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History in the Making Part Three: Reflections about What Research Really Says About Teaching Reading- and Why That Still Matters by Dr. Bommarito

This final installment advocates for the direct, explicit, systematic teaching of comprehension strategies

History in the Making Part Three: Reflections about What Research Really Says About Teaching Reading- and Why That Still Matters by Dr. Bommarito

For the past few weeks, I’ve talked about what Pearson, Duke, and the rest of the panel had to say in the historic session on reading research that was conducted at the ILA convention in New Orleans last month. We will now turn to what was said about comprehension. Once again, no slides to fall back on, but I still highly recommend that you review the thorough summary of the whole program found on the ILA website.

https://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2019/10/22/recapping-what-research-says?utm_source=TW-10222019&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ThisWeek&utm_content=Story-1

In the description that follows, I’ll be using these highlights, my personal notes from the session (I watched it as it was streamed live), and my review of the session from also watching the archive feed that was available for a time on the ILA website.

The ILA recap reports the following:

Tackling Reading Comprehension

There is a large body of research supporting the explicit teaching of comprehension strategies using a gradual release of responsibility model, said Duke. There’s no doubt about its importance.

“It’s as though because we think content knowledge building is so important, we’re just going to ignore three decades of research on comprehensive strategy instruction,” said Duke. “This isn’t a zero-sum game saying, ‘if you can’t attend to content, then you can’t teach comprehension strategies’ or ‘if you teach comprehension strategies, you must not be paying enough attention to vocabulary or morphology.’”

There is also concern that the literacy field is usurping content instruction in school districts. Meaning, literacy is dominating the day with some programs having curricula addressing social studies and science standards. This leaves districts feeling as if teaching both subjects are optional. This is deeply problematic, said Duke. Literacy practitioners should be advocating for science and social studies instruction.

“For too long, literacy has been a bully and pushed science and social studies off of the stage,” Pearson said in his final comments. “Literacy should be a buddy, not a bully, for science and social studies.”

 

MY REFLECTIONS: I want to address the issue of literacy pushing science and social studies off the stage.  From 1970 to 1977 I was a high school social studies teacher (minus the two years I spent in the Army- drafted, ended up a Sergeant E-5, but did not serve in a combat role). As a former social studies teacher, I am genuinely concerned that we spend enough time on the content areas. As a reading specialist/ reading staff developer I am equally concerned that we spend enough time in reading to assure, especially when students read in those content area readings, that they learn all the reading strategies needed to be successful. After my return from the service, I taught the Content Area Reading course for over a decade as an adjunct. The texts I used, various editions of Vacca and Vacca’s Content Area Reading, are a rich source of such strategies. There are others.

I think there is a have your cake and eat it too solution to the conundrum of having time enough for both reading strategies and work in the content area. I just did an in-service this summer for teachers in Houston, where I recommended that they implement a full guided reading program, not just the small group part of guided reading that many places call “guided reading.” Look at the chart in the F & P book and my post about that visit to see what I mean.

https://doctorsam7.blog/2019/08/23/musings-of-a-workshop-teacher-advice-i-just-gave-to-some-1st-grade-teachers-in-houston-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

One of the things that should happen if one does a full guided reading program is that teachers always do read aloud/think alouds in advance of the small group work, laying the groundwork for having the students try out strategies. That idea was partly inspired by the thinking of Burkins & Yaris in their book, Who’s Doing the Work?  My addition to Burkins and Yaris’s idea is the thought that the read-alouds/think alouds should include a significant number of readings from the content areas. If we did it that way significant time would be spent concurrently on both things. Right now, my “go-to” person for think alouds is Molly Ness. She was mentioned by name as members of the panel talked about the worth of the sessions on think alouds she did at the convention. Overall, I think the path of including significant amounts of content-area readings as part of the reading program is much better than the advice being offered by some that we drop the reading strategies instruction and replace it with content-area instruction and vocabulary development.

Here are some highlights about Duke’s ideas around comprehension; these are taken from one of the resources she shared at the presentation.  It outlines what she feels is needed to get students reading by third grade

LINK TO THE RESOURCE:

http://www.nasbe.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Duke_May-2019-Standard.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3rAbCUbCqja5hIDB_Eb0_g6ovTUTXVJ99JDjYp42pf-cXEuPBMQw-ukRg

 

MORE THAN DECODING WORDS DUKE

 

She then shares Box 1, which explains all the “range of knowledge, skills, and dispositions” a student needs to perform well on the state tests. Since the tests are designed to fully measure comprehension, it is also a list of the requirements for being a reader who can make meaning from what is read.

DUKE TEST

 

My reflections: There currently seems to be a movement afoot that holds comprehension concerns can be fully met by simply providing more background and vocabulary instruction/information to students. Please study Duke’s comments carefully. It takes much more than simply providing additional background and vocabulary instruction to give students what they need to perform well on the state tests.  The tests are designed to assess whether or not students can read (not simply decode). Abandon teaching reading strategies, facilitating reading attitudes, comprehension monitoring, et al. at your own risk. I’ll reinforce this observation with an excerpt from another of Duke’s documents.

https://dwwlibrary.wested.org/files/4227281.pdf

TRANSCRIPT DUKE

(Nell Duke is with the University of Michigan. The above screen capture is from the current online transcript of her video and it says Michigan State. See video for correct information)

There is a large body of evidence that spans a couple of decades demonstrating that the direct teaching of reading strategies is crucial. It is true that some teachers fail to heed the advice to “then give students lots of opportunities to practice specific reading strategies” and instead spend too much time teaching the strategy and not enough time on applying it.  That is an easily corrected problem and in no way justifies abandoning or ignoring the direct, explicit teaching of reading strategies. This is an element that is missing from many of the current approaches to comprehension being proposed by some proponents of the Science of Reading.

My advice to district administrators is to seek out programs that FULLY prepare students to do what they need to do to develop reading comprehension. Administrators should ask that before any program is adopted provides longitudinal data showing improvement in comprehension over more than one year. Improvement should be measured by FULL tests of comprehension, i.e. tests that include reading passages, questions, and writing performance. Lesser tests may do for pilots etc. But when the time comes to spend thousands (millions) on programs, I ask that administrators be sure that these programs use testing instruments that meet this gold standard. Programs that do not include the explicit systematic teaching of comprehension strategies are unlikely to provide students the array of abilities they need to comprehend what they read. At the end of the day, reading is and should be treated as a process of meaning-making.

That concludes my report on what was said at the historic session and my take on what the information reported means. In the next few weeks, I will begin reporting on what some teachers are doing vis a vis phonics instruction and fluency and look for possible points of agreement among the current views on reading. I’ll also be reporting on some very promising work my team and I are doing in the area of developing fluency using practices inspired by Dr. Tim Rasinski, a well-known expert in the area of fluency. Tim came to visit our site this week. Everyone was VERY excited. You can expect to hear all about it in future posts.

Happy Reading and Writing.

Dr. Sam Bommarito

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

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

 

 

 

 

Word Callers: The forgotten children of the great debate in reading by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Word Callers: The forgotten children of the great debate in reading by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Last week I talked about the early childhood aspects of the historic ILA session led by P.D. Pearson and Nell Duke. This week I had intended to wrap things up, focusing on the issues surrounding comprehension. I’m postponing that until next week because of some new information about word callers that I found.  It came from one of the informational pieces Nell Duke provided. I thought it was important enough to rate its own blog entry.

Regular readers of the blog know that I often try to call attention to the needs of all readers, not just those who need intense, direct, systematic phonics. You see, there are some readers for whom an intense, direct instruction synthetic phonics approach doesn’t work. They exist. I know they exist because just this morning, on a readings coach’s Facebook site, teachers were talking about such a student.  I know they exist because, over the years, I’ve had first-hand experience with some. I also know they exist because Simple View of Reading folks have never produced the “works with almost all the children almost all the time” study. (In fairness, neither have the constructivists!).

Today I want to turn my attention to another group of children whose needs are sometimes neglected and ignored. Word Callers. I know they exist. Back in the day, I worked with them in all my Title One programs.  However, when I blogged about them Science of Reading advocates were quick to discount what I had to say in those entries. They claimed I was raising a red herring, that Word Callers didn’t exist in large numbers (they only look at the ones resulting from Hyperlexia, so their count is very low), and that they couldn’t be created by programs that overemphasized decoding.

