It is crucial that prompts be done NEAR point of error, not AT point of error. That means waiting. Wait to see if the child self corrects on their own.  That means, when possible, you must allow the child to read past the error. Praise the child if they spontaneously correct the error (I like the way you fixed that!!!) Early in my training I learned that encouraging self-correction is GOLD.  For many children, when they start self-correcting, that is the turning point in their ability to read and to learn new words from when the read.  That is why determining self-correction rate is one of the things we include on the running record form.

There is a major problem in using prompting routinely in the classroom.  It is best used one on one. It is best used in that teachable moment when a child makes a miscue. How can one have a significant number of such moments in a regular classroom setting?  One answer I learned that increases the number of those teachable moments is to use staggered starts when doing small group reading. Here is how that works. Do your usual introduction/teaching point in your small group. Then announce that today we are using staggered starts in this group. The first time you use staggered starts you will have to take extra time to explain it. After using it a couple of time, most groups learn what is involved. DON’T OVER USE IT. Use it when you need more teachable moments in selected small groups. These are the groups whose members included children that need more work on problem solving their words. Here are the steps:

  1. Each child learns they are not to start reading until you say. When they read, they are to read aloud in a whisper voice. I have them use whisper readers (see picture). I sometimes face them in different directions. Both these teaching moves are designed to lessen the effect of having everyone read at once.
  2. Let the children know that once everyone is reading you will come around to work with some students individually. Let them know that EVENTUALLY everyone will get a turn, but it might take more than one session to do that. Also let them know that if the finish the story they are to IMMEDIATELY start from the start and read it again (and again, and again). They don’t stop reading until you say.
  3. Once all the children in the group are reading (I recommend using a group of 3-5), you are then free to circulate and sit in with selected children. I usually don’t do every child every time. BTY, besides getting in my chance to prompt with selected student, I sometimes use this same technique to get in a teaching conference with selected students. DON’T OVERUSE THIS, but it can be handy in a pinch!
  4. BOOK SELECTION IS CRITICAL FOR THIS TO WORK. Pick an instructional level text where the students are likely to make several miscues.  If there is a sound you are especially concerned with, pick a text that uses that sound a lot.  I use both predictable and decodable books during such lessons.
  5. You can stop circulating any time after you are sure that every student has been through the story at least once.
  6. Once you say stop, continue with the lesson as usual.Whisper Read Phones Free to Use Image

I’ll say this one more time. DON’T OVERUSE THIS. Use it when you genuinely need to do some one-on- one-word work with selected students who are having exceptional difficulty with problem solving their words.

Take away three- I learned to help kids write their way into reading. Doing the Elkonin boxes and writing short phrases was a powerful part of my recovery lessons. The general principal here is to sometimes let the kids write using the high frequency words they need to know. I currently use Rasinski’s Fry List phrases http://www.timrasinski.com/presentations/fry_600_instant_phrases.pdf. I ask them to copy a phrase and then write more about it.  I also do whole group story writing where I have selected Fry list words (or Dolch list words) posted on a chart and then and ask them to join me writing something using as many of those words as possible. This can be followed by them writing stories on their own, again trying to use some of the high frequency words in the story. This is not the only writing the kids do, but it is writing that helps build their sight word knowledge.

Takeaway four– I learned the value of observation as a part of ongoing assessment.  I think that today we over test and underteach. Constant summative assessments take away from teaching time. They can become counterproductive. Think about it. If you spend most of your time doing summative assessments eventually what you will find is that since you have not taken the time to teach something new, your students are not growing as readers (or writers). Now that I’ve had my chance to vent a little, lets be clear that assessment is necessary.  As a recovery teacher I learned that authentic ongoing assessment can be a very powerful tool. There are “assessments” that are not paper and pencil tests. They are instead rooted in careful and systematic observations.

I was brought into the world of workshop teaching, kicking and screaming. At first, I thought it would turn out to be a waste of time. Found out instead it was a way to become the ultimate kid watcher. It led to my learning to do systematic observations that became defacto ongoing assessments. It has become second nature to my teaching. F & P, Calkins, and Serravallo all have written extensively about how to systematically gather information about your students and to use that information to inform your teaching in a workshop setting. RR was my first experience in doing this. It made me more open and understanding about doing this when I did my workshop training.

There are many other takeaways from RR, takeaways I had as a teacher that I adapted into classroom use. I just gave my top four. I would love to hear from other RR teachers about their takeaways from RR, and how what they learned help to improve their classroom teaching. Please do chime in and make some comments!

So, until next week this is Dr. B. signing off,

 

Happy Reading and Writing

 

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito, (a.k.a., the Kidwatcher)

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito who is solely responsible for it’s content

Please also visit my post about what my readers had to say about the profound impact reading recovery has had on their teaching:

https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/08/16/a-message-to-reading-recovery-teachers-everywhere-well-done-by-dr-sam-bommarito/