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Struggling Readers in the Middle Years

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Lisa Ferguson

on 25 October 2016

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Transcript of Struggling Readers in the Middle Years

Now what?
Tier 1 Best Practices
Teachers and librarians are very busy and practical people. If we are going to take the time to attend a professional development session we want to leave it knowing we have something concrete that can be used in our classrooms (or library) the next day.

So, for all of you very practical professionals, here is a Top 10 list of things you can do in your classroom tomorrow to help all students become better readers.

Why do we have struggling readers?
Response to Intervention or Pyramid of Intervention
"Response to intervention (RTI) is the practice of
1) providing high-quality instruction and interventions that match students' needs and
2) using students' learning rate over time and level performance to make instructional decisions" (Buffum, 2009,p. 4)
What is Reading?
Struggling Readers in the Middle Years
Tier 1
Tier 1 is where the majority of your students will fall into (80%). All students in your class will receive curricular outcome based differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction includes both formative and summative assessment utilizing pre and post assessments. The teacher can set up a variety of student groupings within their lesson including whole class instruction, homogeneous or heterogeneous small groups, centers or stations with a teacher table being one etc that enable the teacher to formatively assess students on a on going basis. "Teaching for understanding and for diversity requires more complex alternatives, diverse pathways, deeper and more flexible content knowledge, more sophisticated scaffolding of the learning process, greater diagnosis of learning strategies and needs, and more individualized supports" (Zuma, 2008, p. 7).
1. Teach and Practice Reading Comprehension Strategies

2. Build a Community of Readers
Tier 2
Tier 3
Formative Assessment Strategies

Approximately 15% of students may need supplementary instruction and support in reading. Tier 2 intervention offers extra time and specific targeted instruction either in the classroom or another designated time during the week with the classroom teacher taking the lead. Teachers need to identify the specific areas of need. Reithaug (2009) identified the essential components of reading as a foundation in oral language, phonics, phonemic awareness (the ability to hear, identify and manipulate the sounds that make up spoken language), phonics (the recognition that letters are used to represent speech sounds), fluency (the ability to read words with accuracy, speed, and expression), vocabulary and comprehension. For effective Tier 2 intervention, teachers need to be able to identify what aspect of the components of reading the child needs support with.
Tier 3 intervention is for the approximate 5% of students who after a number of strategies tried by the classroom teacher need extra help from outside personnel. This may mean being pulled out of the classroom to work with the student support teacher. Specialized programs such as Fountas and Pinnell's Levelled Literacy Intervention kits may be purchased and small groups can be set up to meet every day for intensive instruction.
6. Provide A Wide Variety of Reading Materials
“We should empower kids to choose what they want to read and see themselves as readers who sample widely from across the genres” Allyn, 2012, para. 23).

7. Provide Wide, Open, Easy Constant Access To Reading Material
9. Provide Time For Dialogue
10. Value and Encourage
8. Encourage Free Voluntary Reading
1. Gaps in schooling
2. English language learners
3. Illiterate parents/caregivers
4. Lack of books in their home
5. Lack of systemic reading instruction and intervention in school
6. Overemphasis on testing and efferent reading experiences versus esthetic reading for pleasure
Students should be introduced to all types of formats such as: non-fiction, various genres in fiction, magazines, graphic novels, newspapers, online articles, websites and blogs, etc. The different types of reading formats should also reflect a range in reading levels. High interest low level (Hi-Lo) fiction and non-fiction materials help the older struggling students still find and read books that are at their reading level but have themes that will interest them. "When compelling and comprehensible reading material is available, direct encouragement can result in children reading more" (Shin, 2004). Orca Book Publishers has a great selection of Hi-Lo books that can be purchased. http://www.orcabook.com/client/client_pages/home.cfm
"Children must have easy-literally fingertip-access to books that provide engaging, successful reading experiences throughout the calendar year if we want them to read in volume" (Allington & McGill-Frazen, 2010, p. 363).

