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Back in the saddle again: working with first and second graders and helping them sing their way into fluency

The MegaBook of Fluency

Back in the saddle again: working with first and second graders and helping them sing their way into fluency

By Doctor Sam Bommarito

(Readers Looking for the Serravallo Interview, it is the blog entry right after this one!)

In social media I list my status as retired sort of. The reason for the “sort of” is I have many activities one of which happens to be doing an after-school program for first and second graders at an elementary school. That program just started this week. We call it The Reading Club.  There are currently 20 members.  We meet once a week.  The learning specialist from the building and I run the program.  She takes half the group and I take the other.  We also have helpers from the upper grades who come in to provide some peer interaction.

This year I decided to draw on some of the things I’ve learned while blogging about the latest ideas and lessons for younger readers. Over the next few blog entries, I’ll be talking about what I’m trying with these younger readers and how it’s working.  I’m drawing from ideas suggested by the work of Eric Litwin and Tim Rasinski.  I’ve talked about Eric and Tim previously on this blog.

https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/05/11/singing-our-way-into-fluency-exploring-the-work-of-eric-litwin-and-how-he-brings-together-the-art-and-science-of-reading-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

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/

What these two have in common is the belief that one path to fluency and comprehension can be found by using poetry and song.  Eric is the one who made me aware that students today often don’t know the traditional nursery rhymes and children’s songs. When I asked my students to raise their hands if they know the song Sing a Song of Sixpence, not a single hand went up.  I chose that particular song to start with because Tim and his co-author Melissa include an activity in The Megabook of Fluency based on that song (p 306-7).  The activity includes a sheet for parents.

I taught the group the song a couple of lines at a time. (I sing, you sing).  After practicing the two of lines the song a couple of times I did think alouds around selected words in the line.  I pointed out the “outlaw word” of (outlaw because it is not spelled the way it sounds). We found the words the and that”. These are both high frequency words.  We talked about how knowing the middle and end of word helps us tell words apart (the & that).

I noticed that at first some of the students weren’t even looking at the words at all as they sang. I asked them to make it match- that is point to each word as they sing each word in the song.  I have a little chant we do for that “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.”  A prompt I use to encourage matching is “If you see 5 words say 5 words, if you see 7 words say 7 words.”  In sum, don’t say any more words or any fewer words than what you see as you read or sing.  After introducing all the lines of the song (eight all total). The students then paired off and sang the song together in pairs. I asked the to make it match as they did. That means they pointed to each word as they sang the words.  We ended by playing a minute or so of “find all the “xxxx’s, e.g. find all the “the’s”. Point to each one and say it when you find it.  Reading recovery teachers will recognize this as a teaching move used by recovery teachers with students at the beginning levels.

Let’s now think about what I did and why it was important. One of the problems with little predictable books or other predictable text is that sometimes the child memorizes all the words in the text as one big block of text.  They really don’t know which word is which. This is because they are not paying attention to the visual cues (letters!).  By asking them to match, by making them pay attention to which word is which, I’m helping the students balance their use of cues. There is much more to it than simply matching as you read but matching as you read is an excellent starting off point. I’ll have much more to say about this in future blog entries

Eric Litwin if You're Groovey

This week the students will be singing this song each night.  They know they will have a chance to “perform” their song when they come back to the next reading club.  This is not the only thing we did at our reading club, but right now I’m focusing on telling you about how I’m using the rereading (resinging?)  of predictable text in order to promote fluency.  Next week I’ll be introducing the kids to one of Eric’s newest books, If You’re Groovy and You Know It, Hug a Friend.  It is patterned after the song “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. I’ll let you know next week how many of the kids knew that classic song ahead of time. I’ll also be reminding readers of Rasinski’s story about one first grade teacher who used a cycle of reading poetry/songs aloud and then perform those poems or songs on Friday. She got amazing results. More on that next week. In the meantime-

HAPPY READING, WRITING AND SINGING

 

Sam Bommarito aka the music man

 

P.S. About last week: It was very exciting to do the interview with Serravallo. I’m reminding my readers that the Serravallo’s interview and an interview with Eric Litwin will be appearing in the next issue of Missouri Reader. I will let you know when that comes out (just a week or two from now) and will do a special blog entry about it.

https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/09/28/an-interview-with-jennifer-serravallo-conducted-by-sam-bommarito-and-glenda-nugent-co-editors-of-the-missouri-reader/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Jennifer Serravallo Conducted by Sam Bommarito and Glenda Nugent, Co-Editors of the Missouri Reader

Understanding Texts & Readers

An Interview with Jennifer Serravallo

Conducted by Sam Bommarito and Glenda Nugent, Co-Editors of the Missouri Reader

Tell us about your new book, Understanding Texts and Readers: Responsive Comprehension Instruction with Leveled Texts.

I really am exploring comprehension. Different threads go throughout the book, but goal is to explain and help teachers make sense out of comprehension. I also try to help teachers understand how to determine what skill to focus instruction on.

As part of her response to this question, Jennifer made several points about where she got the ideas for this book:

  • Independent Reading Assessments help teachers understand children’s comprehension. Some ideas explored in the book came from those assessments.
  • My Reading Strategies book was the source for ideas of different categories for comprehension strategies. Non-Fiction, main idea, key details, vocabulary and the 7 Comprehension strategies.
  • My thinking around comprehension is rooted in Rosenblatt’s work.

