*Discussion topics/questions will be found in the comment portion of this post. Please feel free to add your thoughts or ask questions of your own.
That then begs the question - What now? What can upper grade teachers do to help these struggling students gain the foundation they need to be successful readers, especially with the increased rigor brought about by the CCSS? Before we delve any deeper into that question, perhaps a quick review/summary of what these skills cover would be appropriate.
Print concepts - Ability to recognize basic features and conventions of text including progression of text, i.e. left-right, top-bottom. Also encompasses recognition of all upper and lowercase letters and the fact that joining letters together in specific ways creates words and that spaces separate words.
Phonological awareness - Ability to recognize sounds (phonemes), syllables, and whole words in spoken language.
Phonics/Word recognition - Ability to apply word analysis skills - including phonics - to transfer words in print into the corresponding spoken words.
Fluency - Ability to accurately, with automaticity and prosody (expression).
So, now that we understand what the foundational skills mean, back to the question - What do we do to help students master them? The authors of this chapter focus mainly on helping students master the word recognition and fluency standards with their instructional suggestions.
1) Focus on word patterns - a) Teach students common rimes - consistent word patterns also known as word families. b) Teach students Latin and Greek word bases - including prefixes, suffixes, and root words. This helps students focus on morphemic pattern which are pieces of words imbued with their own meaning.
2) Guided word building - Give students the chance to "build" predetermined words guided by the teacher. Two ways of going about this are presented. a) McCandliss, Beck, Sandak, and Perfetti (2003) have students start with a word and change, add, or subtract one letter at a time to create new words. This has also been called a "word ladder." b) Cunningham and Cunningham's Making Words approach has students use a limited number of words gradually increasing in difficulty and in the number of letters used. Finally all the letters are used to make one last word that students are to try to discover without the aid of the teacher.
1) Wide Reading - Reading multiple texts in succession to maximize one's reading ability. This has most often been seen in schools through silent reading either of trade or textbooks, guided by the teacher, or by independent silent reading. For those who criticize independent silent reading as having too little accountability another approach has been developed by Reutzel, Jones, Fawson, and Smith (2008) called "scaffolded" silent reading where the teacher takes a more active role in helping students choose books and adding a measure of accountability for students.
2) Deep Reading (Repeated reading) - Whereas wide reading has a student read many texts once, deep reading has students repeatedly read a text until it can be read with great accuracy, expression, and automaticity. While repeated reading is helpful in understanding more complex narrative text, it is especially helpful in reading informational text which introduces both concepts and vocabulary together. Suggestions for types of reading that are effectively used for deep reading include poetry, Reader's Theatre, famous speeches, short excerpts of texts with strong "voice." A more intensive version of deep reading called a "fluency development lesson" was developed by Rasinski, Padak, Linek, & Sturtevant (1994). This calls for students to master a 100-200 word passage during a twenty minute period of instruction. This lesson also includes word study, teacher modeling, and discussion.
As the authors wind down the chapter they also mention "four block" instruction pioneered by Cunningham (2006) wherein one "block" of approximately 20-30 minutes is reserved daily for word study. New words are added to a board or "word wall" for students to use as a resource. They also mention Shanahan's (2012) description of a 20-30 minute fluency block where students work on a text that will be performed at the end of the week. The chapter lists several books that have strong "voice" as examples of works that can be used to develop fluency.
The conclusion of the chapter stresses the authors' hopes that teachers will explore multiple methods of instruction to help students master foundational learning skills, especially word recognition and fluency.
It is vitally important that we find ways to help students fill in the holes where their understanding falters. While it can seem a daunting task, it is possible to help scaffold students' instruction and understanding to help them gain the necessary skills to be good readers.
** Activities suggested by the authors**1) Choose a word that you will be working with over several days. (Could be content area vocabulary.) Figure out all of the words that can be made using the letters in that word. This website is a resource for finding those words - www.wordsmith.org/anagram.
2) Find Greek or Latin affixes you'll be learning during the year and choose one or two to brainstorm all the English words you can think of that use those affixes.
3) Find a book you will be reading to the students. Look at the first five pages and list all the interesting, unusual, and irregularly spelled words you can find. Then decide which of those words you could display and discuss or make part of a word study unit.
4) Have students find a challenging text and read it to a partner having the partner keep track of the number of words that were read correctly. Have the student practice reading the text to themself or a partner two or three times. Put the text away for a few days without reading it again. After three or four days have students read again to their partner and have them count the number of correct words. Even without reading the text for several days, the second reading should have more correct words than the original.
Please take a chance now to add your thoughts on this chapter and the ideas it brings forth. I look forward to seeing the insights you all have to offer.
Don't forget that next week's chapter discussion will be hosted by Jennifer Findley of "Teaching To Inspire In Fifth."
For those who may be new to this discussion you can catch up on our previous posts with these links: