Preschool—Learning ABC’s

When you are ready to teach letter names and sounds to your preschool/kinder students, it is nice if you can post large size letters on the wall so your child can look at them frequently.  Just as when teaching colors and shapes, to make it easier for your child, you should post and teach only one letter-name and letter-sound at a time.  It is very important that you teach the sound of the letter as well as the letter name. This will be very useful when you begin to teach your child to read a bit later on.

SnipBlog105bOne or two letters a week is about the right amount for this age group.  Do not post a new letter until your child knows the previous one, even if it takes more time.  If a young child is not able to learn one letter a week, he is probably not ready for this task.file contains black outline letters that you can print onto colored paper or colored cardstock if you so desire.  To alternate colors, print page one on red, page two on orange, page three on yellow, page four on green, page five on blue; then repeat for the next five pages—and so forth. Cut out the letters so the shape of each one is distinct when placed on a white background.

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Have fun teaching the alphabet and the letter-sounds, and take it nice and slow with your preschoolers!

You can get your FREE printable large size black outline ABC’s here.

Can Your Students Comprehend Texts That They Cannot Read?

Absolutely! Students do understand texts that are read aloud to them that are above their independent reading level. But if they are struggling to read text on their own that is too difficult for them to decode, they will not have good comprehension.  SnipBlog100Struggling students in the upper grades are increasingly expected to read texts that are above their level of reading ability, because they need to learn complex subjects. This presents a problem. Does it make sense to require students to read texts that are above their independent reading level?

Some teachers understand the futility of requiring reading at a level that is above a student’s ability, so they look for and assign books at the students’ actual reading level.  These teachers sometimes endure criticism for doing what they believe is best for their students.

With so many struggling readers in our schools, we ought to be looking at why we have this problem. We first fail when teaching our children basic reading instruction. There are many reasons why children fail to learn to read, including bad reading programs and inconsistent attendance. But we continue to pass children who have not learned basic decoding skills on to the next grade level. Then we blame the teachers in the upper grades when their struggling students fail to progress.

Students need to learn to read well by the end of first grade!  If a student is not progressing, change the program.  Students who are not reading well by early to mid-first grade should be given a phonics reading program that includes all of the Orton-Gillingham phonograms, and that uses those phonograms in decodable stories. Nearly all struggling readers who are taught to read this way can learn to read.

Students can comprehend texts that they cannot read on their own. The short term fix may include reading grade level texts aloud to students who are struggling. But to be successful, students need to be able to read on their own. When students read texts independently, they will only comprehend what they can quickly and easily decode. We may provide accommodations for struggling readers, but we owe it to them to teach them how to read for themselves.

 

Common Core and Reading Assignments—What Are We Missing Here?

SnipBlog99What a concept! Some teachers assign books to their students that they can actually read instead of assigning them to read books that are far above their reading ability! Is this surprising? Is it a bad thing? Are policy-makers suggesting that students should be assigned to read books at an instructional level that they cannot read because those students are in a grade based on their age?

The Thomas B Fordham Institute published a report on October 22, 2013 titled, “Common Core in the Schools: A First Look at Reading Assignments.” Here is a quote from the press release:

The CCSS emphasize the centrality of texts in the English language arts curriculum. Yet the majority of teachers still report that their lessons are dominated by skills and are more likely to try to fit texts to skills…Indeed, an astonishing 73 percent of elementary school teachers and 56 percent of middle school teachers place greater emphasis on reading skills than the text…

The Common Core asks teachers to assign texts that provide language complexity appropriate to the grade level, but significant proportions of teachers—particularly in the elementary grades—are still assigning texts based on students’ present reading prowess. Specifically, the majority of elementary teachers (64 percent) make substantial efforts to match students with books that presumably align with their instructional reading levels…This means that many youngsters are not yet working with appropriately complex language in their schoolbooks.

It appears that because students need to be learning complex language, they had better be reading complex words. That is all fine and good if the student is a strong reader and can actually read those complex words. But many students are not strong readers due to poor instruction and through no fault of their own.  What are we to do?  Start where the student is, not where you want him to be.

Let’s say you go out to the mountains and you are just learning how to ski, so you can barely stay standing up on your skis. Your instructor takes you out to the bunny slope and gives you some tips on how to fall safely (because you are going to fall!) and how to point your ski tips and whatever else they teach a beginner. But the resort owner comes out and tells the instructor that you need to be practicing the giant slalom because that is what skiers should be doing at your age.  Wonder how well that’s going to work?