On the other hand, my own direct experience was giving me information contrary to what the Science of Reading folks were claiming. I am active in several different literacy organizations. I often talk to literacy leaders from different districts in my area. Some of them reported that they felt that, in their districts, word callers were the most significant issue. Far more of them than students who couldn’t break the code. That demonstrates that, in these places, progress is being made in teaching decoding. Frequently these were districts in which overall test scores were well above average. In the research process outlined by P.D. Pearson, when observations like that come up, it means it’s time to do some research and/or find some relevant research. Boy did I ever find some relevant research.

I found it in the article, Reading by Third Grade: How Policymakers Can Foster Early Literacy.

http://www.nasbe.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Duke_May-2019-Standard.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3rAbCUbCqja5hIDB_Eb0_g6ovTUTXVJ99JDjYp42pf-cXEuPBMQw-ukRg

READING BY THIRD GRADE

Here’s the highlight of what was said in Nell Duke’s handout that really caught my attention:

WORD CALLER COMBINE

Not only do word callers exist, but they account for a significant (my emphasis) number of those who struggle on state tests of reading. This squares perfectly with what my literacy leader friends were finding in their districts. It is very difficult to see how the simple view of reading’s current practices on how to handle comprehension can possibly provide for what these children need. Much more on that point next week.

WORD CALLERS COVER

For the moment, let’s just say these children need direct intense work in comprehension. For readers who want to read more about some research-informed things that can be done to help these students see Word Callers by Kelly B. Cartwright. Nell Duke is the editor. It is informed by research. There are 16 pages of citations at the end, from peer-reviewed journals. In personal correspondence, the author, Kelly B. Cartwright offered to provide additional research as well. The book is readily available from any number of on-line sources. It has already become one of my go-to professional books. I now keep a copy on my desk.

Next week I will return to my series about the ILA presentation. In part 3, I will address what was said about comprehension. I will discuss why comprehension, especially comprehension at the level required by state tests in reading, is not something kids can learn “naturally.” There must be direct and systematic teaching of the things needed for that level of comprehension to occur. Until then,

Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito (trying to find ways to meet the needs of ALL students in literacy)

 

 

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

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

History in the Making Part Two: Reflections about What Research Really Says About Teaching Reading- and Why That Still Matters by Dr. Bommarito

History in the Making Part Two: Reflections about What Research Really Says About Teaching Reading- and Why That Still Matters by Dr. Bommarito

Last week I gave highlights from what P.D. Pearson had to say. I shared some of the key slides from that presentation. This week I’ll talk about what Pearson and the rest of the panel had to say in the open discussion. No slides to fall back on this time, but I highly recommend a thorough summary of the whole program found on the ILA website.

https://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2019/10/22/recapping-what-research-says?utm_source=TW-10222019&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ThisWeek&utm_content=Story-1

In the description that follows, I’ll be using these highlights, my personal notes from the session, and my review of the session watching the archive feed that is currently still active on the ILA website. (I used my ILA membership’s credentials to log in to the website and then found the archive page. These archives will not be available indefinitely, so take advantage while they still are!).

The ILA recap reports the following:

According to Cabell, children start developing the skills they need for later literacy success from birth. Preschool teachers can help facilitate this at a young age by drawing children’s attention to print while they’re reading out loud, playing phonological games, and practicing writing in settings that inspire curiosity.

“Children must develop their language skills as early as possible,” said Cabell, “By the end of kindergarten children’s language skills start to stabilize. They grow in their skills, but really they are in the same place as their peers.”

MY REFLECTIONS: My wife is a parent educator, so I am very familiar with the importance of language development in the early years. I’ve presented it to her parent educator group. When I did, I promoted the idea of “Read to them, talk with them, act as if books are important-they are!”. The question came up during that session.  Can a really young child really interact with a book? One of the parent educators said “One time a Mom was wondering about that when the baby picked up the book, played with it, put it in her mouth (it was one of those you can)  and stayed engaged with it for several minutes. Guess she was meeting that book on her own terms and enjoying it!” Everyone had a good laugh about that. But the point is, if from the earliest encounters, books are treated as important to the parent then the child will usually also treat them as important. I asked them to be sure to make that point with the parents. One of Mem Fox’s famous sayings is “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.” That is from her book about how reading to a child changes lives (and it can). Parents, parent educators, and preschool teachers can all have a hand in making sure all children get their fair share of that chocolate!

I spent over three decades in Title 1 programs working with children from both rural and urban areas. These were not always children who are read to or had books in the home. The first thing to do is really very simple. Read to them, help them discover the joy and wonder books can bring. In the process, make sure they get the background they need to understand the Concepts of Print. (print carries the message, moves left to right et al.)  My Reading Recovery training was invaluable in helping me to do that as a teacher. Later on, as a staff developer, I tried to help my teachers develop that selfsame skill set. Moving on to teaching reading without first establishing the concepts about print is an exceptionally bad idea. The child needs the schema the Concepts of Print provides before moving into print instruction.

What if the parent can’t read? Linda Mitchell, a member of our local ILA group has an innovative answer to that. She tells of her own mom, who couldn’t read. Even though she couldn’t read every day, she pretended to read the paper to Linda. This taught Linda the importance of print. Linda reports that in the process of imitating, she became a reader. This led to forming the Imitation Read Metro Reach Literacy Project a project that encourages parents to read to their children. Part of what she does is to give the parents books to take home for themselves. Read all about it using these links:  https://metroeastliteracyproject.blogspot.com/p/the-imreading-initiative.html?m=1 https://vencafstl.org/event/harnessing-imitation-to-boost-reading-achievement-metro-east-literacy-project-2/

I would be remiss if I did not talk about the problem of book deserts. Book deserts are zip codes where most children don’t have books at home. There are several projects aimed at ending book deserts.

Molly Ness, the primary author of the ILA position paper on Read Alouds, has a wonderful podcast that tells of many ways that folks are currently getting books into the hands of children in the book deserts. The podcasts are more than just a report about book give away programs. They are designed to encourage the growth of even more such programs. She already has 14 podcasts online,  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/end-book-deserts/id1471803313. Have a listen to one of them, please!

Our state ILA got involved in book giveaways when the ILA Convention came to St. Louis a few years back. ILA arranged for vendors to donate the books they didn’t take home to the state ILA. We rented warehouse space with help from national. Eventually, more than 20,000 books got into the hands of children in book deserts. That figure is higher than the number of books donated by vendors. The reason is we learned the tricks of how to get even more books out from a St Louis organization known as Ready to Learn, which used the same warehouse space we did to store and process books for giveaways.

Ready to Learn has gotten over a quarter of a million books into the hands of children in book deserts, mainly those attending Title 1 schools in the Northern part of the St. Louis region. Find them on Facebook at @readytolearnstl.

St. Louis Black Authors, headed by St Louis ILA board member Julius Anthony, is also into the business of getting books into the hands of children. Read all about their Believe project using this link http://stlblackauthors.com/.  They now have five different well-stocked bookrooms designed to be a place where children can come and read books written by St. Louis Black Authors members and other culturally relevant books. One of them is at the Ferguson Community Center. They are amazing, inviting places complete with comfortable chairs et al. and meaningful murals on the wall done by local black artists.

Believe

I wrote a blog about Ready to Learn and St. Louis Black Authors a little over a year ago (before the Believe project). Here is the link https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/04/06/getting-books-into-the-hands-of-children-part-two-of-three-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

All the preceding projects speak to the issue of creating a culture of literacy inside the areas known as book deserts. I was the parent liaison for my Title 1 program (extra duty on top of teaching) for ten years. I found parents in urban areas are more than willing to get involved. We started out with 2 or 3 parents coming to our events. We ended up with 200-300 people coming. The trick was finding parent leadership and following their lead. We had ice cream socials, flashlight reads in the gym, and book exchange nights. The common thread in all this is creating a culture of literacy with the help of parents. It includes helping to make sure that children get the talk and reading experiences that build the skills Cabell talks about. It means bringing Kindergarten back to its original purpose, a Children’s Garden, where children come to learn through play. There are strong movements within the Early Childhood Community to do exactly that.  See this link to get started into exploring those movements https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/05/why-young-kids-learn-through-movement/483408/

That covers what I have to say about the early childhood part of the discussion. I focused on the need to build a culture of literacy as an important part of any literacy program. This culture of literacy helps to create the situations needed for students to get the early print experiences that are crucial for literacy development.  Next time, in part three, I will pick up the rest of the session’s discussion, especially what was said about comprehension.

