Showing posts with label shared reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shared reading. Show all posts

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Why How Many Minutes of Teaching Something Isn't the First Thing to Ask of Research

Question:
I am now director of literacy in my district. I am advocating for interactive read alouds, shared reading, guided reading, and similar activities in our primary grades (K-3). Is there a research base that would allow me to determine how many minutes of these activities I should prescribe? Could you provide me with a copy of that research?

Shanahan response:
Yikes, Madam, I suspect that your cart has gotten before your horse.

If research says a particular activity provides kids with a clear learning benefit, then wondering how much of a good thing is appropriate is a smart question, and one not asked often enough. But before you get there, you should first ask: Does the research show that these activities are beneficial at all?

I assume by “interactive read alouds” and “shared reading” that you want your primary grade teachers reading texts aloud to kids in a dialogic manner… that is interspersing and following up these read alouds with questions and discussion.

I am a big fan of reading to kids (did so every day I taught school and read a huge amount to my own kids). But I’m also a big fan of teaching kids to read, and while these two propositions are not contradictory, they are not the same either.

Research on reading aloud to preschoolers and kindergartners is quite supportive (Bus, & van IJzendoorn, 1995; National Early Literacy Panel, 2008; Scarborough, & Dobrich, 1994), though none of those studies show any impact on reading achievement. In fact, it is rare that shared reading studies even attempt to measure reading. That should not be surprising given the children’s ages, but it should give pause to those who want to prescribe shared reading in grades 1-3, at least if improved reading achievement is the purpose.

The NELP meta-analyses, the most rigorous and recent of the three, should provide a clear picture of what is known. It found that across 16 studies, reading aloud to young kids led to clear improvements in oral language (mainly better receptive vocabulary—a measure not closely aligned to reading achievement during the primary grade years), and across 4 studies, it led to improvements in print awareness (like recognizing proper directionality). That’s it.

Studies of shared reading with kids in Grades 1 to 3 have been rare, but what is there is not particularly promising. Studies generally report no benefits with regard to reading achievement (e.g., Baker, Mackler, Sonneschein, & Serpell, 2001; Senechal, & Young, 2008). Replacing reading instruction with teacher read alouds is simply not a good idea in the primary grades.

(Note: I mentioned that I have always read a lot to kids, and I’d continue to do so if in the classroom today. But not because I purport that it improves reading. It is a way of building relationships between the reader and listener, for setting a tone in a classroom environment, and for exposing students to aesthetically pleasing and intellectually stimulating language and ideas.)

The same could be said about “guided reading,” but here it depends greatly upon what one means by the term. It was originally coined by basal reader publishers to describe their lesson plans; I think Dick and Jane got there first, but by the 1950s several programs had “guided reading” lessons or “directed reading” lessons. However, these days due to the popularity of Fountas & Pinnell’s practical advice many think of guided reading as small group instruction or teaching students to read with texts at “their levels.” I would give different amounts for these two very different practices.

Essentially, guided reading has long meant that kids were going to read a story, chapter, or article under teacher supervision. For instance, the teacher might preteach some of the vocabulary to ease the children’s way. Reading purposes might be set (“read to find out what this family did on their vacation”), and questions might be asked at key points.

I cannot imagine teaching reading without some kind of guided reading practice, but we don’t have studies of the general practice.

Of course, some guided reading features have been studied. We know something about the kinds of questions that are most productive, and preteaching of vocabulary gets good marks.

However, for those to whom guided reading refers to grouping kids by reading levels, I would suggest reading up on the impact of such practices. Teaching kids grouped by reading level has been ineffective in improving reading achievement and damaging in terms of equity (Gamoran, 1992).

So, if you are asking how many minutes teachers should guide kids in the reading of stories or social studies chapters, I don’t have a research-based answer. It seems clear that such practices can be beneficial, but any guidance on amount would have to be practical rather than empirical.

But if you are asking about how much of this kind of reading should be done in reading level groups, then the answer would be as little as possible given the lack of benefit and potential damage of the practice.

Your question about how many minutes is a good one. Educators too rarely interrogate the research to find out how much of something is worth doing.

But, before you can get to that question, you need to ask whether a practice is really a good one in the first place. This is especially important if you prefer a practice, since such affection can elbow aside evidence. ‘

If you are truly dedicated to following evidence, rather than using it as a cudgel to get teachers to adopt your preferred practices, then you should be wary of mandating these specific approaches.

References

Baker, L., Mackler, K., Sonneschein, S., & Serpell, R. (2001). Parents’ interactions with their first-grade children during storybook reading and relations with subsequent home reading activity and reading achievement. Journal of School Psychology, 39, 415-438.