Tell us about the different parts of the book.

Part 1 talks about comprehension and is designed to help teachers wrap their minds around the whole concept of comprehension.

Parts 2-3 take a practical look at how texts get more complex. These parts are is meant to be resources to return to again and again.

The ending part of the book discusses different ways to focus comprehension.  It includes assessments. These assessments are meant for chapter books.

As you stated in the FB webinar, levels are being used and misused. What is your advice for using levels appropriately and avoiding the misuse of them?

Use of levels as reading identity is not a good idea.

The 2-page spread on pages 22 to 23 shows a timeline from 40’s through today to show how levels have been used.  Teachers are asked to report benchmark levels throughout the year. Remember, kids don’t have one level! The book explores variables on what impacts levels. A child’s level might be different on different days. Level as recording tool has gotten out of hand and misused. Do not limit child to reading only books at their level. The reasons for saying this are explored in book starting on page 15.

Once a book at the appropriate level is chosen for instruction, how do you know what strategies can best be taught?

Text level range is one aspect of that choice. Text features, complexity, challenge are additional things to consider. Pinpoint skills/goals children need to work on. Ask yourself, within books, where does the student need support? Character, vocabulary, theme – narrow down possibilities by determining categories of skill/strategy need.

One way to organize groups is to organize them around texts: similar instructional level; Determine what they have in common.

Another way to organize groups is to organize them by goals group by goals. For instance, if you want to emphasize character development – bring together a group around that topic, even if its members are on different levels.

Can you explain how teachers can use the two-page spreads in your book Understanding Text and Readers?

Parts 2 and 3 are designed so the information about a level or skill.  The fiction section is organized by 4 categories Plot, Character, Vocab, Theme. Look for the spreads starting on page 54 that show progression of skills. There is a separate spread for each level J through W.  Included are page spreads that show student work to see how the skill changes in response to the text. Text level helps teachers understand books in their library – They can compare their student responses to those in spread. This can give teachers a sense of what questions to ask about a book during conferencing, even if the teacher has not read that particular book. The non-fiction section begins on page 116 and gives a similar analysis based on the categories Main Ideas, Key Details, Vocabularies and Text Features.

Tell us about the resources you are providing with this book.  There are a number of resources, over 150 pages are online. There are Text Complexity Charts that look at a book in depth. There are record keeping forms for conferring. Every goal has a progression. Also included are note taking forms and questions you can ask children. Here is the link:

https://www.heinemann.com/products/e10892.aspx (the Companion Resources dropdown on this link states “To access the online resources for this book, click Login or Create Account above. Once you’ve logged in, select “Click here to register an Online Resource, Video, or eBook »“ enter the keycode and click register. The keycode for this book is the first word in purple on page 198).

How does this book relate to new and experienced teachers?

Some TIPS for Beginning teacher:  Use the book to get a sense of how to be assessing and what to look for. Find out what comprehension looks like. Don’t misuse levels. Guide students to right books, but do not shackle readers

Some TIPS for experienced teachers: Use the book to understand and study in more depth. One teacher recently characterized this book as a Graduate Degree in Reading in a book. You can go deep in it. New teachers can get the gist of things first and then return to it later to get more depth.

I hope the book helps both new and experienced teachers

Commentary:

The preceding are highlights of some of the questions Glenda and I explored with Jennifer. A more complete rendition of the interview will be found in the upcoming issue of the Missouri Reader. I will post a blog with a link to that issue when it comes out.  I predict this book will be added to the list of books that Jennifer has on the New York Times best seller list.  The most intriguing thing about this book is how it help teachers make better use of all of Jennifer’s books.  She has a link designed to help with that: https://www.heinemann.com/jenniferserravallo/.

One of the ideas being forwarded by many reading experts today is that teachers can and should help students learn to deal with complex texts. This book gives a “nuts and bolts” in depth look at how both fiction and nonfiction books are put together. It does so by specific levels.  My advice would be for teachers to start with the section of the book that deals with the text level they use most frequently. Get to really know that level. Then look at other levels as well. Make use of the online charts to help in this process. I think this book is destined to become the go to resource for teachers who want to help their students deal with complex texts, both fiction and non-fiction.

In sum, Jennifer has written a book that helps teachers make sense out of comprehension. She gives valuable resources and advice that will help teachers understand how to determine what skills to focus instruction on. By relating the book to her other strategy books, she makes all the books more valuable.  It is a must have for every classroom teacher’s professional library.