Until then Happy Reading and Writing

Please remember the Reading Evolution #readingevolution1 https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/03/16/a-call-for-a-reading-evolution-no-its-not-typo-i-mean-evolution-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

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

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

History in the Making Part One: Reflections about What Research Really Says About Reaching Reading- and Why That Still Matters by Dr. Bommarito

History in the Making Part One: Reflections about What Research Really Says About Reaching Reading- and Why That Still Matters by Dr. Bommarito

 

Last Saturday, at the ILA Convention in New Orleans, there was a historic session about research in the field of reading. Panel members included P.D. Pearson, who created the model of gradual release and literally changed the face of reading comprehension in reading; Nell Duke, a no-nonsense, let the chips fall where they may reading researcher; Sonia Cabel from the Florida Center of Reading Research, a place that provides materials and research that are used widely throughout the literacy world  and Gwendolyn Thompson whose research focuses on identifying effective ways to negotiate the cultural borders between various learning environments,  including urban classrooms and the African American Church, homes.

The first blog entry on this topic will focus on some of the things Dr. Pearson had to say about research in reading and my reflections on them. Here are screen captures of the first slide entries to consider:

P.D. Rule 1

P.D. RULE 2

Some slides related to these two slides:

HEADLINE

PD PROBLEM

 

 

MY REFLECTIONS: I’ve reported in this blog on numerous occasions that SOME science of learning advocates try to pass off gains on decoding measures as gains of comprehension.  Whether it be the word lists of pseudowords that Pearson references, or test results using measures like the Dibels, the NRP made it quite clear that gains in decoding do not automatically result in gains in comprehension. That is why I recommend that district leaders look for the ability to produce multi-year gains in comprehension, as measured by comprehension tests, before adopting any materials or programs. This is true whether they come from SoR advocates or advocates of constructivist practices.

Pearson cites the 18 hours of phonemic awareness instruction the NRP indicates needed, to what actually goes on in some kindergarten classes. In previous blogs, I’ve talked about Dr. Tim Shanahan’s assessment of the two years of exclusive work in decodable books called for by some Science of Reading advocates is excessive and not supported by the research. Remember that time is a finite thing in classroom instruction and using more time than needed on one kind of instruction results in other forms of instruction suffering.  I must point out that later in this presentation Nell Duke did say that use decodable books was the educational practice most supported by current research. The crux of my comment is, let’s not overdo the use of them.

PD RULE 3

RULE 4

Slides related to rules 3 & 4

HEADLINE

PD PROBLEM

MY REFLECTIONS: As indicated in the screen captures Pearson says, “Experiments and RCT yes, but in any scientific endeavor, RCTs are the last 5% of the research journey. Behind is a lot more.” I can’t tell you how many times in my various conversations in cyberspace after bringing up various research results. I’ve been told that’s not a Random Sample design, so I’m going to discount it. It seems many Science of Reading folks are trained to give that response. In their minds any qualitative data is useless. I would point out that many qualitative studies, by using non-parametric statistics, can and do produce results that can be shown to beat chance. Close and personal Ethnography also has a place according to Pearson. As he says, “When you invite the research family to the policy table, you invite them all, even the cousins you’d rather not talk to.” My opinion is that limiting research so that only RCT designs are allowed cuts our research journey short and can result in stagnation rather than progress in the pursuit of reading  research. I’ll be using the ideas Dr. Pearson gave in this part of the presentation to respond next time someone takes the RTC only stance in one of my cyberspace conversations (Thanks David!!!).

The final two rules:

RULE 5

RULE 6

 

MY REFLECTIONS: The best (worst?) example of cherry-picking I can think of is Dykstra’s “punch you in the nose” video that many Science of Reading advocates find so enthralling.  Aside from the lack of professionalism demonstrated by his taking the “punch you in the nose” stance, there is a complete misrepresentation of the facts surrounding how the history of reading went. His version goes like this.  Whole language folks weren’t doing phonics. After it became clear phonics were necessary, they finally relented and adopted some weak forms of phonics that still don’t get the job done. This, of course, fits nicely in promoting the thought that his preferred form of instruction, direct intense synthetics phonics, should be adopted. It makes for a great public relations campaign and seems to have been widely picked up by the media. The problem is when you look at histories of reading found in books where the history of reading is written by folks with actual credentials in reading (Dykstra freely admits he has none), that this sequence of events is nowhere to be found.

First, whole language advocates have long embraced analytic phonics. I was present at the ILA Hall of Fame presentation in 1995, where Ken Goodman said exactly that. Second, analytic phonics is not a “weak sister” form of phonics. The NRP concluded long ago that systematic phonics works best. Tim Shanahan is fond of pointing our that the NRP said systematic (not synthetic). Both synthetic and analytic phonics were found to work if done systematically.  The almost total reliance on directly taught synthetic phonics that seems to be the cornerstone of the Science of Reading movement simply isn’t justified by the facts. Research indicates that there is a place, an important place, for analytic phonics.  This fact seems to have been completely lost in the most recent media coverage of the whole issue of how to teach reading. Pearson also points out that the original research on phonics was done in a setting that included much more than simply synthetic phonics. Again the recent media coverage seems to ignore most of these other things.

I also make the point that Science of Reading folks claim that Whole Language/Balanced Literacy (they incorrectly treat them as the same) has completely failed. They say this is so because what we are doing now isn’t working. I have no argument with the thought that what we are doing now isn’t working. However, what we are doing now includes districts that are doing WL and/or BL without fidelity to best practices in those approaches. It includes districts that have no real approach at all. It also includes districts that are using the practices advocated by Science of Reading folks. When I make that last point, I’m instantly told that I should draw a sample of just those districts and see how they are doing. Point taken. However, that means that before Science of Reading folks claim that Whole Language or Balanced Literacy (or my preferred term, districts using constructivist practices) have completely failed, they need to base that on a scientifically drawn sample of districts using those practices with fidelity. Because both WL and BL are umbrella terms, meaning different things to different people, I advocate for looking at the specific constructivist practices involved rather than using the umbrella terms. In any event, SoR folks must produce studies of districts based on a scientific sample of districts using such practices with fidelity and failing before claiming that those practices are failing. Given the results of things like the recent preliminary study of workshop teaching in New York (small N, but a larger study is in the works) and other similar studies, it is highly unlikely they will be able to make that case. Also- if they are going to act like their methods work with everyone, then they also need to produce studies that show their systematic phonics approach works with almost every child almost every time. I’m often told when demanding such proof that nothing works with almost every child every time. Point taken.  So SoR folks need to admit there are children who need something other than systematic synthetic phonics instruction to succeed. The needs of such children need to be addressed.  In my almost 50 years of teaching, I’ve encountered many such children (and successfully provided the needed alternative instruction).

COMING UP:  So far, I’ve only reported and reflected on what P.D. Pearson said.  In my upcoming blog entries, I will be talking about the ramifications of what was said by the rest of the panel. I will also explore the notion that, given the right conditions, we might be able to start a dialogue rather than a debate around these literacy issues. This fits in with Pearson’s idea of bringing everyone to the table. For readers unfamiliar with my call for a Reading Evolution #readingevolution1, here is a link to the blog where I first proposed that idea: https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/03/16/a-call-for-a-reading-evolution-no-its-not-typo-i-mean-evolution-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

 

Until next week, Happy Reading and Writing

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito

P.S. I want to give a GIANT shout out to the ILA for making this session (and many others) available on a live feed. I’ve been an ILA member since 1985 (back then it was called the IRA). I’ve been to many of the conventions, even presented at some, but I was unable to attend this one. Live streaming made it possible for me and others like me to see this event first-hand. So, THANK YOU ILA. I hope this becomes a permanent feature of future conventions. I also want to remind readers that while I am a member and an officer in my state’s ILA, the views expressed in the blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the ILA or any other group. See my disclaimer below.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The teaching of reading as both science and art a report/evaluation of Rasinki’s presentation in St Louis by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Today’s blog is a repost of a blog from 2018. In it, I describe the ideas of Dr. Tim Rasinski around the whole issue of what research in reading should look like. In light of the historic ILA session about the research in reading about to happen this weekend, I thought it would be good to remind my readers that there are well-founded points of view about the teaching of reading that include the thought that it is both an art and a science. I found Rasinski’s ideas and actions around this thought well developed and useful. I’m using them with great success in my weekly push in’s in the school where I currently volunteer (see my blog from last week for details). Kids and teachers alike love to do the daily repeated readings and the periodic performance of those readings.  I’m rather sure the end result this year will be kids who read like storytellers. This, in turn, will lead to kids who also become lifelong readers because of the love of reading fostered by these practices. All this is a direct result of teaching reading as both an art and a science. It is a practice I highly recommend.