Bus, A.G., & van IJzendoorn, M.H. (1995). Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read: A meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy. Review of Educational Research, 65, 1-21.

Gamoran, A. (1992). Untracking for equity. Educational Leadership, 50, 11-17.

National Early Literacy Panel. (2008). Developing early literacy. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.

Scarborough, H.S., & Dobrich, W. (1994). On the efficacy of reading to preschoolers. Developmental Review, 14, 145-302.

Senechal, M., & Young, L. (2008). The Effect of Family Literacy Interventions on Children’s Acquisition of Reading From Kindergarten to Grade 3: A Meta-Analytic Review. Review of Educational Research, 78, 880-907.




                       



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Laying Waste to 5 Popular Myths about Reading Instruction

"Summertime and the living is easy, fish are jumping, and the cotton is high..." 

It is summer and not a good time for a long blog on literacy teaching. So, I took the time to write a short one. I didn't want to get worked up in the summer heat, so have provided a pithy critique of 5 popular myths about reading instruction. 

1.  No, the fact that you do not use a textbook to teach reading does not make you a good teacher. 
The idea that good teachers don’t follow a program and weak ones do has been around since well before I became a teacher. It is absolutely silly. The good teachers are the ones who manage to teach kids a lot and the poor ones accomplish less. That has nothing to do with whether a program is followed or not.
           
2.  No, the fact that you have regularly scheduled free reading time in your classroom does not mean the kids will improve in reading. 
Kids can learn something from reading on their own. But they tend to learn much more from reading instruction (reading a book along with other kids discussing it with a teacher, and writing about it). Free-choice reading time—SSR, DEAR, SQUIRT—ranges from having no affect on learning to having very tiny effects. Encourage free reading when teachers aren’t available to work   with kids and encourage teaching when they are.

3.  No, focusing only on reading—ignoring writing and content instruction—is not the best way to raise reading achievement for struggling readers.
The idea that kids who struggle with reading need more literacy instruction makes sense and is supported by research. But often this is offered at the cost of other kinds of instruction. Writing about text has been found to have bigger comprehension effects than reading alone, reading and rereading, and reading and discussing. Skipping writing instruction and activity for extra reading is obviously a bad idea. And, though it might be necessary to pull kids out of some content instruction to get the reading help they need, the bad effects of this should be reduced by making sure the texts used for this instruction is content rich.

4.  No, assigning students (in grades 2-12) to reading books at “their reading levels” does not facilitate learning to read.
I’m still finding teachers who are sure there must be research supporting the idea of teaching kids with texts of particular levels of difficulty (such as those they can read with 95-98% accuracy). There isn’t. Kids can learn from a wide range of text difficulties, and it makes sense to guide them, within instruction, to make sense of texts that they would struggle to read on their own.

5.  No, reading to kids does not teach them to read.
There are few activities that I enjoy as a parent, grandparent, or teacher than reading to children. And, yet, studies show that such activity has positive impacts on children’s vocabulary (kids who are read know the meanings of   new words). However, the idea that reading to kids teaches them to read is a bad idea—and one not demonstrated in the dozens of studies on reading to kids. I definitely would continue to read to children, but not instead of reading instruction. Reading picture books or chapter books to kids should not take the place of any part of the reading and writing instruction block.


Pennsylvania June 2016 Powerpoints

Laying Waste to 5 Popular Myths about Reading Instruction

"Summertime and the living is easy, fish are jumping, and the cotton is high..." 

It is summer and not a good time for a long blog on literacy teaching. So, I took the time to write a short one. I didn't want to get worked up in the summer heat, so have provided a pithy critique of 5 popular myths about reading instruction. 

1.  No, the fact that you do not use a textbook to teach reading does not make you a good teacher. 
The idea that good teachers don’t follow a program and weak ones do has been around since well before I became a teacher. It is absolutely silly. The good teachers are the ones who manage to teach kids a lot and the poor ones accomplish less. That has nothing to do with whether a program is followed or not.
           
2.  No, the fact that you have regularly scheduled free reading time in your classroom does not mean the kids will improve in reading. 
Kids can learn something from reading on their own. But they tend to learn much more from reading instruction (reading a book along with other kids discussing it with a teacher, and writing about it). Free-choice reading time—SSR, DEAR, SQUIRT—ranges from having no affect on learning to having very tiny effects. Encourage free reading when teachers aren’t available to work   with kids and encourage teaching when they are.

3.  No, focusing only on reading—ignoring writing and content instruction—is not the best way to raise reading achievement for struggling readers.
The idea that kids who struggle with reading need more literacy instruction makes sense and is supported by research. But often this is offered at the cost of other kinds of instruction. Writing about text has been found to have bigger comprehension effects than reading alone, reading and rereading, and reading and discussing. Skipping writing instruction and activity for extra reading is obviously a bad idea. And, though it might be necessary to pull kids out of some content instruction to get the reading help they need, the bad effects of this should be reduced by making sure the texts used for this instruction is content rich.