Both classroom teachers and the school library should have books accessible for all students all the time. The school library should be opened before and after school and during lunch, "fixed library schedules in elementary schools affect access to reading and research opportunities" (Adams, 2010, p. 53). As well as school and classroom library availability, books should be organized to ensure easy browsing and selection. One way to accomplish this is to organize books into well labeled genres, "organizing a fiction collection by genre instead of alphabetically by author will increase circulation" (Dumas, 2005, pg. 20). Books found in both the classroom and school library collection should be current and/or popular books that students are interested in reading. This means books should be weeded at least every few years and popular books that are lost of damaged should be replaced. Remember books are seen as a consumable item on your budget, so replacement is expected.
What does this mean for the teacher and teacher librarian?
In order to increase reading levels we must work together to create a school environment and culture that makes reading a priority. Teachers and teacher librarians need to be proactive and not reactive. Teachers and teacher librarians need to work together to nurture students' reading habits and skills. We need to give all our students opportunities throughout the day, week, month and school year to freely access books in a variety of formats both print and digital to help support and encourage life long reading. We need to build in the time to allow students to practice their reading skills so they can become confident readers. We also need to become role models and practice what we teach. Slow down and enjoy a book with your students, either in conversation or reading while your students read, "as engaged, enthusiastic readers, we offer students powerful role models and invite them to become engaged readers themselves" (Miller, 2014, p. 107).
Start small and try one new strategy at a time. Find what works for you and your students. If at first you don't succeed try, try again.
Special Programming Tier 3
Tier 3 intervention includes testing and utilizing outside expertise such as student support teachers, literacy teachers, speech pathologists and educational psychologists. In order for a student to be place on a tier 3 intervention the classroom teacher must exhaust all strategies and teaching. Tier 3 reading strategies include one-on-one or small homogeneous groupings using a literacy program such as Scholastic's Read 180, Leveled Literacy etc.
"Reading is a foundational skill for learning, personal growth, and enjoyment. The degree to which students can read and understand text in all formats (e.g. picture, video, print) and all contexts is a key indicator of success in school and in life. As a lifelong learning skill, reading goes beyond decoding and comprehension to interpretation and development of new understandings" (AASL, 2007, p. 1).

"It is a complex process of problem solving in which the reader works to make sense of a text not just from the words and sentences on the page but also from the ideas, memories, and knowledge evoked by those words and sentences" (Cziko, 2000, para. 6).

"A story or poem is merely inkspots on paper until a reader transforms them into a set of meaningful symbols" (Rosenblatt, 2005, p.62).
What are the most important strategies for students to learn?
Most comprehension strategies can be pared down into the "Super Six":
-Making connections
-Making predictions

The 'Into the Book' website is a great source of information for anyone working with struggling readers. There are printables, videos and tips for each comprehension strategy.
Students need to know that they are part of a community of readers. This is especially true for struggling readers, "many readers fall away from reading without the support of a mentor or a community of readers" (Zirinsky and Rau, 2001, p. 19). Struggling readers need to see that the adults and peers around them value reading. They need the opportunity to watch a community of readers at work: sharing books, reading, asking questions and being enthusiastic about what they have read.
Some strategies to help you to build a community of readers in your school or classroom:
-Read with your students during SSR (Silent Sustained Reading)
-Read aloud to your students every day, it doesn't have to be a chapter book...read poems, news articles, picture books, non-fiction books, etc.
-Get parents involved, encourage them to read with their child (even the older kids), promote the local library programs, host a Family Literacy Night
-Encourage other adults in the building to share their love of reading by posting their favourite reads on their classroom/office doors
-Give students plenty of time to read in school(and let them pick what they're reading)
-Let students visit the library often, not just during the officially scheduled library time
Reorganizing Fiction into Genres
One teacher librarian's experience and success when reorganizing fiction into genres.

Pictures From Kamsack Comprehensive Institute Library - provided by Julie Gareau
Before a teacher and/or teacher librarian can expect students to be proficient at choosing books for reading we need to give them some strategies and background knowledge to put in their toolbox.