ONE MORE THING: There is a public group on Facebook called The Reading and Writing Strategies Community. When I wrote a review of Jennifer’s Strategy book for Missouri Reader (https://joom.ag/q9OQ pg 42), it had over 20,000 members. Now the group has over 50,000 members. Brett Whitmarsh and other Heinemann staff do an amazing job of running this site. Whenever I talk or write about useful resources on the internet I always mention this site as one that is the most helpful for classroom teachers. I characterize it as the worlds largest teacher’s lounge. Teacher’s come to it to ask questions and get answers about literacy issues. For instance, one recent question asked “Any suggestions on High Interest, Low Readability texts? We have a large population of older students who need interesting books at their level. Thanks!”  I often see questions like “What do you think of the “xxx” program, or I left my manual for “yyy” at home, what does it say to do for the “zzzz” activity?”   That second group of questions demonstrates teachers expect and get real time answers to their questions. Most recently Brett conducted a ½ hour podcast interview with Jennifer about this book

(https://www.facebook.com/HeinemannPublishing/videos/262743514447729/?hc_ref=ARQuixMA6GMW2GyA7yn4dWuRvW9nSUI76nVxS910xyu8Qk9nPM5LIuc1IdMlfZ1ryqw&fref=gs&dti=656857481113071&hc_location=group).

So…, if you need help using Jennifer’s new book, or you have a question about any literacy issue, you know where to go for answers from your fellow teachers. Jennifer even chimes in with comments and answers from time to time. So, until next week this is Dr. B. signing off.

Dr. Sam Bommarito

Co-Editor of the Missouri Reader

Thanks to Glenda Nugent, my Co-Editor who helped to put together the interview questions and carry out the interview. Thanks also to Jennifer for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk to Glenda and I about her exciting new book!

 

Grandpa Bommarito is Taking the Week Off- Next Week see Dr. Bommarito’s Interview with Jennifer Serravello about her New Book!

itsaboy

Grandpa Bommarito is Taking the Week Off

This week was an exciting week. There was a new addition to the Bommarito clan.  Mom, Dad and the kids are doing fine. Grandpa Bommarito is taking the week off to enjoy his new grandson and help out where he can.  However Grandpa Bommarito (aka Dr. Bommarito) will have a very special treat for his readers next week. Let me tell you about that.

Glenda Nugent and I are the co-editors of the Missouri ReaderMissouri Reader is a professional reading journal. It has been publishing for 41 years.  It comes out twice a year.  It is peer-edited journal, and our editorial board has quite a number of university professors and other well credentialed folks.  We welcome articles around literacy topics. We especially love articles about projects carried out by classroom teachers with the help of the university professors.  We have a number of regular features.  Submissions/requirements details are always explained on the last page of each edition.  The next issue will include some very special content. Glenda and I just interviewed Jennifer Serravallo about her newly released book Understanding Texts & Readers.  The book is an incredibly valuable resource for anyone wanting to really teach comprehension. In the course of the interview Jennifer talks about both the content of the book and how to make good use of that content.  The good news is the interview will be included in the next issue of the Missouri Reader. The even better news is that highlights from that interview will be given in next weeks blog. So stay tuned, exciting things to come next week!

To hold you over in the meantime, here is a link to a Missouri Reader article I did a while back about Jennifer Serravallo’s  book Reading Strategies .  Her newest book is designed to be coordinated with her other two strategy books, so looking this over would be a good way to get ready to hear all about her new book.  The link is https://joom.ag/q9OQ. The article is on pg. 42. Enjoy!

Until next week, Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka Grandpa Bommarito)

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

 

 

Reading Aloud with Children in a Teacher Education Program By Dr. William Kerns

 

Reading Aloud with Children in a Teacher Education Program

By Dr. William Kerns

 

Today Bill takes a turn at the blog and talks about reading aloud and encouraging a love of reading

 Last week this blog featured pictures highlighting the International Literacy Day Intergenerational Read-In that took place September 6 at Harris-Stowe State University. This activity was organized by my friend and colleague, Betty Porter Walls, who is an associate professor in the College of Education. Volunteers were encouraged to bring a favorite book to read aloud to preschool children. Books were also available for section on the occasion. This is one of multiple activities in which we in the College of Education encourage reading aloud with children. Other activities include service learning in the community. I am honored to participate. In this week’s blog entry, I will briefly reflect on strategies for reading aloud as well as the importance of reading aloud.

Choice in readings is so important. If you are a K-12 teacher or teacher-educator, I strongly recommend researching available books that work well in read aloud activities (Trelease, 2013). Additionally, I recommend collaborating with local authors who take care to produce and seek out books that avoid far too common cultural stereotypes that are contained in books that purport to promote an appreciation for diversity but fail to accurately or sensitively reflect a cultural group (Nieto, 1996; Reese, 1999).

We are fortunate in the College of Education to be able to work with community organizations such as the St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature Initiative. Members of this group routinely participate in read aloud activities while providing books to read that are sensitive to the needs and interests of African-American children. This is so critical given a long lamented scarcity of children’s books that give voice to people of diverse backgrounds (Tunnel & Jacobs, 2008), including books that portray the history of a group and that portray the current lived experiences of members of a cultural group (Yokota, 1999).

Keys to reading aloud with children include conversation that draws upon and builds background knowledge. This dialogue might include strategically thinking aloud about contents of the text (Ness, 2018), prompts and questions that but also fun, engaging stories and songs. Let children have fun with the book or the story. Let reading be playful, because after all, play is the work of the child. During read-aloud activities, teachers (and peers) can model strategies for reading increasingly challenging content in texts. Reading aloud can include the explicit modeling of reading strategies, the teaching of vocabulary, reviewing of text structure (van Kleeck, Stahl, & Bauer, 2003), while asking guided questions that prompt students toward predictions and analytical thinking (McGee & Schickedanz, 2007; Reutzel & Cooter, 2008).