What are we to do? Start where the student is, not where you want him to be. You cannot start where you want them to be if they have not learned the skills needed to function at that skill level and expect them to be successful. That is a recipe for creating dropouts.

If students are reading at a first grade level, then they need to begin at that level and be taught the skills that will allow them to quickly improve their ability.  We have programs available that will do exactly that—but we aren’t using them nearly enough and our students are paying a high price.

We can teach students the complex language in higher level books—but we can’t expect them to read those texts on their own until we have taught the reading skills that they need to do so. We should not discourage struggling readers—we must start where the student is. We know that students learn much of their extensive vocabulary from reading a lot of books—but students who cannot read well have been left behind.

Instead of insisting that we force difficult or impossible reading assignments on our struggling readers, we need to put a much greater effort into first teaching students to read well. We need to think in terms of teaching students to read well by the end of first grade rather than by the end of third grade. But if that is not where they are—what are we to do? Start where the student is, not where you want him to be!

 

 

See the Thomas B Fordham Institute report  “Common Core in the Schools: A First Look at Reading Assignments” here:                         http://www.edexcellence.net/publications/common-core-in-the-schools#

Sound Bytes Reading helps struggling readers learn the basic skills they need to become strong and independent readers.    www.SoundBytesReading.com

Learning to Talk and Learning to Read – Part 2

Learning to read is a process that involves both visual and auditory input.  Children must learn to match symbols to sounds and then connect those symbols to make words.  Some children have difficulty remembering the symbols if too many are taught at once.  Reading can be made easier by teaching only a few sound-symbols at a time and then using them to practice decoding simple words.  Students should practice reading short stories using the same words they are learning to decode.

Diagram

Learning to Talk & Learning to Read – Part 1

Some educators in the past have postulated that learning to read happens easily and naturally and is just like learning to talk. But is this theory true?  If so, why is virtually everyone who can hear able to speak, but not everyone can read easily and with little effort?  Why is reading so difficult for many children?

Children learn to talk by listening to speech. The process of learning to read is actually quite different than the process of learning to talk. Reading involves visually matching written symbols to speech sounds and then learning to decode those symbols. This is the first of two charts that show you the steps involved in each process.  Part 2 will be posted next week.

Diagram

 

Is Reading Achievement Improving?

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News reports this month lauded improvements in reading achievement but there has been very little improvement in the eleven years since 2002 as you can see in this graph from the NAEP website:  http://nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2013/#/gains-percentiles

To access reading scores in place of mathematics scores, click on the bar just under the caption, “Are higher and lower performing students making gains?”

READ SnipHere is their explanation of the terms, basic, proficient, and advanced:

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Several years ago in the Introduction to Sound Bytes Reading, I wrote:

 According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 34 % of fourth graders in the USA read at only a basic level and another 34% read below a basic level.  In eighth grade, 43 % read at a basic level and 27% read below a basic level.  Our goal should be for all students to become proficient readers, yet 68% of fourth graders and 70% of eighth graders cannot read at a proficient level.

Recently the following statement about the 2013 Nation’s Report Card was made by the president of The Center for Education Reform, Kara Kerwin:

It’s a disgrace and truly incomprehensible that after decades of mediocrity, we celebrate today the fact that only 34 percent of our nation’s 8th graders can read at grade level and only 34 percent are proficient in math.

http://www.edreform.com/2013/11/cer-statement-on-the-2013-nations-report-card/

Other news sources made these statements:

While overall performance remains poor, this year’s report card does show improvement. Nationally, math scores were higher in 2013 than they have been since 1990 for both grades and for all student demographic groups. What’s more, the percentage of students who scored “advanced” on the tests was higher in 2013 than in any year since 1990.

http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/nina-rees/2013/11/11/nations-report-card-shows-progress-in-reading-and-math

The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress from the U.S. Department of Education shows that many high school seniors are graduating unable to read at grade level, and one in four cannot read at even the most basic level.   Just 38 percent of 12th graders were proficient in reading.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/nations-report-card-shows-american-students-struggle-reading/story?id=12186446

In an EdWeek.com article, “NAEP Results Show Math Gains, But 4th Grade Reading Still Flat,” Erik Robelen wrote:

The nation’s 4th and 8th graders have inched up in mathematics, new test data show, but the results are more mixed in reading, with 4th grade scores flat compared with two years ago.  Overall, achieving proficiency in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as “the nation’s report card,” remains an elusive goal for the majority of American students. Only about one-third reached that level or higher in reading.