1. Genre lessons - teach students about the different genres and what they can expect to experience when reading books in different genres. Check out this wiki for powerpoints on a variety of genres. https://mrsgareaulibrary.wikispaces.com/In+the+Library
2. Expose students to a variety of books - book talks create excitement about new or older books by giving your students a "clip" of what the book is about. You can simply talk about the book or use book trailers to grow interest. QR codes placed on book covers that are linked to book trailers give students an extra opportunity to experience book trailers when they are browsing for books on their own.
3. Teach browsing strategies - teach students how to find books that will make a good fit for them as a reader. A browsing strategy is a good starting point for students who are just learning how to find books that interest them and hopefully they will enjoy. One strategy is called "IPICK". This strategy asks students to think about four different questions when they are looking at a book: 1. Purpose, 2. Interest, 3. Comprehension, 4. Know. Book marks and posters can be made to help students remember the IPICK strategy.
4. Reflection - teach students how to reflect on the books they like and why they like them and about the books they don't like and why. When students can pinpoint reasons for why they like books, they will have more success finding books that are the right fit for them.
5. Encourage 'narrow reading' - when students find a genre or type of book that they like to read don't try and push them into reading a new genre or type of book if they are not ready. Narrow reading helps build confidence in young readers and helps motivate readers to read more, "narrow reading can stimulate more recreational reading” (Krashen, 2011, p. 9). Eventually they will gravitate to other types of books when they are ready,

"Given free choice, readers select reading material according to their interests, preferences, background knowledge, purposes for reading, and personal motivation" (Miller, 2014, p. 63).
3. Include SSR in the Schedule
SSR is Sustained Silent Reading, and it is a critical component of instruction for struggling readers. Stephen Krashen (2011, para. 2), author of more than 350 papers and books focused on second-language acquisition, bilingual education and reading, states that "students in classes that include SSR consistently outperform those in classes without SSR".

Why is SSR the right choice?
The key to building reading abilities in students, through SSR, is to allow them to read without the use of rewards or incentives, and avoid follow-up assignments such as book reports, chapter questions or other 'assessment' pieces. These types of 'forced' checks on engagement actually shut down a child's interest in reading. (Krashen, 2011).

Instead, use observations, conversations, simple book journals or notebooks, etc. to gauge and assess students' reading. If a child is enthusiastic about their reading, and can be observed talking about their books, favourite authors or recommending books to their peers...you know they are engaged in reading.
What does SSR look like?
What should I be doing during SSR?
As the adult in the room, there are some very helpful things you can be doing during SSR. At least some of the time, you should be reading silently with the students. This allows the class to see that you value reading and it demonstrates to students that you are a reader too. You can also use SSR to make observations about student reading habits, this is a great time to watch your class to see who is really engaged in their reading and who is avoiding reading. Donalyn Miller, author of Reading in the Wild, suggests observing a student over several days to see if they are reading or just pretending to read. Track them by recording what they are doing throughout the SSR period to see how much time is actually spent on task. You can also take a page out of Rick Kleine's book and move about the classroom, engaging students in one-on-one conferencing to help them with their problem areas (speed, comprehension, colloquial language, etc.).
4. Model Reading Through Read Alouds
Teachers, teacher-librarians, parents can all help struggling readers to become more fluent readers by reading aloud to them on a regular basis.
Modeling fluency and expression, and modeling what is going on in your head as you read, is a great way to teach purpose for reading. Interactive read alouds allow students to be engaged in books that might be too difficult for them to read independently, it allows for small and large group discussion, and teaches effective reading skills.