However, there is a mistake that I have too often observed. Sometimes adult readers will focus on the strategies while children are bored. I wish to stress the importance of helping children love books and love reading. If we focus on strategies but children hate reading, we have failed in the read aloud.

The varied language arts skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) should be honored. This happens when the teacher (or other adult) who is reading aloud prompts children to use make meaning of a text through cues that involve viewing, listening, and reading, and to communicate through opportunities to speak and write. Movement can help a child to engage in reading. So, allow children the opportunity to sway with the wind if that’s part of a story. Or to stand like a tree. Encourage students to roar like a lion. Suddenly students are having fun while enjoying the text. Reading aloud doesn’t need to be teacher-centered, remember, it can be student-centered, with the children prompted to actively participate.

My areas of specialization are Secondary English Language Arts as well as literacy.  I view reading aloud as a key topic for secondary language arts and literacy, not just early literacy (Coyne et al., 2009). Reading aloud exposes children to literary skills and contributes to a child’s achievement in literacy and the language arts (Farrant & Zubrick, 2012; Swanson et al., 2011). Reading aloud doesn’t need to stop in the primary years through the strategies should change given different ways that young children learn compared with adolescents. Young adult novels, short-stories, and varied texts from diverse cultures offer rich opportunities for reading aloud activities. Language arts and literacy activities should continue to be engaging and active in high school.

An effective language arts or literacy teacher is an active participant in the classroom and a skilled observer of the learning process. I want to see students engaged in literacy and language arts activities that are engaging, inspiring, and that help them to stretch their skills and abilities. Notice a phrase that I did not use: “best practices”. This phrase means many things to many people. Often it is imbued with echoes of the debates sparked by the National Reading Panel and phrases such as “gold standard of scientific research” which tends to mean the medical model of research, with randomized participants and control groups. “Best practices” means something different to a social-constructivist than to a behaviorist. I am, unapologetically, of course, a social-constructivist. Progress in learning should be regularly assessed (before, during and after activities) using both formal and informal means. Reading aloud and participating in dialogue with children helps to build literacy skills, including fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

 

References

Coyne, M. D., Zipoli, R. P., Chard, D. J., Faggella-Luby, M., Ruby, M., Santoro, L. E., et al. (2009). Direct instruction of comprehension: Instructional examples from intervention

research on listening and reading comprehension. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 25, 221–245.

Farrant, B.M., & Zubrick, S.R. (2012). Early vocabulary development: The importance of joint attention and parentchild book reading. First Language, 32(3), 343–364.

McGee, L. M., & Schickedanz, J. A. (2007). Repeated interactive read-alouds in preschool and kindergarten. The Reading Teacher, 60, 742-751.

Ness, M.K. (2018). Think big with think-alouds, grades K-5: A three step planning process that develops strategic readers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Nieto, S. (1996). Affirming diversity. White Plains, New York: Longman.

Reese, D. (1999). Authenticity & sensitivity: Goals for writing and reviewing books with Native American themes. School Library Journal, 45(11), 36-37

Reutzel, D. R. , & Cooter, R. B. (2008). Teaching children to read: The teacher makes the difference. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Swanson, E., Vaughn, S., Wanzek, J., Petscher, Y., Heckert, J., Cavanaugh, C., Kraft, G., & Tackett, K. (2011). A synthesis of read-aloud interventions on early reading outcomes among preschool through third graders at risk for reading difficulties. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 44(3), 258–275.

Trelease, J. (2013). The read-aloud handbook (7th Ed.). New York, NY: Penguin Random House.

Tunnel, M. O., & Jacobs, J. S. (2008). Children’s literature briefly. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill Prentice Hall.

van Kleeck, A., Stahl, S. A., & Bauer, E. B. (Eds.). (2003). On reading books to children: Parents and teachers. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Yokota, J. (1999). Japanese and Japanese Americans: Portrayals in recent children’s books. Book Links, 8(3), 41-53

 

Getting by with a little help from my friends- reading to children at the Harris Stowe State University preschool by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Getting by with a little help from my friends- reading to children at the Harris Stowe State University preschool

chocolate-lindt-box-wallpaper- public domain

 

“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.” – Mem Fox

 I just spent the morning on Thursday at Harris Stowe State University in St. Louis.  For quite a number of years, Dr. Betty Porter Walls, an associate professor at Harris Stowe, has organized “read ins”, where community volunteers come in and read to the children at the university’s preschool.  On Thursday, we did an early celebration of the International Reading Day by having such a read in. Over 20 volunteer readers participated.

Since the preschool population is young, ages 2-5, readers are instructed to do simple book introductions/picture walks.  They do not read the entire book, rather they highlight talking about the book, perhaps reading a passage or two from the book. Betty makes it clear the key goal is to get the children interested in literacy.  For the university’s preschool children reading really does “sound like chocolate, not medicine!”

I brought along a copy of a book I recently purchased for my own grandchildren. It is Eric Litwin’s newest book called “If You’re Groovy and You Know It, Hug a Friend!” Like all of Eric’s books, it is both educational and engaging.  The words of the book are sung to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it”.  The children seemed to really enjoy themselves as they listened to a couple of verses and clapped along as I “sang” the book.