Dr. Sam Bommarito, Oct 10, 2019

Capture

The above quote from Diane Ravitch is taken from the Rasinski’s presentation in St. Louis at our local ILA’s spring banquet. Last week I promised to tell you more about it.  Here goes! As I proceed, I will try to make it clear which part of what is said is Rasinski’s and which parts are my reactions or comments on what he said. As you could tell from my remarks last week I found his presentation to be enlightening, empowering and encouraging.

During his presentation, Rasinski made it clear that the teaching of reading is, and should be, a science.  He gave many details about this. However, he also feels the teaching of reading is also an art and that there are many benefits to treating it as an art as well as a science. Let’s talk about why he feels that way.

Great Minds

As illustrated by his slide about Albert Einstein, he talked about the many great minds over the years who recognized the importance of art. Others he mentioned included the Dalai Lama and Steve Jobs

Rasinski maintains that treating the teaching of reading as art can raise the level of performance of students. Look at his take on Bloom’s Taxonomy:

Going Beyond Evaluate

My take on this rendition of Blooms is that when you use an approach to the teaching of reading that is based on both art and science, you raise the level of student performance.  When students are allowed the time to create things of their own, they are going beyond what they already know (Rasinski’s words).  They are adding new things to the base of human knowledge. In short, they are performing at a higher level than before.

There are unintended consequences to the “All Science” approach to reading.  Rasinski shared the example of what it’s like to read a decodable text about the “ag” family.  He used the decodable book, Mr. Zag. Rasinski asked, is this science?  His answer was yes. Is it art? His answer was no. Is it engaging? My answer is no. As I thought about this example, it becomes apparent there while the text was read; it’s content was at the very lowest levels of blooms (e.g. Mr. Zag saw a bag with a tag). The text did not require the student to perform at a high level.  It did not require students to think except at the very lowest levels of Blooms.  I anticipated that his next few slides would show us examples of ways to accomplish the very same task (teach the ag family) but do it in an artful way- a way that would engage students and require them to perform at a high level of thinking.  That is exactly what he did. Poetry was involved.

This brings us to the centerpiece of his presentation, his new book, which is entitled the Megabook of Fluency. The book is exactly that. It is organized around his prosody factors (EARS). E is for Expression, A is for Automatic Word Recognition, R is for Rhythm, and Phrasing and S is for smoothness, fixing mistakes. Rubrics based on these factors are available in the book and are written on a variety of levels including one for 6-8.  So, this book isn’t just for the primary grades; it’s content and suggestions include ideas and activities for all grade levels PP-8.  For a list of all the strategies in the book organized by EARS skills, the reader can go to https://www.scholastic.com/pro/TheMegabookOfFluency.html.

This link is for people who own the book. You can use information from the book to get the password for this link.

It was in this part of the presentation that Rasinski told the story I mentioned last week. It was the story of a new primary teacher who used the strategy of having children practice reading poetry for four days of the week in preparation for performing those poems on Friday.  Despite push back about “wasting” instructional time, she continued to do that. By the end of the year, her first grades were performing significantly higher on reading tests. She replicated those results the next year and became the teacher of the year for her state. The book gave several more examples of other teachers in other grade levels having similar success.

By now, my readers can guess the book contains a treasure trove of ideas and resources. There are many activities that take advantage of original sources, including a variety of songs like It’s a Grand Old Flag, primary source texts like Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, poems like Paul Revere’s Ride, and of course children’s nursery rhymes.  I mentioned those nursery rhymes last on purpose. That is because I want to emphasize that this book is not just for primary students.  Students in the middle grades can also benefit from instruction in prosody. Rasinski asked what would happen if we had students practice and then perform such historic and artful texts? I think part of what would happen is that through use of primary sources teachers would include both science and social studies content within their literacy block. This, in turn, would enhance both their literacy scores and their science and social studies scores.  The book also includes materials on how to teach comprehension artfully.  Based on the examples Tim gave during the presentation, this is done with materials that students would find engaging.  It would be done in a way that allows students to perform at the highest levels of Blooms.

As I just indicated, the activities in his book are not just about helping students get better at decoding. Remember last week when I said that during parts of the presentation, I felt like I was in a seminar on writing workshop? That is because Rasinski talked about how students used some of the poems and primary source pieces as a source of inspiration for writing their own works. He showed examples of student writing. Hmm. Students writing their own poetry, scaffolded by reading poems from this book or other sources.  What a great idea for poetry month! Might I ask on what performance level students would be working? That would be the level that comes after Bloom’s evaluation level, creating! Ideas for poetry lessons based on Tim’s book can be found at POETRY LESSON PDF

Ok, is all this real science? Rasinski makes a case that it is. Look at his example, summarizing the impact of deep repeated reading:

Deep Repeated Reading

Example A demonstrates that performance improved over several rereads. Notice the big red arrows when doing the next set of rereads (B) and yet another set of rereads (C). They are there to call your attention to the fact that the improved performance with the first set (A), results in the reader starting on the second set at a higher level, and this phenomenon is repeated on the third set. That means the skills gained in the first performance carried over to future performances. Rasinski says that’s science! I concur.

Rasinski also says that repeated reading is more effective when done for authentic purposes.  His book gives you many pieces of authentic reading materials and many authentic reasons for rereading (e.g., rereading to prepare for a performance). My experience with his materials over the years is that his materials work, and they are engaging to the students.

That concludes what I have to say about Rasinski’s presentation. Stay tuned. Next week there will be a blog post over the next part of this topic. I’m using the title “Singing Our Way into Fluency.”  Eric Litwin: Best-selling author of the original four Pete the Cat books, The Nuts, and Groovy Joe. will share his views on using music with beginning readers. So please come back next week as we continue our discussion.

For more information about Tim and his various visit his website http://www.timrasinski.com/.  BTW- the blog on his website includes free versions of his famous Word Ladders.

 

Also, check out his articles in professional journals:

Fluency

 

Reading Teacher

Happy Reading and Writing!

Copyright 2018/2019 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Includes the use of the title Singing Our Way into Fluency. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

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

Promoting fluency for beginning readers using activities inspired by the work of Tim Rasinski and Mellissa Cheesman Smith

Promoting fluency for beginning readers using activities inspired by the work of Tim Rasinski and Mellissa Cheesman Smith

The Megabook of Fluency

Last year, Tim Rasinski came to our local IRA and did a presentation around the science and art of reading. To see everything he had to say (and he had a lot to say!) go to this blog entry:

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/

This blog post will center on an activity he described in the book Megabook of Fluency. Mellissa Cheesman Smith was his co-author. The book truly is a Megabook of Great Ideas and Activities that teachers of all grades can use to help their students develop fluency. It is organized around his prosody factors (EARS). E is for Expression, and A is for Automatic Word Recognition, R is for Rhythm and Phrasing, and S is for smoothness, fixing mistakes. Rubrics based on these factors are available in the book and are written on a variety of levels including one for grades 6-8.  So readers, this book isn’t just for the primary grades; its content and suggestions include ideas and activities for all grade levels PP-8.  For a list of all the strategies in the book organized by EARS skills the reader can go to: https://www.scholastic.com/pro/TheMegabookOfFluency.html.

This link is for people who own the book. You can use information from the book to get the password for this link.

In his presentation, Rasinski told the following story.  It was the story of a new primary teacher who used the strategy of having children practice reading poetry for four days of the week in preparation for performing those poems on Friday. The reading time wasn’t that long, 5-10 minutes daily.  Despite push back about “wasting” instructional time, she continued to do this activity all year. By the end of the year, her first grade was performing significantly higher on reading tests. She replicated those results the next year and became the teacher of the year for her state. My assessment is that it is a lot of bang for the buck since the instructional time used is less than 10 minutes a day.