The International Reading Association states that "teacher read-alouds demonstrate the power of stories" (ReadWriteThink.org, 2014, para. 1). When a teacher reads aloud to students they need to include think-aloud or interactive elements and focus intentionally on the meaning “within the text,” “about the text,” and “beyond the text” (Fountas & Pinnell, 2006, p.33). These are all important skills that our struggling readers may not have been exposed to prior to school. For many children these skills are learned while sitting on a loved ones' lap, talking about what's going to happen next with Little Red Riding Hood or Jon Klassen's hat loving bear. As we've discussed earlier, our struggling readers have often missed out on these experiences and therefore struggle with questioning during reading and inferring meaning from text or picture cues.
Getting readers to talk and share the books they are reading to both the teacher/teacher librarian and peers builds both confidence in the reader and relationships between readers, "reading and discussing books together benefits children and builds relationships among readers who share these experiences" (Miller, 2014, p. 100). Dialogue can come in many forms: journals, small group and whole class discussions, student/teacher conferences (informal and formal), blogging, twitter etc. When students have the opportunity to talk about the books they are reading they can also set goals for future reading, "setting reading goals and reflecting on progress toward these goals increases their self-efficacy as students" (Miller, 2014, p. 137).

"Dialogue is a window into another person's reading experience and is an effective way to get people excited about reading" (Allyn, 2012, para. 16).
Check out "Conferencing with Students While they Read" on the following wiki for resources to use with your students.

"Rereading builds comprehension; a person is reading differently every time he or she comes to the text" (Allyn, 2012, para. 28).
It is okay to allow our students to read the same book more than once. Struggling readers need to become comfortable with the skills they are practicing and if that means they want to read the same book twice, don't discourage it. Reading a book over again allows the reader to connect with the characters and storyline further. Rereading a piece of literature also allows the reader to become familiar and comfortable with the language the author uses, this enhances fluency, comprehension and vocabulary. Struggling readers can also benefit from reading the same story in various forms. For example reading the graphic novel edition of a novel helps readers visualize the story. When the student is comfortable with the story line from the graphic novel they can move towards reading the novel. This allows readers to focus on the language because they already are familiar with the story line.
"We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading" (B.F. Skinner (n.d.).

Gaps in Schooling
English Language Learners
Illiteracy in the Home
"All students need to be helped to have personally satisfying and meaningful transactions with literature. Then they will develop the habit of turning to literature for the pleasures and insights it offers" (Rosenblatt, 2005, p. 63).
In Canada, in 1971, about 62 % of immigrants came from Europe, in 2006, as much as 58 % of immigrants came from Asia (including the middle East)’’ (Gosh, 2011, p. 5).

Many of these students have to not only learn a new language, with different sound symbol relationships, but many are not literate in their first language if they are coming from refugee camps and have never attended school. Canadian policy is immersion, but students are coming with varying degrees of English proficiency and knowledge and it is important to be able to identify what a child needs to move forward on their language learning continuum. Some students need phonemic instruction, others more intense vocabulary instruction.

Early literacy is an important cornerstone in a child's literacy and language development. "By Kindergarten, a gap of 32 million words already separates some children in linguistically impoverished homes from their more stimulated peers" (Wolf, 2008, p. 20). When a child is growing up in a home with one or two illiterate parents it can be very difficult for that child to bridge the gap without extensive intervention once they are in school.

5. Build and Nurture the Reading Habit
Lack of Books in the Home
Lack of Instruction and Intervention
Overemphasis on Testing and Efferent Reading
Why should I spend time with read alouds in my Middle Years class, aren't my students too old?
Lori Jamison Rog, a best practices literacy instruction consultant, is quoted on the International Reading Associations website (2014, para. 3) as listing the following benefits to read alouds:

*building vocabulary
*developing understandings of story structures
*supporting developing connections between print elements
*encouraging high levels of understanding
*teaching the reading process in a meaningful context
*modeling fluency
*motivating students to read

Rog was focusing on literacy in kindergarten when she created this list, however, the same gains are available for our older students. It is important to remember that students will most benefit from a read aloud program that includes a variety of text types. Use news and magazine articles, short chapter books, poetry, letters to the editor, nonfiction books, etc.. The more styles of text you share, the more skills students will have to work with when approaching a piece of text.
There are many different ways to build and nurture the reading habit. Some things to think about include:

