Thursday, September 12, 2013

What, I have to teach 5 components?

Yes, there are 5 components to a balanced literacy program and yes, all children should receive instruction in all of them.

At one time I was a doctoral candidate (no, I didn't complete my program but that is a different post all together) and I was required to write a meta-analysis on a topic of teaching for any population I chose. Teaching students with significant disabilities is my passion and drive each day so, I decided to study the research on teaching reading skills to students within this population.  I gave a wide berth to the research allowing 20 years and any school-age, 3-21.   I did a computer search and even went and read the table of contents for years of journals at the library to include as many articles as I possibly could.

You see, I didn't just want to do the assignment but wanted, desperately, to learn how to teach more; More effectively, more efficiently, more students, more content, more success, just more.  I read each article with a critical eye and made notes to any instructional strategies and content so I could compare them to my current practice and be, well, more.

At that time (about 8 years ago), the research was clear, students with significant disabilities are taught reading by being given a series of flash cards which they review and review until they reach the desired level of mastery and then additional cards are provided.  This is a common system for students and for homework.  I have flashcards the students take home as we learn a word through a variety of curriculums. However........

The found research was also clear, this is the only practice that was used in the research except for one article.  You see, flash cards can only get them so far.  In one study that I read, students were given sight words off warning labels.  This sounds like a really good idea.  However, the words ingest, vomit, and induce were taught directly but the word "not" wasn't.  There is a very serious implication to a student reading a label as "Induce vomiting" and skipping the word they don't know to the sentence "Do not induce vomiting."  This is not just poor teaching, this is serious!

I am not saying "no more flash cards," but rather, "what else do we have happening in our rooms?"  I know that I have colleagues for whom their reading instruction is far more rigorous and inclusive of all 5 components of reading.  We need to be louder about what we do so that researchers can find and report on the many good things teachers do every day.

Flash cards teach sight words for fluency and vocabulary but what else so we do to teach phonemic awareness, phonics, and comprehension development?  I know that I use a range of curriculum, both formal and informal.  Students participate in a combination of Reading Mastery, Edmark, Reading Milestones, Wilson, FrogStreet, leveled reading, teacher created activities, and computer assisted programs to work on their current skill needs in each of the 5 areas of reading daily.

What do you do in your rooms?  What practices have you found to assist your students in becoming readers?  Do you have a particular structure to make sure all components are taught daily?

I want your ideas!  I still want to be more.