My regular readers are well aware that I am a retired reading specialist. I volunteer for one full day a week at my grandchildren’s elementary school. I push into two third grades where I am helping teachers to get started in writing workshop (a topic for a future blog) and also push into two 1st grades and two-second grades where I am implementing a program inspired by Rasinski’s report on the repeated readings. I tried this method out in one of the second grades last year at the end of the year. The teacher liked it so much she talked her partner in second grade and the other two 1st grade teachers into trying it out this year. We just started this week.

My “lesson” on how to be a reading storyteller was actually a song I wrote. It is sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Here it is (go to the Links to Selected Materials page of this blog to download a copy- free for classroom use. It is copyrighted so required permission for commercial use):

I sang the song first. Here is an audio

READING STORY TELLER

I then invited the class to sing along. We then had a little discussion about things storytellers do (your voice goes up, your voice goes down, makes storytelling sounds, etc.). The students then paired up and read the story together. Just before doing that I taught the class the following two chants:

“Make it match, don’t make it up, that is what to do. Make it match don’t make it up; you’ll read your story true”

ALSO

If you see three, say three, if you see five say five.

I told them that as they read, each partner would take turns being the “pointer.” They would point as they read and make sure they were matching. I told them that making up our own stories from pictures etc. is something we do as writers. As readers, we should read exactly what’s there. We don’t try to memorize the whole book (or in this case the whole song). Instead, we are careful to notice which word is which when we read.

That was this week’s lesson. During the week, they will practice reading the song daily. 5-7 minutes. This will get them ready for next week when they will start doing poems and practice them on a two-week cycle. In this case, their basal series has poems for each unit. We’ll be doing those for a while. Later on, I have lots of books with collections of easy poems, and so do the teachers. There are also lots of poems in the Megabook of Fluency.  Each child will get a chance to pick which poem they want to work on. Unlike Rasinski’s teacher, who worked on a 1-week cycle, for now we will work on a two-week cycle. At the end of the cycle the children know they will be making a recording of their poem.

In the future, I will blog out again and let my readers know how its going.  I would mention that last summer when I did an in-service for first-grade teachers, the song and the related activities were one of the favorite activities for those teachers.

I’ll end by saying that this activity is just one of many you can find in the Megabook of Fluency. When I listened to Rasinski’s presentation last year, part of the time, I felt that I was in a seminar on writing workshop. Why?  That is because Rasinski talked about how students used some of the poems and primary source pieces as a source of inspiration for writing their own works. He showed examples of student writing. Hmm. Students writing their own poetry, scaffolded by reading poems from this book or other sources.  What a great idea for poetry month!

Rasinski also says that repeated reading is more effective when done for authentic purposes.  His book gives you many pieces of authentic reading materials and many authentic reasons for rereading (e.g., rereading to prepare for a performance). These include pieces that are appropriate for older grades (Think Dr. Marin Luther Kings I Have Dream Speech, or President Kennedy’s Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You speech). There are lots of other fluency activities, as well.

For more information about Tim and his various resources, visit his website http://www.timrasinski.com/.  BTW- the blog on his website includes free versions of some of his famous Word Ladders and earlier versions of his fluency rubric, which are available for free downloading.

Happy Reading and Writing!

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Tech to Boost Reading Community and Engagement By Stephanie Affinito

Affinito

This week I welcome Dr. Stephanie Affinito, who is sharing some important ideas about literacy. Over the next several weeks I hope to have a number of guests talking about important literacy issues. ENJOY!

 

Using Tech to Boost Reading Community and Engagement

By Stephanie Affinito

Digital tools and technology has transformed the way the world works, including the ways readers read, connect together and share their thinking. Today’s students have grown up in a time where digital tools and technology are the norm and expect to use them in their everyday lives, both at home and at school. If we want our classroom reading community to reflect the kind of readerly life we ultimately want our students to have, then we must harness the power of technology to cultivate authentic reading connections in our classrooms and boost engagement for reading. Here are three powerful practices that use technology to harness student’s authentic reading lives:

Increase Access to Text

Technology can increase access to almost anything: to people, to information, to places and locations and yes, to books. A simple connection to the Internet connects students with infinite possibilities for texts: online articles, ebooks, digital texts and even read alouds and interactive media. In addition to heading to the classroom library, students can head to online websites to access books, texts and other media they would not otherwise have access to. Here are a few of my favorite sites:

Wonderopolis: A site that ignites students curiosity and imagination through daily wonders that promote exploration and discovery.

Get Epic: A digital library of over 35,000 digital books free for teachers and their students.

Unite for Literacy: Digital books focused on social studies and science content for our youngest readers.

CommonLit: Free reading passages and instructional materials for grades 3 – 12.

Beyond simply providing access to books and other reading materials, technology can provide access to content, topics and genres that students might have otherwise overlooked to broaden their reading lives as well. Sites like Bookopolis and Biblionasium provide safe spaces for students to share their own book recommendations and explore new titles read by their peers. Sites like A Mighty Girl offers a diverse selection of texts for courageous readers, DOGO Books offers books reviews for kids by kids and the Spaghetti Book Club offers readers reviews not only written by students, but illustrated too!

Social media can also broaden teachers’ selection of books for inclusion in our classroom libraries. By following hashtags dedicated to promoting current and diverse literature for our classrooms, we can boost our book knowledge to then share with their students. Here are a few hashtags to explore:

#shelfietalk

#titletalk

#weneeddiversebooks

#kidsneedbooks

#booklove

#ProjectLITchat

Share Our Reading Lives

Reading texts may make us readers, but sharing our reading with others is what builds a reading community. Digital tools can not only build those connections within the classroom, they can connect our students with others beyond the school walls as well. Traditionally, students share the books they are reading on reading logs that only the teacher sees or in impersonal book summaries or book reports posted on the classroom wall. But digital tools and technology can help readers share their reading lives in ways that matter. Padlet and Flipgrid are two such tools that you could easily try tomorrow.

Padlet can invite students to share the books they are reading in multiple ways: by adding the title and author to a tile, by linking to the cover of a book, by audio or video recording short booktalks or even creating a short screencast. Teachers can even create personalized reading walls to showcase titles read by students throughout the year.

Flipgrid offers students a safe space to talk about the books they are reading and recommend them to others. Students can view the book talks and respond accordingly. Teachers can even share their book talk grids with other classrooms so students can see what others are reading around the world. Take a look at this example where authors book-talk their own books as added inspiration for your students.

Regardless of the method you choose, celebrating reading, rather than documenting it, can change culture for reading in our classroom communities and technology can help us do just that.

Authentic Response to Reading

So, what do you do when you are finished with a book? Chances are you do not write a summary, take a quiz or answer comprehension questions. Instead, we might talk about the book with others, recommend it to a friend, journal our private thinking or simply be still with our own thoughts. As adults, we have the privilege of authentically responding to texts based on our reaction to it….or not even responding at all. Digital tools can help bring that same authenticity to our students. Although they don’t respond to specific comprehension questions, students clearly demonstrate their understanding of the book in more authentic ways that personalize the experience to the reader and their interaction with the text. Here are two of my favorites:

Affinito GRAPHIC.png

Create an emoticon chart! If we want students to be engaged and motivated readers, we need to give them opportunities to connect with their feelings as they read and how they change. What better way to do that than with an emoticon chart? Build on students’ love of emojis and encourage them to chart their thinking and feelings as they read. They can draw their own emojis on a chart in their reader’s notebook or insert digital images into an online document. Take a look at the example below:

Compile a playlist! What better way to capture the main ideas, themes, and lessons from a book than connecting to the main ideas, themes, and lessons in popular songs? After students finish a book, challenge them to think of songs that best capture the ideas presented and the ways they responded to the book. Lyrics.com is a huge collection of song lyrics that can help them not only think of songs, but also read and analyze them to see how they connect to the book, adding even more critical-thinking skills to the experience. Students can compile their songs into a playlist or simply list them with an explanation of why they fit the ideas in the book. Take a look at the playlist Ruth Behar compiled for her book Lucky Broken Girl as a model for your students.

