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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!)

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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.

 

Blast from the Past: Dr. B’s Cat on the Mat Song By Dr. Sam Bommarito

Blast from the Past: Dr. B’s Cat on the Mat Song

By Dr. Sam Bommarito

 

As my regular readers know I’ve been looking for things to help my after-school reading club. The club consists of a total of twenty 1st and 2nd graders. It meets once a week. It serves as a supplement to the regular reading program.  We always work on both comprehension and fluency/decoding.  I’m trying to include both analytic and synthetic phonics in what we do along with a strong message of “lets read (and sing) like a story teller”. While looking for materials to use with them,  I ran across a fluency song I wrote way back in 1999. It has a foundation in analytic phonics and it is a takeoff on Brian Wildsmith’s the famous Cat on the Mat book. Let’s first talk about that book and why I like it so much.

The Cat On The Mat By Brian Wildsmith

In my first year of teaching reading recovery this was one of the books I learned about when I visited another recovery teacher to observe a lesson behind the glass.  The book came up again while I was at a summer institute at Teacher’s College.  The staff was at Teacher’s College was abuzz about the fact that the previous summer Fountas (of F&P fame) had come to visit. She did some model lessons for the staff. It seems that she would go to the classroom library to pick out a book around to build a lesson. The staff quickly noticed that this particular book was one she picked multiple times. The story line of the book goes like this. At first the cat is very happy (see that smile on the front cover?). Then various animals come to sit on the mat. This sets up predictable sentences like “The cow sat on the mat.”; “The horse sat on the mat”.  As the mat gets crowded the cats face changes from happy, to upset and finally an “enough is enough” stage.  The cat says “Spsssst”.  All the animals leave.   The final page shows the cat, smiling once more, with the closing sentence “The cat aat on the mat”.  This book became my “touchstone/anchor text/exemplar for what a good predictable book should include.  It used repeated phrases with the new word at the end of each phrase supported by a strong meaning clue ( e.g. the picture of the cow or horse or … ).  The book had a genuine story to it. By the way that is  sets apart a poorly written predictable stories like “Tan Dan ran to the van to get the fan. He ran and ran and ran”. Tan Dan & company cannot begin to compete with well-crafted books like this one. In sum, an important part of a well written predictable book is that  has more than predictable language supported by meaning clues. A good predictable book also has a story line and/or teaches a lesson.  Very often predictable book have a surprise at the end. That is why I like this particular book and why I like the predicable books of authors like Eric Litwin or Joy Cowley (BTW she is the master of the surprise endings).  THEIR BOOKS (AND SONGS) HAVE A STRONG STORYLINE AND OFTENTIMES THEY HAVE A LESSON TO BE LEARNED. Teachers looking for predictable books to use in their lessons for beginning readers should know that these are crucial things to look for in the books they choose.

Below is my attempt to do that with a song of mine own.  I used this with my first graders for a quite a number of years. Here it is:

The Cat the Mat the Rat GOOD JPG

The song contains predictable language.  The pictures at the bottom support the words cat, rat and mat.  There is definitely a lesson to be learned “caring and sharing that’s where it’s at”.  Back in the day my students were more than happy to sing this song multiple times. BTW I monitored to make sure they “matched” as they read. That way practicing the song also practiced the sight words in the song. Beats flash cards all to pieces. My current after school children also seem to enjoy this song. There’s more to come.  I promised the Reading Club we would write some of our own books as a class. We’ll project my template of publisher story book using a smart board. The kids will “share the pen” and help me fill in the pictures and text for the book. We’ll do new endings and new twists on some Joy and Eric’s books.  We might even add to the saga of the cat on the mat. In this way the book club members will be gaining the background of experience needed to eventually write some books of their own.  By Christmas we’ll pick the best of the stories we’ve written to run off and share with their respective classroom libraries. To do that, It comes in handy to have a printer that does two sided printing. Here is a link to a blank book template for publisher and to a pdf with the song. Permission to use the song in classroom settings is given. Use in commercial programs et. al. requires my prior written permission.  https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1PM16aIVAVLV-BPvgE1qmZG3hyUxisBB_?usp=sharing

To hear the song, click on the link below.

