Developing Reading Skills During Each Instructional Moment
I’m working my way through an interesting article in this quarter’s Reading Research Quarterly called Effects of a Response-Based, Tiered Framework for Intervening With Struggling Readers in Middle School by Greg Roberts, Sharon Vaughn, Jack Fletcher, Karla Stuebing, and Amy Barth. The article refers to research suggesting that targeted and data driven interventions at the middle school level can be effective in helping struggling readers develop their skills. I am particularly energized by the assertion that, “adolescents with reading difficulties benefit from explicit and systematic interventions organized around their instructional needs,” the mention of oral reading fluency as an indicator of student automaticity but not comprehension, and the listing of strategy instruction models including monitoring, summarizing, and question generation. There are formal ways of examining and working to effect student’s development at the middle school level including the Response to Intervention (RTI) process and Adolescent Accelerated Reading Initiative (AARI) implementation. These processes and programs are effective, important, and even essential to student achievement. However, as I read this article I continue to think about what’s happening in the classroom on a moment-to-moment basis. If we remove the statistics, the databases, and the acronyms we’re left with the people. Thinking critically about why it’s important to put energy into these larger and more formal efforts gives me cause to think about some small and informal things that might be done to keep students reading fluency and comprehension moving in the right direction between interventions and across content areas. Again, I appreciate and support formal interventions, but I think we can complement them by working to understand student needs as they evolve during each lesson we teach. Here are some thoughts:
Keep a conferring journal. Make time for daily, weekly, biweekly, or even monthly individual conferences with each student. For the purpose of intervention, teachers would have to decide on frequency based on need. In doing so they would also have to manage the process, being sensitive to the academic, social, and emotional needs of each learner. Notes would have to be simple and straightforward so that they could be effective in information ongoing instruction.
Collaborate across content areas. Grade level teachers looking to effect enhanced development in struggling readers might consider teaming up. Given the shift toward increased exposure to informational text with the introduction of the Common Core State Standards, language arts teachers are equipped to be great partners to their colleagues in math, science, social studies, and the unified arts.
Promote engagement by allowing interest driven self-selection. By using an inquiry/differentiated model of Project Based Learning (PBL) teachers can give thier students ownership over the text they choose. In doing so, they can make sure that students are invested in the reading and able to make real meaning from it.
Explicit and systematic does not have to mean complicated and formal. What are you doing to understand and address the needs of struggling readers in your classroom?