Eric Litwin if You're Groovey

Readers at this event usually work in teams, with each team member reading a book. I was fortunate to have Candy Pettiford on my team.  She is a children’s author and a former member of the St. Louis Black Author’s Association. She gave a lively rendition of a book she wrote called “Oh the Things You can Do! (When you Don’t Watch TV). Her book also included a song.

Pictured above is the cover of her book and a picture of the two of us together after the read. Pictured below is Julius Anthony, president of the St. Louis Black Authors, myself, Dr. Bill Kerns who often authors things for this blog, and Dr. Betty Porter Walls organizer of this event and many more like it.

IMG_1075

Today’s event was a reminder of the importance of reading to children. Doing that is the key to creating lifelong readers. We’re fortunate in St. Louis to have many educators and others who are willing to do that for our area children. All in all, it was a very good day.  You can’t go wrong when you share good books with children.

 

Happy Reading and Writing

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the book reader

To contact Candy Pettiford about her books, e-mail her at candygram2008@live.com

 

Copyright 2018 by Dr Sam Bommarito who is solely responsible for this content.

 

The call for a reading evolution part two: And yes, I still mean evolution not revolution By Doctor Sam Bommarito

Call-to-action-with-words public domain from conidissdence.blogspot.com

The call for a reading evolution part two: And yes, I still mean evolution not revolution

By Doctor Sam Bommarito

After almost 50 years in the field of education, and almost 40 years focusing on literacy education I am quite tired of the ever-swinging pendulum.  Among the top items on my bucket list is to do what I can to help bring the pendulum to rest in the middle, where I think it should have been on along. Big task, not a lot of time left. One of the things that must happen for this dream to come true is the Great Debate in reading needs to become the Great Dialogue in reading. The two sides need to stop arguing and start problem solving.

I’ve given my view of who the two sides are before. However, many of my new readers may not have seen it. On the one hand are the “phonics cures all folks”. They are strong advocates of synthetic phonics. Philosophically they are empiricists and favor direct instruction for all, all of the time.  On the other hand, there are the discovery learning folks. Philosophically they are constructivists. They favor teaching as needed analytic phonics. They favor inquiry learning. I often find myself being a kindred spirit with them.  I feel these two points of view have been around for quite some time. Think Aristotle and Socrates. I expect both points of view will be here long after all of us are gone.  I’d love to see some great thinker unify the two points of view into one consolidated theory of learning. I don’t see that happening any time soon, certainly not in time to fulfill my bucket list wish. Based on research- which side should prevail?

Let’s look at one of the most contentious of the issues the two sides deal with that of phonics- when and how phonics should be taught.  My view is that research demonstrates both sides are correct. It also demonstrates both sides are incorrect.  How can that be? This is explained in detail in the blog post Bill Kerns and I did (https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/07/27/the-reading-wars-circa-2018-why-is-the-pendulum-still-swinging-and-how-can-we-stop-it-by-dr-sam-bommarito-with-commentary-by-dr-william-kerns/.)  The upshot of it is this: Synthetic phonics helps most but not all readers.  Many readers for whom synthetic phonics fails to do the job can be helped with analytic phonics or other forms of phonics instruction.  I think we are perfectly capable of designing educational programs that take all this into account. I’ve talked about what they might look like in previous blogs.

Here is the heart of the matter. We need to have a reading evolution. When something fails to work for every child stop jumping on to something brand new to replace the “failed practice”. In point of fact, the “failed practice” is often working for most, just not for all. Instead we need to learn to tweak things. My notion is this.  The best level for program adoptions in not at the national one size fits all level. The best level is with local school districts who know their kids best. They need to adopt as good a balanced literacy program as they can find. Good means it fits their kids.  Good means that it succeeds for most kids (90-95%).  Then include RTI for the kids for whom the main program isn’t working (read Mary Howards stuff, she has some great ideas around this).  If some aspects of the program aren’t working, then tweak them. A specific for instance- recent research is indicating that using small group instruction hasn’t worked the way we wanted- especially in the poorest school. Burkins and Yaris recently published ideas on how we can change how we use our time in guided reading. They talk about how we can teach in a way that leaves more work for the kids leading to more growth for the kids. Their book provides a pretty good blueprint on how to tweak guided reading/reading workshop. Don’t replace things, fix things. Do it at a local level. What works in one district might not work in others.

Most important in all this is call a “truce” in the reading wars. Each side needs to admit their practices have limits and limitations.  Synthetic phonics has been adopted nationwide in England. Yet there are some children that fail to thrive. I strongly suspect those many of those children would thrive if teachers were taught alternative methods of teaching phonics, including analytic phonics, and allowed to use that knowledge with selected children. Advocates of analytic phonics need to address the fact that adopting such a program for all children often results in many children having large gaps in the knowledge about phonics. Phonics programs really do need to be systematic.

Some children really do learn to read no matter what methods we use.  Others need aspects of one approach or the other to succeed. Both sides have got to agree to stop insisting that all teaching be done with their methods and only their methods. Both sides need to agree when their favorite methods aren’t working for all kids, that teachers should be allowed (and encouraged!) to use methods from the other sides.  Specifically, teachers need to be taught about all the ways to teach phonics. Districts need to adopt programs that seem to fit their population the best. Whichever emphasis the final adoption might take, practices from “the other side” should be allowed and encouraged for the selected students who need them.