So, which idea will you try in your classroom? Here’s a bit of advice to guide your thinking: Choose one of the ideas and try it in your own reading first. For example, you might start by reading books online or finding book reviews for your students. Or, you might create a reading wall for yourself and add tiles showcasing the texts you are reading to ultimately present as a model for your students. If you are ready for a little more creativity, create a digital emoticon chart or playlist using your class read aloud to show students some new possibilities for reading response. Regardless of what you choose, your willingness to explore technology and try new ways of connecting and engaging your readers is sure to inspire your students.

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A special thank you to Dr. Affinito for this post. This post will also appear in the upcoming edition of the Missouri Reader, a peer-reviewed professional journal that comes out three times a year. To find out more about Dr. Affinito’s ideas go to her website and have a look at her new book.

https://sites.google.com/view/stephanieaffinito/publications?authuser=0

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

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

In Memoriam: Linda Dorn: Her life, her legacy

reading-scrabble

In Memoriam: Linda Dorn: Her life, her legacy

The literacy world has lost a giant. Linda Dorn passed away this week. She was a great educator, teacher, and person. Two of my literacy friends have very close ties to Linda.  Glenda Nugent is my fellow co-editor for the Missouri Reader. Glenda was the Program Manager for Reading at the Arkansas Department of Education at the same time Linda Dorn developed many of her projects.  In the course of that, Glenda got to know Linda and her work very well.  She and Linda became close friends over the years.  Dr. William Kerns, my blogging partner recently joined the faculty of the School of Education of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in Linda’s Department. In the dedication that follows, he tells of how Linda reached out to him after he joined the faculty this year.  In light of the very close ties my two colleagues have with Linda Dorn I feel it is appropriate to turn the rest of this blog entry over to them. I know Linda Dorn will be sorely missed. But her legacy will live on because of the lives she touched and the people she inspired. Let’s now hear from two of those people.

 

In Memory of Linda Dorn

Glenda Nugent

There are many things I could say about my friend and colleague, Linda Dorn, but in Linda’s and Carla Soffos’  book, Shaping Literate Minds, this quote is one of my favorites: “Teachers must hold a flexible theory-one that can be reshaped and refined according to what children are showing us as they engage in the process of learning.” Linda was masterful at using research and her knowledge of children and how they learn to refine and reshape teacher practice to find what works best for each child. She will be deeply missed.

linda-dorn-

 

In Memory of Linda Dorn

William Kerns

Linda Dorn’s legacy is one of passion and dedication. Kindness. Compassion. A commitment to excellence in education.

It is difficult for me to find the words in this tribute. I never had the honor of meeting Linda. I joined the faculty of the School of Education of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock this fall semester. Linda did reach out to me. She helped me to feel welcome. I am of the belief that a person’s life isn’t to be found so much on a list of accomplishments that can be listed on a CV (and Linda does have quite the list of accomplishments), but in the goodness and kindness of that person. Everything that I have learned of Linda is the story of a truly kind, and good, person, self-sacrificing and dedicated to making the lives of others better. She made a difference.

Learning never stops. This is true for students but also for each of us. As we honor Linda’s legacy, I believe that a commitment to continue learning together is a good place to start. “Learning is meaningful, purposeful, self-directed, and generative, for it leads to new discoveries and new knowledge” (Dorn & Soffos, 2001, p. 17).

All one must do is listen to the stories that can be told by her colleagues and friends. Her former students. When I spend time at the School of Education of her beloved UA-Little Rock, I see colleagues who are striving to honor her legacy by continuing the work of delivering excellent teacher education, yet it is a struggle to contain emotions any time there is a reminder of Linda. Be it a reminder of joy, commitment, hard work, or grief at her loss. One thing is obvious, Linda was the heart of the School of Education at UA-Little Rock.

Yet another point is also clear. Linda’s legacy will live on in the commitment that she inspired. It is a commitment to carefully planned, thoughtful and caring instruction. She was a champion of a well-balanced literacy instruction with carefully structured, varying activities, differentiated according to the needs and interests of the student. “A balanced literacy curriculum consists of five interrelated components: (1) reading books to children, (2) independent reading, (3) shared reading, (4) writing about reading, and (5) guided reading” (Dorn & Jones, 2012, p. 29). Linda was also a champion of ensuring that teachers have the training, the skill, and the ongoing support structure to successfully implement a balanced literacy curriculum. “A balanced reading program includes a range of literacy activities, carefully selected materials for each activity, and a responsive teacher who knows how to structure literacy interactions that move children to higher levels of understanding” (Dorn & Jones, 2012, p. 34).

Too often, social-constructivist approaches are misunderstood as promoting a free for all, in which the teacher lets children guess and fumble with no guidance or support or even an understanding of purpose. That is far from the truth of the matter. Teachers are, in fact, actively monitoring and guiding students through careful use of assessment that informs the learning activities. “When teachers coach children to apply flexible strategies during their reading and writing activities, children learn problem-solving processes with generative value for working out new problems” (Dorn & Soffos, 2001, p. 5).

The risk of making mistakes should not curtail learning. Guidance through acts of problem-solving will enable a student to develop deeper levels of skill and understanding of concepts. “Higher-level development occurs as a result of the problem-solving attempts. Neural growth happens because of the process, not the solution” (Dorn & Jones, 2012, p. 27).

Literacy instruction as advocated by Dorn is varied, active, even fun, but also intellectually rigorous. “In a well-balanced literacy program, teachers create flexible and varied opportunities for children to work at both assisted and independent levels. In whole group assisted events, teachers will have to make compromises in their instruction, that is, teach to the instructional needs of the class majority. During small group reading and writing events, teachers can provide students with focused instruction that is aimed at the strengths and needs of a similar population. During reading and writing conferences, teachers are able to provide intensive support that is personalized for the individual student. Through these diverse instructional settings, children receive varying degrees of teacher assistance on related types of tasks.” (Dorn & Soffos, 2001, p. 9).

This is a time to grieve but also a time to celebrate. The legacy of Linda lives in all those reading this blog. It lives in her former students. It lives in teachers and in colleagues inspired by her work. It lives in her friends whose lives she so deeply touched. The torch has been passed. The rest is up to each of us.

Works Cited

Dorn, L.J. & Soffos, C. (2001). Shaping literate minds: Developing self-regulated learners. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse.

Dorn, L.J. & Jones, T. (2012). Apprenticeship in literacy: Transitions across reading and writing, K-4 (Second Edition). Portland, Maine: Stenhouse.

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Dr. Sam Bommarito – Thanks to the two guest bloggers for their insights and words of inspiration.

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

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

P.S. for regular readers of this blog starting next week I will be doing interviews of authors who have written about various literacy topics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time to start looking at ALL the ways to teach beginning reading: There is no one size fits all solution by Dr. Sam Bommarito

reading-scrabble

It’s time to start looking at ALL the ways to teach beginning reading: There is no one size fits all solution by Doctor Sam Bommarito

I’ll begin by calling attention to a recent blog by Tim Shanahan

https://shanahanonliteracy.com/blog/which-texts-for-teaching-reading-decodable-predictable-or-controlled-vocabulary

Note the three forms of text named in the title.  Here are some highlights from that entry:

“The role of text in reading instruction has always been a big instructional question for parents and teachers—but it has not drawn the same kind of research interest as many other issues.

Nevertheless, the research does provide clues and it suggests that kids are likely to be best off in classrooms that provide them with a mix of these text types rather than a steady diet of any one of them—nor do I see the progression through these as developmental, with kids graduating from one kind of simplified text to another.

He goes on to say:

Personally—based on my own experiences as a primary grade teacher—I would use all of these kinds of text. My thinking then, and my thinking now, is that the way to prevent someone from being hurt by over dependence on a crutch is to employ a variety of crutches; deriving the benefits of each, while trying to minimize potential damages.

It is very reasonable to employ decodable texts. It gives kids a chance to practice their phonics in a favorable text environment—an environment in which there aren’t likely to be many words that can’t be figured out easily.

But those “experts” who claim that kids should only read such texts for some length of time (e.g., 2-3 years) are just making that stuff up (bolding is mine). Research is not particularly supportive of such an artificial text regime (Adams, 2009; Jenkins, et al., 2004; Levin, Baum & Bostwick, 1963; Levin & Watson, 1963; Price-Mohr & Price, 2018). “Teaching children to expect one-to-one consistent mapping of letters to sounds is not an effective way to promote transfer to decoding at later stages in learning to read” (Gibson & Levin, 1975, p. 7).”

