Blogs about Reading
Sound It Out
Dr. Joanne Meier
Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.
Continuing this month's Reading Rockets theme of reading and writing in the digital world, I thought I'd highlight TeacherTube. If you haven't seen it yet, it's YouTube for teachers. There are thousands of videos there, created by and for teachers. It also includes student projects and videos teachers could use for teaching. Viewers can see what's being viewed right now, comment on videos and vote for ones you think should be featured.
For me, the site buffers pretty slowly, but you might have more luck. I also wish the organization of the site were more intuitive, but if you use the Search feature, you can find some good things. I searched for "fluency," "reading comprehension," "phonics," and "strategies." Two of my finds...
Have you ever seen kids "playing" the Crazy Professor reading game? I saw it for the first time a few months ago at PowerTeachers. On TeacherTube, a first grade teacher posted a short video of her class "playing" it.
Browsing around TeacherTube reinforces what we know: Some teachers are using technology with their students and to share with other teachers. That's cool!
If you're looking for other video of teachers, check out our very own Watch & Learn section. You can watch through Google, it looks great, and is targeted just for teachers of young kids.
NOTE: TeacherTube is not a site intended for students to navigate on their own. There may be PSAs or videos on there with content not suitable for young children.
Working with struggling readers is darn hard work. Progress is slow, and it takes an enormous amount of effort. Really concerted, dedicated, sustained effort. The students I work with usually make me want to bang my head against a wall out of frustration and leap across the room for joy, and that's within a 45 minute tutoring session!
The Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) recently summarized K-3 intervention research. FCRR staff established criteria for selecting studies to include in their review; 12 studies ended up making the review and contributing to Extensive Reading Interventions in Grades K-3. The report provides some guidance for people who work with struggling readers. I think it provides some insight into just what it takes to make a difference (and it's a lot).
Among the findings:
(1) Low cost implementers (aka teacher aides) can be effective interventionists; all the programs they studied that relied on teacher aides used a well structured, written-for-them lesson plan. And included lots of training.
(2) Gains from interventions appear to be maintained over time (hooray!)
(3) All the interventions included attention to the big five areas of reading.
There are other findings too, but these are the most critical. There's no one answer: no single intervention came out on top every time. There was no magic number of sessions (each study included at least 100 sessions. 4-5 times a week), total hours of intervention (range across these 12 studies was 25 to 173), or group size. Just a lot of darn hard work, and dedicated professionals.
NOTE: It's a new year, and I feel like a curmudgeon writing this post. But I mean it in the spirit of: DON'T GIVE UP! WE CAN DO THIS! IT'S TOTALLY WORTH IT!
A "wiki" is a website or other online resource which allows users to add and edit content collectively. By now, most of us are familiar with Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. But there are other wikis too.
There's a wiki devoted specifically to early literacy. Have you seen it? It's free-reading.net. According to the site, free-reading.net is an open resource center and community for early literacy teachers. Because it's a wiki, the content is continually being revised and changed. There is an advisory board for the site that "refines the ongoing research and development agenda of Free-Reading." The advisory board includes well-known researchers Catherine Snow, Michael Kamil, and Barbara Taylor.
I feel like such a fuddy-duddy when I say it, but I'm a bit suspicious of wikis! I mean, how can I trust a site whose content can be changed by virtually anyone?? But, I have to say, there are some terrific resources that you should see:
64 activities to teach phonological awareness. Several of the ones I looked at included video too.
Vocabulary lessons using popular children's books. The sequence they recommend for teaching the words is a good one.
A Chipmunk Rap. Yes, that's right. And as the mom of two young girls, this one was a BIG HIT.
In addition to activities, guides, videos and rap, free-reading.net offers a full 40-week intervention program for K/1 students. I haven't reviewed it yet, and don't see any links to research done with it, but it might be worth looking over! Now, if I can just do something about the references to "tricks" on the site.....
We're still reading and writing around our house, with Anna adding to her list each day. Because of this, I'll be busy right up until the last minute trying to figure out what a few of these things might be!
Happy holidays to you — thanks for reading Sound It Out this year, and I look forward to next year! We'll have lots to talk about, including infusing technology into literacy instruction, analyzing student spelling, using text sets to motivate reluctant readers, summer reading, and writing instruction for all students. See you then!
My daughter Molly loves words — she always has. Her latest "game" (which is driving Anna crazy) is so much like the procedure for vocabulary development recommended in Bringing Words to Life that I wonder if she hasn't read the book herself!
I walked into the kitchen last night to hear this conversation between Molly and Anna:
Molly: Your jump rope is on the sidewalk. Is that awkward?
Anna: No, I don't think so. Um....yes? (sounding unsure)
Molly: Your teacher has toilet paper stuck to her shoe. Is that awkward?
Anna: Gross, Molly! I don't know....yes?
Molly: Yes! That would be awkward because you would feel weird telling her. Right?
And so it goes. They covered awkward, mist, and glisten(spurred by "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas").
Vocabulary is fun. Really fun! And helping kids become lovers of words is great too. Although I haven't read Miss Alaineus yet, I plan too. The author and illustrator has a terrific web page that includes fun ideas for teachers: vocabulary parade, word games, and art projects.
I know there are tons of other books for kids that encourage discussions about words...care to share your favorites?