 

https://doctorsam7.blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/the-cat-the-mat-and-the-rat-by-dr-b.mp3

Notice that we clap on the line “What do you think about that?” So just like my kids from a long time ago, my kids today will be writing, and singing their way into fluency. That’s how I’m building some analytic phonics into my after-school work. That’s how I teach sight words. Repeated readings of books containing sight words does the trick every time.  Next week I’ll talk about the synthetic phonics component and my use of think alouds as I carry out the various phonics components. We’ll also review the importance of viewing  prosody as more than simple reading rate.  Until then:

 

Happy Reading and Writing.

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, I write the songs and so do my kids)

BTW- Bill Kerns and I will be leading a panel discussion at the Write to Learn Conference in St Louis. It is being held on Bill’s campus, Harris Stowe State University.  Mary Howard will be a keynote speaker on Saturday.  Please consider coming. Here is a link to information about the conference:  http://www.missouriearlylearning.com/

Early Learning

HELD AT THE WILLIAM CLAY CENTER ON THE HARRIS STOWE STATE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS

 

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.

 

 

Making use of the Resources in the Megabook of Fluency and the books and songs of Eric Litwin (Part three) By Doctor Sam Bommarito

 

MY COMPUTER & PETE THE CATMaking use of the Resources in the Megabook of Fluency and the books and songs of Eric Litwin (Part three)

By

Doctor Sam Bommarito

For the past two weeks I’ve been talking about the work I’m doing with an after-school group. The group meets for an hour each Tuesday. It is voluntary.   We call it the Reading Club.  My partner in the endeavor is the building learning specialist.  In addition to the 20 club members, who are 1st and 2nd grade students, there are also 6-7 upper grade students who come in to help with centers, paired reading et. al. For my part of the program I am using ideas drawn from the Megabook of Fluency and selected materials for Eric Litwin. Last week I focused on my use of ideas from Megabook of Fluency.  This week I’m going to talk about how I am using/will use resources from Eric Litwin and from selected web-based site to help implement that program. I’m also going to talk a little about the way I teach word strategies.

The after-school program is meant to be a supplement to the building program, not a stand- alone program.  I’m trying to motivate the students to want to read, to read with prosody and to use word strategies based on both analytic and synthetic phonics.

For the kids I talk about two different ways to figure out words. One is to “sound them out” (traditional synthetic phonics). The other is to “say the first sound and think of the clues” (my adaption of analytic phonics).  I tell them to use the one that works best for you first.  I also tell them if one way doesn’t work, try the other. I want to point out to any readers who might be nervous about my promoting “word guessing”, that in fact what I’m promoting is “educated word guessing” based on crosschecking.  Marie Clay talks about “crosschecking”, i.e. using more than one of the cueing systems concurrently.  That means making sure that the “guesses” make use the visual clue (first sound) and work with the meaning clue (picture or how the story is going).  So if the child was guessing the word “sun” for something they see in the sky, but the text actually says star I WOULD NOT accept sun. I would prompt near point of error by saying that “ ’sun’ is a very smart guess, but does sun start with the ‘st’ sound and look at that picture. What other word would work here that starts with the ‘st’ sound and goes with the picture?  (The picture, of course, is a picture of a star).

As I’ve already mentioned I picked Eric and his books for our groups first favorite author because his work incredibly motivating and it promotes the use of crosschecking as I’ve just described it. They are predictable and engaging. They often include real life lessons or teach relevant literacy lessons in an entertaining way.   Kids REALLY want to read his books. I told my kiddos that I learned that it pays to find a favorite new author from time to time. It pays to learn all about them and to read lots of their books.  I told them that for our first favorite author, the after-school group would be explore books by Eric Litwin.  I also told them if they wanted to find their own new favorite author for the year I would help with that. They know that later in the year we will all talk about our other favorite authors and pick a new author for the group to focus on after Christmas.