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So that is what Shanahan had to say on the topic. Overall, he makes it clear that all the forms have limits and limitations, including those based on the views of some proponents of the Science of Reading.

What follows are MY reactions to and reflections on what he said.  The “radical middle” point of view I used in earlier blogs has relevance here. I’ve talked about this before. P.D. Pearson, who is credited with creating the gradual release model, coined the term. Here is what he says:

“Even though I find both debates interesting and professionally useful, I fear the ultimate outcome of both, if they continue unbridled by saner heads, will be a victory for one side or another.  That, in my view, would be a disastrous outcome, either for reading pedagogy or educational research. A more flattering way to express this same position is to say that I have always aspired to the Greek ideal of moderation in all things or to the oriental notion that every idea entails its opposite. Neither statement would be untrue, but either would fail to capture the enchantment I experience in embracing contradiction.

A second reason for living in the radical middle is the research base supporting it. I read the research implicating authentic reading and writing and find it compelling.  I read the research supporting explicit skill instruction and find it equally as compelling.  What occurs to me, then, is that there must be a higher order level of analysis in which both of these lines of inquiry can be reconciled. (bolding is mine)

 

My take is that since no one approach has all the answers since no one approach works with every kid every time, you must draw from and learn from each of the approaches. For instance, you should use all three kinds of books in your lessons. You should get people from each approach to talk with one another, learn from one another. That is the essence of my idea of a reading evolution #readingevolution1. https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/03/16/a-call-for-a-reading-evolution-no-its-not-typo-i-mean-evolution-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

 

There is a problem in that SOME advocates of Science of Reading are acting as if they have a method that works with every kid every time. They post information touting the power of systematic synthetic phonics.  They criticize anyone not using this method. An exemplary example of such a post is the famous Tsunami of Change post. It indicates what we currently do is ineffective and must go and be replaced. No one would argue with the thought that what is currently happening is ineffective. However, I must respectfully point out that SoL advocates taking this point of view have ignored one of the key tenets of scientific methodology. Simply put, if you are going to attempt to demonstrate a particular method doesn’t work, then you must take a scientific sample of folks using the method WITH FIDELITY.  Then report the results. Have they done that?  NO. They base their argument for change on everything going on currently. That includes districts that say they are using balanced literacy but actually don’t ( I prefer to talk about constructivist literacy practices, more easily defined and measured). It also includes districts using no effective methods at all. It even includes districts using SoL methods. When I make this last point, SoL advocates are quick to point out that to properly evaluate SoL, one must look at a sample of districts using SoL with fidelity. No argument there. BUT- that means we must do the same for balanced literacy (because BL is an umbrella term, hard to define, I recommend looking at selected constructivist-based methods). Until and unless that is done the current argument to get rid of everything is simply not justified.

 

Is there evidence that there are things out there, other than intense systematic synthetic phonics that are working? I always point out I had three different Title 1 projects I participated in in the mid-80s that won awards for being in the top 1/10 of one percent in achievement gains for projects of that era. Also, there is abundant research that demonstrates analytic phonics is the equal of synthetic phonics. Have the intense synthetic projects folks given us data that demonstrates their way works with almost every kid every time?  I issued a challenge about that.

 

https://doctorsam7.blog/2019/06/20/research-demonstrating-the-effectiveness-of-differentiated-instruction-one-size-does-not-fit-all-and-never-has-part-one-alternate-title-show-me-the-beef-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

 

No one has sent a link to research demonstrating that intense synthetic phonics works with almost every kid almost every time. Some SoL folks said I was being unreasonable because everyone knows such research doesn’t exist. My point exactly.

Am I saying there isn’t a place for intense systematic phonics? No, quite the contrary. I recommend trying synthetic phonics first (my blogging partner disagrees).  What I am saying is exactly what folks in the radical middle have been saying for a couple of decades. No one method works for every kid every time. That is most definitely a research-based statement.

For my thinking about what to do about this, please see the blog entry listed below. Be sure to check out all the blog entries cited at the end of this entry. They include my counter to the Tsunami of Change post https://doctorsam7.blog/2019/09/06/a-look-at-the-science-of-reading-movement-through-the-eyes-of-the-radical-middle-a-term-coined-by-pd-pearson-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

In the meantime, what should district-level decision-makers do? First and foremost, ask that any program being considered demonstrates reading comprehension gains (note I did not say decoding gains). If you’re spending thousands (millions) on materials make sure the test they evaluate them with match the content of the tests being used in most state tests. Nell Duke had an excellent post about what that content includes. Ask that the program demonstrates those gains over several years. It’s a buyer beware situation when looking at programs that can only demonstrate decoding gains. Beginning with the NRP, we’ve known that the jump from decoding gains to comprehension gains is not automatic.

 

One of the more unique hats I’ve worn over the years is that of alderman in a small town. The mayor of that town was a colorful character, and he had a folksy down to earth way of saying things. One of the things he used to say is “If it aint’ broke, don’t fix it”.  Let’s not throw out methods that work and trade them for methods that work for some and not all. Let’s do learn from all the methods. It really is time for the #readingevolution1.

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, the guy in the middle still taking flak from all sides)

 

P.S. for regular readers of this blog starting next week I will be doing interviews of authors who have written about various literacy topics. This entry closes out my entries around the reading wars, at least for a while.

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

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

A look at the science of reading movement through the eyes of the radical middle (a term coined by PD. Pearson) by Dr. Sam Bommarito

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A look at the science of reading movement through the eyes of the radical middle (a term coined by PD. Pearson) by Dr. Sam Bommarito

 

For readers unfamiliar with the term radical middle it was created by P David Pearson, who is best known as the creator of the idea of the gradual release of responsibility. To see exactly what Dr. Pearson has to say about the radical middle use this link http://twrctank.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Pearson-Radical-Middle.2001.pdf.  Part of what he has to say is this “I read the research implicating authentic reading and writing and find it compelling.  I read the research supporting explicit skill instruction and find it equally as compelling.  What occurs to me, then, is that there must be a higher order level of analysis in which both of these lines of inquiry can be reconciled.”  This idea dovetails nicely with an analysis I did of why the reading wars persist, see my blog from a year ago on the call for a reading evolution. So, in spite of proclamations that they could/should be over they clearly are not.

I want to speak directly to points currently being made by some advocates of the Science of Reading (SoR) claiming that since balanced reading his failed, and since the science of reading techniques have been proven so effective that it is time for advocates of balanced literacy to acknowledge that their day has passed, that their methods are ineffective, and they need to move on to a new and better way of teaching reading. There is a fundamental problem to that assertation. The logic goes like this. Current practices are not successful. Since balanced literacy is the most prevalent form of those practices, it follows that balanced literacy has not succeeded. For the purposes of this blog entry, I am taking the point of view that since balanced literacy is based on constructivist practices, and since there is no real consensus on what constitutes a well-done program of balanced literacy, that I will instead focus on effective constructivist practices.

There is considerable evidence that there are successful programs that use constructivist practices. SoR advocates say that because some children can and do learn regardless of what method is used that the success of constructivist practices (including balanced literacy programs) can be explained using this phenomenon. Nonsense. There are too many instances in which constructivist practices work for this to be the actual explanation.  Some constructivists may be lucky, but not that lucky! The actual explanation lies in the fact that the science of learning advocates failed to follow one of the time-honored practices of scientific research. That is, when evaluating a practice, one must draw a scientific sample of programs using practices with fidelity and then seeing what the results from that sample demonstrate. Otherwise what you’re looking at is a sample of programs not using constructivist practices at all, or using them poorly, or even some programs that are using SoR techniques. Normally when I make that last point, I get immediate response for SoR advocates saying that you have to look at the success of those SoR programs, you have to draw a sample. Exactly. Until and unless you do that same thing for constructivist practices from programs using constructivist practices with fidelity, the claim that constructivist practices have failed is unsubstantiated. I can begin by adding three different Title I programs I was involved in in the mid-1980s won national awards because the reading achievement improvement in each of those three was better than 99.8% of all program gains for Title 1 programs nationally. I call the results from programs like this the bumblebee effect.  According to some theories, the bumblebee cannot possibly fly. Yet it does. Likewise, the three programs I just cited should not have yielded exceptionally positive results. Yet they did. This really calls into question the degree to which the postings around how wrong these constructivist based practices are, really has any merit.

