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A student who I’d taught to read in less than ten minutes in an extended resource lab sat reading several books I’d placed before him when his mother instantaneously appeared. Perhaps the school had contacted her and published the “miracle.”

Only moments earlier that day this particular student could not read at all. As his mother went on thanking and explaining to me how no other “schools” had been able to help her son, I explained to her that I had not performed any magic.

I’d simply instructed this student to sound out letters and put them together, the conventional strategy for teaching students to read that is less emphasized with older and semi-older students.

I then proceeded to grab a sheet of paper and a pen and scribbled some notes to her, basically that she should get a library card if she didn’t have one and routinely check out audiobooks for her son to read along with. Since he was/is familiar with letter sounds, the audiobooks would provide the validation of pronunciation that he needs…

I also encouraged this parent to sign her son up for ABC Mouse, the popular early learning tutorial.  Though a fourth grade (extended resource) student, as one who was just really learning to read, he could certainly benefit from particularly the text-to-speech reading application that highlights words as they are spoken.

The number of students, inclusive of those who do not have learning disabilities, who cannot read is nothing short of alarming. It’s impossible for a student to understand or master what they cannot read. Reading enables mastery of all subjects, including math. It is vital, thus, that students are good readers.

The following is a list of tips for improving student reading and comprehension:

  1. Daily alphabet pronunciation drills (inclusive of consonant clusters or blends, i.e. ch, wh, ph, etc.,* and distinguishing long and short vowels, i.e. grāde (long) and băt (short) for early learning and other students who do not recognize specific letter sounds (*Click here for a more extensive list of commonly joined consonant blends)…
  2. Requiring all extended resource students who are familiar with letter sounds to read along with at least one audiobook in class each school day, and encouraging parents of all students with reading difficulties to check out or purchase audiobooks for students to read along with at home, and with headphones to tune out distractions…
  3. Text and story book magnification via opaque projectors for congregational reading and pointing to sounded/read words (I tested this with a sizable class of middle school extended resource students, a majority of whom did not have or exhibit learning disabilities, and who became amusingly attentive and interactive as I pointed to words for them to recite from the projected book).
  4. Distributing daily reading exercises to students that would entail various short stories or passages followed by questions for students to answer and review with the instructor and other students (and having students to find and highlight or underline answers in the text based upon key words in the questions).
  5. Periodically administering verbal reading tests to students (requiring students to read aloud) for the purpose of identifying and placing all who are in need of extended resources in the class.
  6. Extending extended resource hours by opening tutoring labs earlier in the morning and/or after school.
  7. Scheduled (home or after school) reading assignments with reading assignments/schedules listed on a course syllabus (for all classes) or school calendars, along with all other homework assignments for each relevant grade, as is the practice at some schools.
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