Eric has turned out to be a very good choice for a first author. Several of the students raised their hand when I asked if they have heard of the book Pete the Cat Book- I Love My White Shoes. I then told them that Eric had written a new book, called If You’re Groovy and You Know It Hug a Friend (https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/books/if-you-re-groovy-and-you-know-it-hug-a-friend-by-eric-litwin/)

I read/sang some of the book to them. Rather than go straight to the full book, I then used the session to practice the song “If your Happy and You Know It”.  That fit in exactly with learning to read/sing a new piece and then practice it for future performance.

Here’s how I expect this to play out over the next few weeks.  Eric’s site is a treasure trove of songs and videos (see for yourself  https://www.ericlitwin.com/).  It includes free downloads of songs and lively video renditions based on his books.  For instance, the Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes has a free download of the song.  So does his new book. I’ll be encouraging parents to let their children visit the site and listen to the songs.  I’ll also encourage them to use these books as night-time read alouds, and even let the children join in the reading.  Parents are welcome to buy them if they want, but they are also readily available at the public library. Because we meet only once a week, the VOLUNTARY performance songs/poems practice during the week (recommended by Rasinski) will be done once a month rather than weekly. I’m also trying to get permission to use one of the several programs that allow students to share videos with parents and students within the class (and only within the class). In that way their “performance” is something they can share with the whole group. There are also other things going on within reading club, especially as it relates to direct instruction in phonics & other reading skills, that I will discuss at a future date.  This includes sharing how  to “talk big about little books” .

Now I want to take a moment to talk about an important UPCOMING EVENT here in the Midwest. The Early Childhood Conference, which is usually held at Lake of the Ozarks each year is being held at Harris Stowe University in St. Louis. MARY HOWARD will be one of the keynotes.  Bill and I will be leading a panel discussion at one of the sessions. If you are in the Midwest Region please have a look at the website.

Happy Reading and Writing

 

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, big fan of Eric Litwin)

(For Visitors from Twitter and Facebook, thank for coming. You can subscribe to this blog using the subscribe button on the right hand column of this entry)

 

PLEASE USE THE LINK BELOW THE PICTURE  TO GO TO CONFERENCE SITE

Early Learning

http://www.missouriearlylearning.com/

 

 

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

 

Making use of the Resources in the Megabook of Fluency and the books and songs of Eric Litwin (Part two) by Dr. Sam Bommarito

 

The MegaBook of Fluency

Making use of the Resources in the Megabook of Fluency and the books and songs of Eric Litwin (Part two)

I mentioned last week I’m working with an after school group. The group meets for an hour each Tuesday. It is voluntary.   We call it the Reading Club.  My partner in the endeavor is the building learning specialist.  There is also a 4th grade teacher who lets me meet in her room and who also helps with the students sometime. In addition to the 20 club members, who are 1st and 2nd grade students, there are also 6-7 upper grade students who come in to help with centers, paired reading et. al. For my part of the program I am using ideas drawn from the Megabook of Fluency and selected materials for Eric Litwin. Why those choices?

Tim came to St. Louis last spring and presented to our local ILA group. He has done that a number of times over the years (thanks Tim).  I wrote a blog about his presentation last spring.

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/

During that presentation he did a wonderful job of giving his ideas about the teaching of reading. He made a strong case that the teaching of reading is BOTH art and science and told us about his newest book (co-authored with Melissa Chessman Smith) the Megabook of Fluency. He told one story that really caught my attention. It was that of a teacher who made the practicing poems/songs a daily part of her classroom routine.  Fridays were “performance” days, children to perform the things they’d been reading all week. The teacher was getting major push back about this use of time, but she persevered.  Turns out that by the end of the year her class’s reading achievement performance dramatically improved. She became teacher of the year for her state. She seemed to be on to something.