There has been an attempt to rewrite the history of reading. The scenario goes like this- constructivists were not doing enough phonics. When faced with that fact they gradually added analytic phonics to their programs, and this was too little too late. Interesting that when one looks at the history of literacy instruction written by individuals with strong credentials in reading no such event is recorded. See An Essential History of Current Reading Practices by Mary Jo Fresch.

In the SoR scenario Analytic phonics, which is often favored by constructivists, is touted as a weaker ineffective form of phonics instruction. The problem is a meta-analysis of the two methods show them to be equally effective. There are also attempts to prove that strong code-based approaches produce almost miraculous gains in reading achievement. The problem is the studies making those claims do not use a measure of reading comprehension. Instead, they use a test of decoding called the Dibels. Indeed, many of the studies do show a significant gain in decoding skills. Advocates act as if such gains automatically result in comprehension gains. Yet beginning with the National Reading Panel results, there is clear evidence indicating that gains in decoding ability do not automatically translate into gains in comprehension. It is a buyer beware situation. District decision-makers are cautioned to demand evidence of comprehension gains using instruments designed to specifically check for comprehension before adopting programs whether they be SoR or constructivist.

Where does that leave us? Here are some points to ponder.

Point to ponder one– I need to acknowledge that some of the things the SoR advocates are saying are actually quite accurate. For instance, the state of training preservice teachers in the teaching of decoding skills is not anywhere near where we want it. It does need to be improved and I blogged around this point before. Word of caution, I’m advocating including knowledge and providing materials around all ways of decoding, including both synthetic and analytic phonics.

Point to ponder two- a point made by Timothy Shanahan is that we are not doing enough teaching of decoding skills. This is a charge that needs to be taken quite seriously. In the past year, there’ve been some important developments in some of the constructivist-based approaches. Both Calkins and Fountas and Pinnell have added a phonics program to their programs. I had a chance to look over the Fountas and Pinnell program when I did in-servicing in Houston. It is a robust program and includes a strong orthographic component

Point to ponder three– The needs of students with a diagnosis of dyslexia are not being properly addressed. I have acknowledged any number of times that analytic phonics, which is often favored by constructivists, is not only ineffective for dyslexic children but has actually been shown to be harmful. A lesser-known fact is that the same thing can be said for some children when it comes to the use of the intense synthetic phonics programs. The social media abounds with anecdotal evidence to this effect. Since a single observation is enough to call a theory into question, this anecdotal evidence is sufficient for the moment to call into question the practice of using systematic synthetic phonics with every single child. My blogging partner, Dr. Kerns is currently researching the literature around this point.

Point to ponder four is that it is hard to understand how some of the current claims around the nature and prevalence of Dyslexia can be made.  This is from Shanahan’s blog

“But NRP found no statistically significant difference between synthetic phonics (teaching each orthographic/phonemic element and how to blend these together) and analytic phonics (teaching larger spelling units including syllables and rimes, or word analogies). Proponents of each get pretty heated, despite the fact that there is no evidence that their way is the only way or the best way to help kids to become readers.

The PBS report showed some video of kids being taught phonics by a multisensory approach (involving tactile-kinesthetic responses). Again, such approaches have fervent proponents, but not research evidence that has shown them to be better than any other approaches (nor any worse, I might add).

The best statement about quality phonics instruction that I’ve found is from the International Dyslexia Association. They don’t endorse any particular phonics product, but their instructional principles concerning structured phonics instruction are impeccable and sensible and, until we gain more empirical evidence, I think they should be the standard:

https://app.box.com/s/21gdk2k1p3bnagdfz1xy0v98j5ytl1wk

A look at that document yields the following statements:

  • Different kinds of reading and writing difficulties require different approaches to instruction. One program or approach will not meet the needs of all students.

 

  • Researchers are finding that those individuals with a reading specialist and special education licenses often know no more about research‐based, effective practices than those individuals with a general education teaching license. The majority of practitioners at all levels have not been prepared in sufficient depth to recognize the early signs of risk, to prevent reading problems, or to teach students with dyslexia and related learning difficulties successfully.

In addition, the problem around a proper screen for dyslexia is a large one.

In his Feb. 15th blog Shanahan has this to say:

“Meanwhile, if I were a kindergarten teacher I’d screen my students early in the year to see what they knew about reading…particularly examining their knowledge of letter names and sounds, their phonological awareness, and awareness of print features (the kinds of skills that Kilpatrick describes). My focus would be on knowledge of literacy rather than on underlying causes or correlates. Although Ozernov-Palchik and Gabrieli and Catts and Petscher’s insights are exciting and hopeful, they are not yet user-ready.”

My take on this- current screens for Dyslexia are “not yet ready for prime time”. It is hard to understand how pronouncements about the prevalence of Dyslexia can be taken seriously until a widely accepted screening device is developed.

 

A final look at things from the “Radical Middle”

Let’s revisit Dr. Pearson’s statement about the radical middle. “I read the research implicating authentic reading and writing and find it compelling.  I read the research supporting explicit skill instruction and find it equally as compelling.  What occurs to me, then, is that there must be a higher order level of analysis in which both of these lines of inquiry can be reconciled.”

I’ve made the point on multiple occasions that when asked to provide the “near 100%” study (a study demonstrating that science of learning approaches work with nearly 100% of all children) the SoR advocates have never been able to provide such a study. Several of them have admitted that it doesn’t work with everyone. In fairness, the very same point can be made for constructivist-based instruction. This brings us to the root of the quandary. It is a very simple proposition. Not all children learn the same. What works with one does not necessarily work with another. Even the statement from the Dyslexia organization agrees with that.

What I suggested in my reading evolution post was that we look into each of the approaches to learn what works when. At the end of the day armed with this information, it might very well be possible to put together a program at the district level that meets the needs of almost all the children. In the meantime, it makes no sense to abandon constructivist processes that are working. It does make sense to include intensive systematic synthetic phonics as A solution, not THE solution.

Part of my reason for getting involved in this current iteration of the great debate was because at a prominent social media site where very large numbers of practicing teachers gather, some of them were complaining that they were forced to actually throw away materials that worked for them and take on a boxed intense phonics program which they were not sure would actually raise reading comprehension scores. That is wrong on so many levels.

A final thought: Finding the ultimate roots of the great debate

Some folks writing around this topic have traced the roots of the great debate back several centuries. I want to submit that the roots go back even further than that. The roots are- Direct instruction (Science of Reading) vs Inquiry-based methods (Constructivism).  Ultimately it goes back to Aristotle (direct instruction) vs Socrates (inquiry).  I’ll add to this a firm reminder that in the current global economy we need students who can thrive using inquiry-based approaches. I seriously question whether that can be provided in a teaching environment that is exclusively direct instruction.

These two approaches have been around for a couple of millenniums. Neither has ever been supplanted by the other. Like Dr. Pearson, I speculate that there must be a higher order level of analysis in which both of these points of views can be reconciled. Until and unless that reconciliation occurs, we are effectively stuck in the middle. We need to pay attention to what all sides are saying and learn from what all sides are doing. It is time for a reading evolution. https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/03/16/a-call-for-a-reading-evolution-no-its-not-typo-i-mean-evolution-by-dr-sam-bommarito/ #readingevolution1

Let’s stop debating and let’s start dialoguing.

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, the guy in the middle still taking flak from all sides)

My blogs around the reading wars:

https://doctorsam7.blog/2019/05/17/revisiting-three-posts-ive-made-about-the-reading-wars-a-synopsis-of-what-i-hope-will-become-a-reading-evolution-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

https://doctorsam7.blog/2019/07/11/one-size-still-doesnt-fit-all-finding-the-middle-ground-in-the-reading-wars-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

https://doctorsam7.blog/2019/08/23/musings-of-a-workshop-teacher-advice-i-just-gave-to-some-1st-grade-teachers-in-houston-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

Also see Mary Howard:

https://readingrecovery.org/taking-a-professional-stand-in-an-age-of-confusion/?fbclid=IwAR0F94nI9yc524W1uoihBsUdJNZCux8ZC8wqoho7JCzCvNZNWcEJccthy6o

 

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

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