In the next few weeks I’ll be exploring what a reading evolution might look like.  I’ll be inviting reader comments. I’m asking that advocates of each side be respectful of the points of view of the other.  Let’s give this a try. Let’s tweak things instead of replacing them. Let’s start the Great Reading Dialogue.  Let’s have a Reading Evolution!

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (a.k.a, person with a bucket list and a dream)

ABOUT THE BLOG- The response to the blogs around Reading Recovery have been amazing- over 4000 readers in the past few weeks. It will be a while before I publish a blog that deals directly with RR so I would encourage readers who found their way to this post through the RR Facebook page to please follow the blog.  I think you will enjoy the future discussions of what I hope will become a reading evolution.

 

Copyright 2018 by Sam Bommarito who is solely responsible for its content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running Records 101: The History & How to Score, Code, & Analyze

Thought this post makes a nice addition to my blog’s ongoing discussion of Reading Recovery. Thanks to Literacy Pages for making it available to reblog. Readers looking for the “Thanks to Reading Recovery Teachers” blog entry will find it is the next one down from this reblog.

Why I Like Reading Recovery and What We Can Learn From It by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Why I Like Reading Recovery and What We Can Learn From It by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Eric Litwin asked about Reading Recovery, what is it, how is it implemented, is it effective? As many of you know I am a former Reading Recovery teacher. I can sum up my opinion about Reading Recovery in three words: It REALLY works.  Why do I say this?

First of all, let’s look at the research past and present.  Back in 2007 an extensive review of programs by the federal governments What Works Clearinghouse found that Reading Recovery was the only intervention that made a significant difference in reading achievement for young children.  A current search of the IES>WWC website finds only three early learning studies that met their standards of review https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/EvidenceSnapshot/420 . Reading Recovery is the most successful of those three programs. Readers can follow the preceding link to go to IES>WWC’s Evidence Snapshop Page. There is a link there to download the full intervention report.

Here is a screen capture of that page:

WWC Screen Capture

 

Many times, early literacy programs help in areas related to decoding (alphabetic, reading fluency), but fail to impact comprehension and achievement.  I want to call your attention to is that RR had significant improvement index scores in all four areas, including comprehension and achievement.  I know of no other early literacy intervention that can make that claim. So, as I said at the outset, Reading Recovery REALLY works.

Eric also wanted to know my opinion of why it works and what we can learn from it. I believe the key to why it works is that Reading Recovery follows the principle of making the program fit the child not the other way round.  RR teachers are first and foremost kid watchers.  As a RR teacher I noticed what the child was doing. One example is that I looked for self-corrections. My own experience is that when the child begins to self-correct, the effect of everything else in the program begins to become cumulative.  If the child is reading materials in their ZPD, each time they read they are effectively teaching themselves new words and understandings. One of the reasons I gave such an impassioned defense of the use of the three-cueing system (last week’s blog entry), is that as I planned my program for each student back in the day,  I was always encouraging cross-checking and use of all the cues. My prompts NEAR POINT OF ERROR would include things like “Say the first sound think of the clues”, “what word starts with that sound and makes sense”, “I like the way the word you just said makes sense, but it doesn’t start with this sound. Can you think of another word that makes sense and starts with this sound?” RR teachers are totally familiar with the concept of ongoing assessment. Their kid watching forms the basis for informing all their instruction.

Eric also wanted to know how important it is to do Reading Recovery individually. My answer is VERY. I’ll go one step further.  If you want results like the ones listed in the WWC reports, then you need to implement RR using trainers certified to carry out the training.  Mark Twain once said, the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightening bug. Point taken.  I know some administrators view RR and the associated training as too expensive. However, when one factors in the fact that most RR students who complete the program never need any further interventions, then the cost benefit results look much better. Also, while most RR teachers only service 4 students the first semester, many service more the second semester because the “late starts” are usually a little further along than their first semester counterparts. This leads to more than 4 students cycling through the program second semester.  I know of places where recovery teachers serviced 10-16 students each year. So, I view RR as cost effective.  Is there anything from RR that can be transferred over to the main program?

I’ll start by saying, RR is designed for students for whom the regular literacy program is unlikely to work. It is at least a Tier 2, or Tier 3 intervention. But it is a program rich with effective literacy practices. I want to share something I learned at my very first RR convention.  Before trying to transfer RR practices to the classroom, first revisit the practice and look at the learning principles behind the practice. Then adapt the practice and how it is implemented to the classroom. That advice has proven very useful over the years.