4.  No, assigning students (in grades 2-12) to reading books at “their reading levels” does not facilitate learning to read.
I’m still finding teachers who are sure there must be research supporting the idea of teaching kids with texts of particular levels of difficulty (such as those they can read with 95-98% accuracy). There isn’t. Kids can learn from a wide range of text difficulties, and it makes sense to guide them, within instruction, to make sense of texts that they would struggle to read on their own.

5.  No, reading to kids does not teach them to read.
There are few activities that I enjoy as a parent, grandparent, or teacher than reading to children. And, yet, studies show that such activity has positive impacts on children’s vocabulary (kids who are read know the meanings of   new words). However, the idea that reading to kids teaches them to read is a bad idea—and one not demonstrated in the dozens of studies on reading to kids. I definitely would continue to read to children, but not instead of reading instruction. Reading picture books or chapter books to kids should not take the place of any part of the reading and writing instruction block.


Pennsylvania June 2016 Powerpoints

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Should We Read to High School Students?

Should high school English teachers read aloud to their students or play audio recordings to them?

Over the past several years, this practice has insinuated itself, Justin Bieber-like, into our consciousness. It seems to be showing up everywhere and it can be very annoying.

Reading aloud to older students definitely has a place, and yet it depends upon the purpose. I know many teachers use it like a crutch, reading to kids rather than requiring them to do their own reading. It is easier that way, of course, but it doesn’t accomplish some major instructional purposes.

Thus, if the purpose is to ensure that students know Poe’s story, “The Cask of Amontillado,” as a cultural touchstone (“ooh, that’s the one where the guy gets bricked up in the wall”), then reading it to the kids should accomplish that. Or, you could just show an old Vincent Price movie.

The problem, however, is that English teachers need to teach students to read that kind of text themselves, and make sense of it. The hope is that if students build the ability to read and interpret such texts that they will be able to do so later in college and in the workplace (though it would be a pretty strange workplace that wants you to interpret dramatic irony in an account of a homicide).

The problem is that students won’t build that ability from being read to. They need to engage the texts themselves.

But, just because I think the practice is misused by teachers, that doesn’t mean it should be banned. What are some good purposes for oral reading in secondary English?

Here are a few:
1.    Teacher reading (or the use of audio recordings) can provide a model of what a text should sound like. Thus, if my students were still building oral fluency, I might have them listen to a portion of the text, and then try to make it sound the same way themselves. Such modeling can play a useful role in fluency practice, even with older students.
2.    There are times when the point is simply to convey information. Oral sharing of a text can be a practical way to accomplish that.
3.    We are responsible for building students’ oral language as well as written. It can be very useful to listen to the sound of the language for a particular text. Eudora Welty wrote about how important reading aloud was for her in learning to write and in appreciating the texts of others. Occasionally demonstrating this power to kids can be a great idea (though she engaged in it herself—and your kids should, too).
4.    Sometimes we have to balance efficiency with our instructional purposes. Teachers sometimes use their oral reading to speed things along, to focus attention or motivation, and to make a lesson fit the schedule. For example, a teacher may have the students reading and discussing a text for the first 40 minutes of class, but is not getting as far as she hoped. Consequently, she reads the next section of the text to everyone to complete the chapter before the bell rings. Or, in another case, the teacher reads the first 2-3 pages of a story to the students to set the stage, and then turns the rest of the reading over to them.

     Nothing wrong with those practices if they don’t displace too much student reading. Unfortunately, in my experience, such reading tends to be used because the kids are finding the text to be difficult or don’t want to read it.

     Last week, I was teaching a high school English class myself. I had the students read an essay, and was questioning them—and not getting very far, I must admit. At some point, I asked one young man a question about what the author said, and he gave a dopey answer. It was evident he hadn’t actually done the reading. He either didn’t read it or he read it badly. It was tempting to just stop there and read the essay to them to move things along, but instead I said, “You guys didn’t get it. Read it again.” It was amazing how the tenor of the class changed at that point, and in retrospect I’m sure glad I didn’t read it to them.

      Oral sharing and video and audio presentations have their place in the high school English curriculum. But it is a small place, so teachers need to be honest with themselves as to why they are using it. I think one way to protect against the weak uses of it would be to simply set an arbitrary percentage of English class that will be devoted to student reading (perhaps 40% or 50%--the teacher might decide that if there are 250 minutes of class time per week, then students should spend 100 minutes per week reading—not discussing, not listening to others read, not writing, not waiting, just reading stories, poems, essays, literary nonfiction, etc.