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/11/09/11naep-2.h31.html

The 2013 Nation’s Report Card can be seen here:

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/publications/main2013/pdf/2014451.pdf

Have we really improved reading achievement?  Not much.  But we could improve a lot more if we followed the guidelines outlined in the April 2000 “Report of the National Reading Panel.” They outlined what a good reading program should include:  Phonemic Awareness instruction, Systematic Phonics Instruction, Vocabulary Instruction, Guided Oral Reading, Independent Reading, Fluency Instruction, and Comprehension Instruction.

http://www.nationalreadingpanel.org/publications/summary.htm

The components of a good reading program should not be taught in isolation.  Children who are learning to read should be learning the sounds of the letters, decode words using those same letter-sounds, and read a story using the words they just learned. Make sure students know the meanings of new words before reading a story. If students can decode well, fluency will not be difficult. Check comprehension by asking questions about the story.  Let’s follow good practice and improve reading instruction!

Dyslexia—What Is It and What Can We Do About It?

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Is your child struggling with learning to read?  Is your child dyslexic? What is dyslexia?

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines dyslexia as “impairment of the ability to read, often as the result of genetic defect or brain injury.”  The online Encarta Dictionary defines it as “impaired ability to understand written language; a learning disorder marked by severe difficulty in recognizing and understanding written language, leading to spelling and writing problems.  It is not caused by low intelligence or brain damage.”

When a child is not learning to read, parents may wonder if there is something very wrong with their student.  Parents are often advised to see an eye doctor (not necessarily a bad idea) and/or to have the student evaluated by a specialist. While optometrists may effectively evaluate deficiency in eyesight, they are not usually trained in the causes of reading difficulties, so parents need to be cautious.

Many students who are struggling with learning to read will be doing some or all of these things:

  • Guessing at unknown words based on the first letter of the word or the shape of the word (Example: saying “horse” instead of “house”)
  • Guessing at unknown words by looking at the pictures for clues (eyes are moving all over the page—this is sometimes diagnosed as an eye-tracking problem)
  • Skipping over words
  • Sometimes saying “a” in place of “the”
  • Looking frequently at another reader’s face instead of looking at the text on the page
  • Repeating lines of text slightly after another reader (when several students are doing choral reading together)
  • Not reading fluently (reading is choppy, not smooth and expressive)
  • Not knowing what they read after reading it (low comprehension)

There is good news.  Whether or not a struggling reader has been diagnosed as dyslexic, he or she can learn to read.  Researchers have discovered that the brains of students who can read look different than the brains of students who cannot read—BUT—after those students were taught to read, their brains looked the same as the brains of good readers.  Learning to read changes a child’s brain!

“…using new before- and after- images that show what happens to children’s brains after they get systematic, research-based reading instruction, the images show that the right teaching methods can actually normalize brain function and thereby improve a child’s reading skills.”   See Brain, See Brain Read… American Psychological Association, January 2, 2006. https://www.apa.org/research/action/reading.aspx

Researchers believe that children who have difficulty learning to read may have more difficulty gaining phonological awareness—that is understanding how sounds map to letters of the alphabet—so they will need more explicit instruction in how that works.  That means that these students will not figure reading out by themselves and will need to be systematically taught the sounds of letters and how the letters work together to make words.

Benita Blachman, PhD, of Syracuse University, and her colleagues reported in 2004 that children in second- and third-grades with poor word-reading skills who got eight months of instruction in letter sounds and spelling while reading text (an experimental group), instead of regular remedial-reading programs (a control group), showed significantly greater gains in reading real words, non-words and passages, in reading rate and in spelling. When re-tested a year later, they had mostly held those gains. (See Brain, See Brain Read… https://www.apa.org/research/action/reading.aspx)

While there are a number of phonetic reading programs that are available, not all of them are student and parent friendly.  Some are very expensive. Some require keeping a notebook and doing a lot of copy work.  Some use special markings that are not in regular story books and which may confuse children.  Most require that a student learn all of the sounds of the phonograms (alphabet letters and combinations of letters) before beginning to read stories.  Programs like this can be difficult for students who are already struggling with reading.

If your child is struggling with reading, and you want a strong phonetic reading program, try Sound Bytes Reading. Sound Bytes Reading is affordable, student and parent friendly, and can help  your child quickly become a successful reader.  Is your child dyslexic? Struggling reader?  Not anymore!

www.SoundBytesReading.com