Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Don Peek: Reading To, Reading With, Reading Independently

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.

Reading To, Reading With, Reading Independently

Last time I discussed how important it is for all teachers to teach their students to read.  Reading is the most important skill we can teach our students, disabled or not, and it opens many, many doors to them.

Almost all students like their teachers to read to them.  I know I’ll never forget my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Nickerson, who read a few pages of Pippi Longstocking to us each day after recess.  The whole class enjoyed it.  

Reading to students is good because even if some of your students have poor reading vocabularies, they have much higher listening vocabularies and can piece together the story quite well even if they don’t know some of the words and could not possibly read the book independently.  Where we fail quite often is letting students off the hook by not providing them with a copy of the book we are reading so they can follow along.

When they are required to follow along in their own copies of the book you are reading, they turn listening vocabulary into sight vocabulary.  I like to use the word Sioux as an example.  You are reading a book about this great American Indian tribe.  You read the word Sioux many times to your students, but they do not see it for themselves.  When they go to the library and get a book about American Indians and come to the word Sioux, they will not recognize it.  They will not know how to pronounce it or know what it means.  Even if they have good phonetic skills, they won’t be able to work the word out.  If your students had been looking at the word each time you read it, they would know the word and recognize it when it appeared in their own library books.

During the read to of multi-chapter books students can add dozens and dozens of words to their sight vocabularies simply by seeing the words as you read them and fitting them into the context of the story.  Yes, it is still good to read to students even if they don’t have a copy of the book as you read, but it is much better and more productive when you have them follow along in books of their own.

Students also pick up sight vocabulary if you let them read to you.  When they miss words, you correct them and have the students repeat the words so they can remember them the next time they come up in their reading.  Don’t interrupt and correct students too much.  It can be frustrating for the student and defeat the purpose of the exercise.  If you have to correct or give hints on every second or third word, the book is probably too difficult for the reader.  Get another book at a lower level.  Also, if you have to correct or help the reader on many of the words, skip the corrections on the words that don’t make a difference to the meaning of the story.  The read with experience should be helpful but also enjoyable to the student.

Reading with a student can be very tiring to a weak reader.  You may want to swap out reading every other paragraph or page.  This allows the student to rest and allows you to provide a model of good, fluent reading.  Also, discuss the story as you go.  Make sure the student is not just calling words but has an understanding of the text.  If the student stumbles through the reading and cannot tell you what is happening in the story, the material is likely too difficult.

Finally, the best practice students can get once they build a vocabulary of a few hundred words is independent reading in books at appropriate levels.  The level of the book is the key.  If their book is too easy, they will not be introduced to enough new vocabulary words, and their reading levels cannot grow.  If the book is too difficult, they are encountering too many words that they don’t know, and they are unable to comprehend what they are reading.  Students who know 80-90% of the words in a book and have good phonetic and contextual skills will quickly raise their reading levels as they practice, practice, practice reading independently.

I taught some students in the 8th grade who had 2nd grade reading levels.  There are no shortcuts.  You must read to and with students using books at the appropriate levels, and you must provide students with an abundance of books at appropriate levels that they can enjoy and read independently.   This is true for non-disabled students, learning-disabled students, dyslexic students --- all students.

Grant Info:

Grant Name:  IWP Foundation Educational Grants
Funded by:  Innovating Worthy Projects Foundation
Description:  Giving on a national basis; giving internationally if agency is recognized by the United Nations to provide support primarily for the education, service, and care of disabled and special needs children, and pre-school programs. No grants to individuals.
Program Areas:  Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Early Childhood, General Education, Math, Reading, Science/Environmental, Social Studies
Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline:  8/31/2012

Average Amount:  $1,000.00 - $14,000.00
Telephone:  305-861-5352

Availability:  All States