When I was looking over research about RR when I was first trained I found out that in America, it took almost twice the number of lessons than in other countries to get students released. My take on that was that we need to look at practices in those other countries, which tend to not use basals but instead use child center literacy-based approaches, in order to improve our own practices.  When I stopped being an RR teacher and started being a push in Title One staff developer, I found myself doing exactly what was suggested at that first conference. Look at practices and then adapt those practices to the classroom. They formed the basis of much of what I modeled for my classroom teachers. I will save talking about the practices I transferred until after Bill Kerns and I put together our proposal for a preconference workshop at the early learning conference scheduled for St. Louis in November (http://www.missouriearlylearning.com/). There we hope to share some of those effective practices.  For now, know that first among those practices is learning to prompt NEAR point of error, not at point of error. Classroom teachers can use a technique called “staggered start”. Using “staggered start” they can then prompt near point of error for all the children their guided reading groups. If I’ve peeked your interest, please do follow the blog. I promise a blog entry on all these practices as soon as Bill and I get the proposal written. That will be well in advance of the conference.

So, Eric, first thanks for carrying on this conversation and especially thanks for your great questions.  Yes RR works. Look at the description from WWC in order to see what it involves. Teachers who implement it should learn how to do it as it was intended. If you want to borrow it’s practices, first visit the theory behind practices in RR and then adapt those practices that might help your children into the your main program.  So, until next week…

 

Happy Reading & Writing

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (once an RR teacher, always an RR teacher)

Here is a link to the IES>WWC site set to filter all literacy programs not just early literacy programs:

https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/FWW/Results?filters=,Literacy

Here is a link to more research demonstrating the efficacy of RR:

http://www.cpre.org/sites/default/files/reading_recovery_final_report.pdf

Another link to more research demonstrating the efficacy of RR:

Here is a link to a recent u tube video explaining the benefits one district found from reading recovery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvrAR5FrEBg&feature=share

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Opinions are my own , I am responsible for their content

Yes, Virginia There Really are Three Cueing Systems (AND it pays to help student to balance their use of the three cues and to crosscheck them). By Dr Sam Bommarito & commentary by Dr. William Kerns

Better 3 cues

Yes, Virginia There Really are Three Cueing Systems

(AND it pays to help student to balance their use of the three cues and to crosscheck them).

By Dr Sam Bommarito

 

(Also see commentary by Dr. William Kerns at then end of the blog- as always Bill has some great insights!)

I’m betting my readers can decode the following message, using a combination of meaning cues, syntactic cues and letter cues (RR teachers call them visual cues). Know that all the vowels are missing from my message. They are each replaced with “-“.

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

D–r r.-s–rch-rs,

 

Th- r–d-rs o- my bl-g c-n r–d th-s w-th–t th- v-w-ls m-ss-ng. I th-nk th-y -r- us-ng th- thr– c—s t- h-lp th-m d-c-d- th-s m-ss-g-. Cl-y r-c-mm-nds w- t—ch cr-ssch-ck-ing. C-nt-xt pl-s th- f-rst s–nd.=  cr-ssch-ck-ng.

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

BTW- one of the important takeaways of the above passage is that consonants give more information than vowels.  That’s something I learned a long time ago in the pre-reading wars days. This fact is educationally significant. You should be aware that there are some K-1 readers who are unable to discern the vowel sounds. They are sometimes in second grade or beyond before they can hear them/say them. They still learn to read.  I think the three cueing systems help to explain how. It also explains why, while I do advocate the use of synthetic phonics, I also advocate that the synthetic phonics instruction be supplemented with an analytic phonics approach. For an example of researchers saying there is no reason to teach the 3 Cueing System see

https://www.nifdi.org/resources/news/hempenstall-blog/402-the-three-cueing-system-in-reading-will-it-ever-go-away

Overall, I hope figuring out my message (minus all the vowels!) convinces my readers of this blog to look a little more carefully about how readers decode. I’ll start with the thought that by and large the readers of this blog are highly proficient. Yet you DID use all three cueing systems to read my message. The critics claim only poor readers use them.  My very good friend Eric Litwin proposed a way to decide what reading practices are really best practices. He says ” I am coming to the position that we must use three perspectives and each one helps us understand what could be a best practice. One, is it supported by research? Two is it supported by classroom experience. Three, does it make sense (common sense)?”
For me, classroom experience and common sense dictate that we should use our knowledge of the three cueing systems to scaffold all readers (not just “poor” readers) into literacy. Researchers critical of using the three cueing systems need to revisit the question of the three cueing systems and look carefully at the role of cross-checking.  When students learn to crosscheck “wild guesses” become “educated guesses”.  This is ONE of the methods MOST readers use to decode what they read. IT IS NOT THE ONLY METHOD. I view it as an example of analytic phonics.  But in some places, it has become the forbidden method.  That fact is hurting some children on a daily basis.

This is a chant I often use with the children to encourage crosschecking:

“Say the first sound, think of the clues, then you’ll know all the words to use. Say the first sound, say the first sound, say the first sound.”

By the way notice that I said “say the first sound” not the first letter. Example:

The clue is I saw it in the sky.

First sound is “s”, what word?

First sound is “st”, what word?

The first answer is sun.

The second answer is star.

Both answers come from educated guessing i.e. using visual cues (letter clues) plus meaning cues to arrive at the correct word. My point here is that it is important to teach the students about the SOUNDS of consonant blends and consonant diagraphs. Also notice how crosschecking can usually overcome most of the limitations of guessing words from their first sound.

So, I really do think the three cueing systems exist. Speech pathologists have been basing instruction on them for years! In my own head I often think of readers as falling into decoding continuum that is as follows:

CONTINIUM

To be in the center of that decoding continuum, readers should learn to use all three of the cueing systems and crosscheck them.