Like everyone, we're in for a busy couple of weeks. Our homework and storytime routines sometimes get pushed aside, and at first I was feeling guilty about that. But when I think about how the girls are spending their time, there's plenty of reading, writing, and math going on...it just looks different! Here's how Anna spent her afternoon yesterday on the computer:
I have ben a very good girl this yere I wood like moor jump rope and
Samatha and Emily a pegwin that is cold and cuot my onn bitty baby and
My onn jres up close a nothr cabich pach sum moor books that are
Little bear sum moor bitty baby close sum moor crittrs
My onn safty bag that hooks on to my bike
My onn aret araya
While she was doing that, Molly and I were writing our grocery list for chocolate mint wafer cookies. Things got complicated when we decided to double the recipe! A quick tutorial on fractions kept things on track. Between our grocery list and the directions for putting together our Advent calendar (like this one, but I didn't pay that price!) Molly got her share of reading and writing too.
And there's more in our future — reading our Christmas cards and letters, sending out our own (at some point...), writing our letter with Santa's cookies and also thank you notes. So, if your schedule is like ours, it's okay! Step back and see where literacy is really taking place. I'll bet it's there.
I've started thinking about holiday gifts for the girls' teachers. Here are a few of my ideas so far...I'm trying to keep it practical and useful.
A gift certificate to Barnes & Noble: For kids' books, or for the teachers' own enjoyment! What could be better than a latte and a good book? I just finished this,and it was great (long...but very interesting!)
A gift certificate to our local teacher supply store: It's a store that sells Happy Grams, cute pencils, stickers, erasers, games, art supplies, and more. I'm sure both teachers shop there, and for once they wouldn't have to use their own money!
I like magazine subscriptions too, but I wonder how useful just one copy would be for a teacher. I think at least one of them has magazines as part of her classroom library, so maybe it would work. I wrote about our favorites here.
A pretty good list for early December (I'm a notorious last-minute shopper!). If you have any great ideas for gifts for teachers, please comment away!
Just a few examples of the types of words students are asked to read on a Nonsense Word assessment. Some assessments are timed (how many nonsense words can you read in one minute?), and some assessments use a ceiling (stop when the student incorrectly reads 5 in a row).
Nonsense word measures are one part of DIBELS, a widely-used assessment for young children, they're one part of the Orton Gillingham approach to teaching reading, and are one part of most diagnostic work done with struggling readers.
Nonsense word lists and task are also finding their way into general education classrooms as part of curriculum based measures. At this point, teachers often balk. "I want kids to read for meaning. There's no meaning in this!"
Nonsense word fluency measures a student's ability to decode individual phonemes and then blend them together to read. They're an indicator of a student's progress in acquiring early alphabetic principle skills. By using nonsense words, we can find out whether a child knows the most common sound for letters (letter–sound correspondence), and whether a child can blend the sounds to read words he has never seen before.
So, nonsense word reading works really well as a quick, reliable, and valid way of assessing part of the alphabetic principle. BUT, we can teach and develop the alphabetic principle without ever explicitly teaching nonsense word reading. Hooray!
I once heard Connie Juel, a prominent researcher in early reading, describe an interview with a struggling fourth-grade student. Connie had spent four years following a group of students who, in first grade, had been identified as at risk. She was wrapping up her longitudinal study, asking them how they felt about reading. "Reading?" one boy said. "I hate it. I'd rather clean a bathtub."
Did you know that one third of 4th graders and more than one-quarter of 8th graders read below the basic level? For kids who struggle early on in reading (like those we focus on here at Reading Rockets), there is often a long, hard road ahead. The demands of school increase, yet reading and writing skills often can't keep up. Grades and motivation often drop, leaving students, parents, and teachers feeling at a loss for what to do.
Our newest project and friend to reading, AdLit.org, can help. Just launched yesterday, AdLit.org fills a void by becoming the absolute "go-to" site for parents and teachers of kids in grades 4-12.
AdLit.org contains research-based articles and reports
videos of teachers and classrooms, a strategy library with downloadable PDFs, podcasts, webcasts, and an Ask the Expert area where you can write in to ask about a challenge you're facing. The Just for Fun portion alerts readers to contests and opportunities you may not have heard of. And that is just what is available now at launch. More is coming.
I encourage you to poke around the site, subscribe to the newsletter, and get to know this new friend to reading.
I don't care what they read as long as they are reading.
There's some food for thought! Is that true? It doesn't matter what they read as long as they're reading?
Last week, Michael Winerip's Parenting column in the New York Times was about making a love of reading happen for his kids, especially as they grow older. The column was poignant and thought provoking. Readers' comments were too.
One reader wrote:
I'm afraid I have never heard a parent say anything more negligent than "I don't care what they read as long as they are reading." How absurd. Really, try substituting the phrase I don't care what my children eat as long as they are eating. I don't care with whom my children become friends as long as they have friends. I don't care what movies my children see as long as they see movies. I don't care what sites they go to on the internet as long as they are computer competent. You get the idea.
At first, I thought I disagreed.
And then we went to Barnes & Noble.
The girls had 15 minutes to browse and choose a book. Molly chose yet ANOTHER Junie B. Jones book. She's probably read 10 or 11 of them; I stopped after 3 or 4, not willing to read any more. It never fails though — each one has some antic that has Molly howling. She can't get enough.
Mom: Junie B. Jones, again?
Mom: What about a Magic Tree House book? Or a Ramona one? Here's a Magic School Bus...
Molly: No! I really want this one.
Mom: Really? Really?
Mom: Alright, Molly. But that's the last Junie B. book we're buying.
It turns out I DO agree with commenter; I do care what they're reading. I think. What about you?