When I asked Tim if he would write a piece for our Winter 2019 issue of Missouri Reader, which will be a special issue devoted entirely to the use of poetry and song, I mentioned that I would love if he included something about that story.  He agreed to write the piece for us. I just got a copy of that piece and he did include a relevant detail about the efficacy of this particular teacher’s practices.  Here is a preview of what he had to say:

“In a recently completed study, Mackenzie Eikenberry employed the regular use of poetry in her third and fourth grade dual language classroom.     Each day students were asked to practice and then perform for classmates a new poem (or other short text) using the Fluency Development Lesson format (Rasinski, 2010).    Each poem performance was followed with brief exploration of and instruction in words from the poem. In approximately a four month implementation (less than half a school year) of poetry reading and performance Ms. Mackenzie found that her 3rd graders made over a year’s growth in reading achievement while her fourth grade students made more than three quarters of a year’s growth.

The world is indeed full of poetry.  Yet, poetry (and song) may be some of the most underutilized texts in our reading classrooms today.  Perhaps it’s time for reading educators to rethink the value and importance of these wonderful texts. “
Want to read more about this- I’ll be blogging out the Winter 2019 issue when we go live and give readers a link to that issue. Please note that the gains made were accomplished in a 4 month period. Impressive!

So, that is what I’m going to be up to with my after school students. We’ll be practicing poems and song. I’m adding the caveat of think alouds with direction instruction. More about the “why” on that next time.

My newest ideas on how to help readers, especially younger readers, get off to a good start in reading seem to be crystalizing. Allow me to think aloud with you for a moment.

  • BRING BACK NURSERY RHYMES, we don’t do that much anymore and by not doing it we rob our children of some valuable literacy foundation and background.
  • Practice nursery rhymes and other songs during the week leading to a Friday performance. Different kids different Fridays. Lots of fun reasons to reread text during the week. It makes the needed drill FUN!!!!
  • During the practice of nursery rhymes and songs, include think alouds about how words work. Include direct instruction on the sounds that letters make as part of those think a alouds
  • Provide a print rich environment in both the classroom and home. Let the kids see the grownups reading. Let the grownups also read to the kids.
  • Provide choice based on interest for the kid’s independent reading selections (or what’s being read to them). A child is not a level. Levels are a teacher’s tool for selected instruction.  Fountas and Pinnell, Burkins and Yaris, Calkins among others call for classroom libraries organized by interests not by level. GIVE THE CHILDREN CHOICE- choice is the foundation for creating lifelong readers.
  • Talk to the kids about the books, songs and poems. Who was your favorite character (storybooks)? What new thing did you learn? (non-fiction). What did you like best about the book/song/poem?
  • Find out the child’s favorite author/series and if they don’t have one scaffold them into finding one.
  • And above all, READ READ READ READ READ (you get the idea!)

So I will pick up next time and report on how it is going with the after school students and including the practice of nursery rhymes and songs. I’ll address the issue of how to make sure the sounds can be learned in a reasonable sequence. Since this is a supplement to a main program, I’ll talk about how I am attempting to support the main program of phonics the children are using.  I think you can already guess that between the poems and songs in the Megabook of Fluency, and the books/songs of Eric Litwin I anticipate having no trouble finding the materials I need to support the children in teaching specific sounds and sound symbol relations.

So until next time

 

Happy Reading and Writing.

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito,  aka the “sound man from St. Louis, advocate of  both the explicit and implicit teaching of how words work.

(Visitors from Facebook and Twitter, if you like what you’re reading please consider subscribing to the blog. THANKS! Dr. B

Rasinski, T. V. (2010).  The Fluent Reader:  Oral and silent reading strategies for building word recognition, fluency, and comprehension (2nd edition).  New York: Scholastic.

Rasinski, T. V. & Smith, M. C. (2018).  The Megabook of Fluency.   New York:  Scholastic.

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