*Providing students with a comfortable, inviting place to read (think beyond sitting at their desks). Look at the lighting, book displays, types of seating available to students in your classroom. You may consider adding bean bags, a carpet or even a couch to your room to give students a variety of ways to settle into their reading. Research shows that, “children read more when they have a quiet and comfortable place to read" (Krashen, 2011, p.7).
*Allow students to 'talk' during SSR or FVR. After all, 'real' readers talk about the books they have read or plan to read next with friends. We should give students the same courtesy.
*Allow students to use mobile devices (or other technology tools) to read, keep track of book wish lists or authors they like (and don't like). Respect the world these students live in and allow them to be comfortable in how they choose to interact with texts. (Allyn, 2012, para. 33)
*Demonstrate to students that you value reading by making that time precious. Don't use reading periods in school to 'catch up' on other work.
*Read with students, have reading displays around your classroom, encourage other adults in the building to talk with students about what they're reading, engage students in book talks and make sure they have a chance to share what they're reading too.
*Make your classroom a 'judgement free' space, students should be able to read comics, magazines, nonfiction texts, online blogs or articles. They shouldn't be restricted to only paper-based, chapter books.

Most importantly, let students read and read often.

The reading skills identified as most critical for Tier 2 students are:
*phonemic awareness
*reading comprehension

Tier 2 groups should be small, 3 or 4 students is ideal, and homogeneous. This is not the time for inclusionary practices, rather, students need to be grouped with other students lacking the same foundations. This ensures that the instructor can focus intensely on one foundational skill at a time (it is recommended that you never work on more than 3 foundational skills at a time).

Groups should meet between 3 and 5 times a week for 20-40 minutes. The duration of this intensive groups can be as short as 5 weeks, but is more often 9-12 weeks.

Students should be working at their instructional level in these groups. Reading gurus, Fountas and Pinnell list the following criteria for determining a student's instructional reading level:
"At levels A‐K:
90‐94% accuracy with excellent or satisfactory comprehension or 95‐100% accuracy with limited comprehension.
At levels L‐Z:
95‐97% accuracy with excellent or satisfactory comprehension or 98‐100% accuracy with limited comprehension."
(Fountas and Pinnell, 2009, see http://bit.ly/NlQe8J)

Who is responsible for teaching Tier 2 students?
Ideally, the reading, student services or EAL/ESL teacher will be working with the Tier 2 students. These are the people who will have the most direct and specific training in regards to reading interventions and how to best build foundational reading skills in struggling readers. If these specialists are not available it becomes the classroom teachers responsibility to provide Tier 2 intervention to students.
What are the foundational reading skills?
What should Tier 2 intervention look like?
Students can have gaps in their schooling for a variety of reasons:

*There have been studies examining the gaps between urban and rural students (National Strategy for Early Literacy, 2009). Some factors that can lead to gaps in schooling for rural students include: students living in rural areas will often miss more schooling due to closures in the winter (snow days) than their urban counterparts, they may also miss more classes because they are needed at home (during planting and harvest times).
*Extended trips out of the country, this is especially true for first generation immigrants who go 'home' to visit family for several months every year or two.
*Aboriginal students will often have larger gaps in their learning when compared to their non-aboriginal peers. This can stem from a variety of reasons, including lack of connectedness to their education, generational issues resulting from residential schools, moving back and forth from rural reserves to urban areas, living in poverty, etc.
*For many urban, non-aboriginal students, gaps in schooling can stem from living a transient life. Students with the largest gaps in their learning will often have moved from school to school many times throughout their career as a student. This makes it much easier for them to have missed foundational literacy and numeracy skills.

"Children who never have a story read to them, who never hear words that rhyme, who never imagine fighting with dragons or marrying a prince have the odds overwhelmingly against them" (Wolf, 2008, p.20).
A 20-year study out of the University of Nevada has demonstrated that, "the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average" (ScienceDaily, 2010, para. 2).