Readers- your thoughts, opinions and concerns.

Dr. Sam Bommarito aka creator of educated guessers

Thanks to Eric Litwin for his input on this issue

 

A Commentary on Scaffolding and Cueing Systems

By Dr. William Kerns

Sam Bommarito’s blog this week is a valuable reminder of the importance of helping readers make use of grapho-phonic (visual and sound), syntactic (sentence structure) and semantic (meaning) cueing systems in order to improve their understanding of increasingly complex texts. In this commentary, I build on the following point made by Sam within the blog: “We should use our knowledge of the three cueing systems to scaffold all readers (not just “poor” readers) into literacy.” Instructional scaffolding should promote engagement and challenge.

Instructional scaffolding is rooted in the work of Wood, Bruner and Ross (1976) who understood scaffolding as a “process that enables a child or novice to solve a problem, carry out a task or achieve a goal which would be beyond his unassisted efforts” (p. 90). Appropriate scaffolding will help a reader to develop increasing skill both within and between cueing systems  while solving problems related to reading tasks and pursuing goals.

Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) provides a framework for understanding how to use scaffolding in the context of cueing systems. Children who are striving toward increasing independence in the use of cueing systems  rely on scaffolding such as think-alouds by a teacher in order to become more proficient readers. Scaffolding takes place within a ZPD, which is often defined as “the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem-solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86).

 

When using instructional scaffolding, teachers should focus on the difference between a reader’s demonstrated performance and their learning potential (Kozulin, 2003). ZPD’s can be said to change as a reader’s skill evolves, so it is critical to carefully track performance in the use of cueing systems.

A possible mistake by teachers is to engage in instructional scaffolding without the use of adequate or ongoing assessment. Assessment should track patterns in students’ use of cueing systems. These patterns may vary with different genres and modes of texts. Patterns may also change over time. Methods of assessing these patterns include conducting a miscue analysis (Davenport, 2002; Goodman, 2008; Goodman & Goodman, 2004), assessment of prior knowledge (Afflerbach, 1998), and running records (Clay, 2017).

Many instructional strategies for scaffolding are available (see Beers & Probst, 2017; Block, 2004; Gallagher & Kittle, 2018; Keene, 2018; McKay & Teale, 2015; Serravallo, 2015). Scaffolding should have as its goal the guiding of students to “complete complex mental tasks they could not complete without assistance” (Pearson & Fielding, 1991, p. 842). Reading aloud (Regan & Berkeley, 2012) and shared reading (Falco & Soloway, 2011; Stahl, 2012)  can open the door for a teacher to engage in a think-aloud as a form of instructional scaffolding.

In a think aloud, the teacher can pause while reading to verbally demonstrate the thought process involved in the use one of one or more of the cueing systems (Davey, 1983). Too often, a think-aloud can be passive in which children simply sit at their desks and listen to the teacher engage in a musing about a text. This is not how strategic use of the think-aloud instructional strategy should work. Instead,  the think aloud should be used as a gateway toward involving children in active problem solving and challenges at appropriate levels of difficulty.

Teachers should use think-alouds to help children learn and utilize reading strategies within one or more of the cueing systems that can be useful in varied contexts. In this way, a reading task is broken into manageable parts as a cognitive apprenticeship (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1990; Dennen, 2004). This can be done through guiding questions and statements that help children see how a skilled reader makes connections to a text, then allowing children to participate in making sense of a text by drawing on a cueing system (Pentimonti & Justice, 2010). The use of cueing systems should increasingly be self-regulated (Zimmerman & Schunk, 2011) by the child.

In sum, I urge instructional scaffolding as part of activities such as shared reading. Teachers can use instructional scaffolding to guide students as they set goals, preview texts, use visual clues in order to make predictions, ask strategic questions and making connections (e.g. text-to-self; text to text, text to world). A goal of a teacher is to help children engage in strategic and reflective thinking in the use of cueing systems to make meaning from a text.

 

References

Afflerbach, P. (1998). Reading assessment and learning to read. In O. Jean and F. Lehr (Eds.), Literacy for all: Issues in teaching and learning (pp. 239–263). New York: The Guilford Press

Beers, K. & Probst, R.E. (2017). Disrupting thinking: Why how we read matters. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Block, C. C. (2004). Teaching comprehension: The comprehension process approach. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Clay, M.M. (2017). Running Records: For classroom teachers (Second Edition). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Newman, S. E. (1990). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the crafts of reading, writing, and mathematics. In L. B. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning, and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaser (pp. 453–494). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Davenport, M.R. (2002). Miscues not mistakes: Reading assessment in the classroom. Portsmouth: Heinemann Publishers.

Davey, B. (1983). Think aloud—Modeling the cognitive process of reading comprehension. Journal of Reading, 27, 44–47.

Dennen, V. P. (2004). Cognitive apprenticeship in educational practice: Research on scaffolding, mentoring, and coaching as instructional strategies. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (2nd ed., pp. 813–828). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Falco, V., & Soloway, R. (2011). Building independent readers with interactive read-alouds and shared reading: Lessons for modeling comprehension strategies and engaging students in effective guided practice. New York, NY: Scholastic.