Children who grow up in a book rich environment will turn to books more naturally, they will enter school having explored books, they will already know the 'rules' of books (how to hold them, which way the text runs, that the marks on the page actually tell a story, how to use the pictures to get clues about what is happening). These are all very important building blocks for early literacy. A child not exposed to books early in their life will struggle to 'catch up' to their peers.
Students may lack appropriate instruction or intervention for a variety of reasons, perhaps (as stated in earlier slides) students are absent due to family vacations or a transient lifestyle. For our middle years (and senior years) students, by the time they reach our classrooms they are so frustrated and unengaged in their learning (because they can't keep up with their peers) attendance and tardiness will begin to be an issue. All of these issues will effect the amount of instruction or intervention time a student receives.

Other times, through no fault of the student, appropriate instruction or intervention may be lacking because of funding cuts, staffing shortages, overpopulated schools, or the high needs of other students.

Another issue facing struggling readers is the fact that "in most schools struggling readers are lucky if they spend 10 to 20 percent of their school day in lessons designed to meet their needs. Typically those lessons are part of the intervention effort the school has created. But, unfortunately, most of their day, 4 to 5 hours every day, is spent in classrooms where the instruction is targeted to the average achieving student" (Allington, 2009, p. 2).
Too often, in schools, our focus in the middle years is reading for learning. We forget about the importance of allowing students to read for pleasure. It is crucial that we honour students' reading choices, provide them with plenty of time in school for reading (after all, if it's not important enough to include in our school days what sort of message are we sending to our students?), and understand that reading does not always have to look the same from person to person. Some people may love to dig into a chapter book, others may prefer magazines or graphic novels. Some readers may love the traditional, paper-based style of reading whereas others may feel most comfortable reading on a tablet, laptop or phone.

As Stephen Krashen (2014, para 18) states, "let's make sure they have access to books and some time to read what they want to read. This is a far easier and far less expensive approach than the current mania for standards and testing". We need to allow students time for esthetic (pleasure) reading and worry less about the efferent (reading for learning) reading. We also need to allow students to read organically. How often, as an adult, do you read a book and then sit down to write a detailed book report about it? Or perhaps build a diorama or create a poster? Instead of using these forced responses to books being read, allow students to engage in conversations about their books, have them recommend the book to their peers, teach students how to interact with their books in way that will stay with them into their adulthood.
image retieved from http://differentways2teach.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/rti-pyramid.png
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(Altasinitiative, 2008)
(Pygman, 2014)
(Castaneda, 2012)
(Wetalearningmedia, 2012)
(Deasillustration, 2011)
(Tanyareads, 2013)
(Fionaindigo, 2006)
(Pilkey, 2012)
(Brown, 2009)
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Resource Sheets
Tier 2


Links to download resource sheets and for multimedia links
Sheets 1 & 2
Sheets 3 & 4
Teaching Comprehension Strategies, 2010, p. 5 & 6
(Brandenburg, 2013)
Photos by Lisa Ferguson
(Reynolds, 2013)
(Kleine, 2011)
(Schoolwide Video, 2009)
(The Balanced Literacy Diet, 2011)
Photographs from: 1. J. Pohl, 2. J. Schu, 3. D. Miller
Students who require Tier 2 interventions are often lacking one or more foundational reading skills. They require intensive, regularly monitored intervention.

Most proponents of RTI (Response to Intervention) recommend that teachers check on student progress weekly, if possible, or at least once every two weeks. Acknowledging that teacher work loads are already maxed out, it is suggested that other (properly trained) staff members could assist with the regular monitoring of progress.

It is important to note that Tier 2 students should be receiving intensive, supplemental intervention, as well as their core instruction. Tier 2 interventions are not meant to replace regular instruction and in fact, doing so would hinder student growth.
Click on the following link to take you to a google docs pdf.
image retrieved from http://www.asla-socal.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/reference-links.gif
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