Instructional Strategies for Kindergarten and the Primary Grades
The mission of public schooling is to offer every child full and equal educational opportunity regardless of the background, education, and income of the child's parents. A most fundamental and important issue facing schools is how to teach reading and writing, particularly in the early grades. Children who struggle in vain with reading in the first grade soon decide that they neither like nor want to read (Juel, 1988). Even if they do not fall into any of the recognized at-risk categories, these children soon are at risk of poor literacy outcomes.
The major prevention strategy for them is excellent instruction. The intervention considered in this chapter is therefore schooling itself; we outline the major literacy goals for kindergarten and the first three primary grades, examining evidence concerning effective methods to attain those goals.
The issue of what constitutes optimal reading instruction has generated discussion and debate and the investment of research ef
fort over many decades. This report builds on earlier work, yet our scope limits us only to briefly summarizing earlier efforts. We acknowledge the degree to which our report benefits from this work and draw the reader's attention to the long history of thinking about these topics.
Between 1964 and 1967, the U.S. Office of Education conducted the Cooperative Research Program in First Grade Reading Instruction; this was an early and ambitious effort at large-scale evaluation of instructional approaches. The program, coordinated by Guy L. Bond and Robert Dykstra, included classroom approaches that emphasized systematic phonics instruction, meaningful connected reading, and writing; its results surpassed those of mainstream basal programs. Conceived and conducted prior to much of the psycholinguistic research on the subprocesses and factors involved in reading acquisition, these studies were not submitted to the levels of analysis characteristic of later efforts. Nonetheless, they pointed to a consistent advantage for code-emphasis approaches while indicating that one single simple method was not superior for all children and all teachers.
The Great Debate
Among efforts to identify factors associated with more and less effective beginning reading practices, Jeanne S. Chall's (1967) work, Learning to Read: The Great Debate, remains a classic. While producing this work, Chall visited classrooms, interviewed experts, and analyzed programs. Yet it was her review and analysis of the then-available research on instructional practices that yielded the most stunning conclusions. Chall found substantial and consistent advantages for programs that included systematic phonics, as measured by outcomes on word recognition, spelling, vocabulary, and reading comprehension at least through the third grade. Moreover, the advantage of systematic phonics was just as great and perhaps greater for children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds or with
low-level abilities entering first grade as it was for better prepared or more privileged children. Chall also noted the need to provide children with the practice in reading that would generate reading fluency and the value of providing challenging reading material in addition to texts that enabled children to practice skills they had acquired.
Chall's conclusions regarding beginning instruction were challenged by people who raised questions about the validity of the research studies available for her review and the difficulty of applying a classification system that attempted to divide programs into code- and meaning-emphasis categories (e.g., Rutherford, 1968). Although Chall did not suggest that her findings be used to endorse systematic phonics approaches, her work has been highly influential in support of those who endorse a heavy emphasis on phonics in beginning reading.
Beginning to Read
In 1990, Marilyn J. Adams published Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print. Like Chall, Adams synthesized available research but also included a review of the literature on the psycholinguistic processes involved in reading. She concluded that direct instruction in phonics, focusing on the orthographic regularities of English, was characteristic of good, effective reading instruction, but she noted the need for practice in reading, for exposure to a lot of reading materials as input to vocabulary learning, and for motivating, interesting reading materials. Evidence from classroom research on the advantages of incorporating a code-oriented approach to early reading instruction was interpreted by Adams in light of evidence from basic research on the cognitive processes involved in reading and evidence concerning the nature of the code itself. Adam's research synthesis was highly convergent with that of Chall, both in confirming the importance of teaching children explicitly about the code of English orthography and in noting that good readers must have access to many experiences with literacy that go beyond the specifics of phonics instruction.
Adams's synthesis was especially useful in drawing together research from across several different subdisciplines of psychology,
child development, linguistics, and education. Most importantly, perhaps, her review pointed to the critical importance not just of children's learning but also of their basic early understandings of print and how print works, and, in particular, of the scattered but already converging evidence for the key role of basic phonemic awareness in fostering alphabetic understanding.
Provoked by finding that gains made by Head Start students during preschool tended to dissipate with time, in the early 1970s the federal government sponsored another large study comparing the long-term effects of reading instructional methods. The objective of Project Follow Through was to determine which general educational approaches or models worked best in fostering and maintaining the educational progress of disadvantaged children across the primary school years. By design, the 20 models included in the project contrasted broadly in philosophy and approach and included basic skills models, emphasizing basic academic skills; cognitive-conceptual models, emphasizing process over content learning; and affective models, emphasizing self-esteem, curiosity, and persistence.
Analyses of the data revealed major findings (Stebbins et al., 1977): (1) The effectiveness of each Follow Through model varied substantially from site to site. No model was powerful enough to raise test scores everywhere it was implemented. (2) Models that emphasized basic skills (language, math computation, vocabulary, spelling) succeeded better than others in helping children gain these skills. (3) Models that emphasized basic skills produced better results on tests of self-esteem than did other models, including those specifically aimed at self-esteem. (4) No model was notably more successful than the others in raising scores on cognitive conceptual skills. (5) When models emphasized cognitive areas other than basic skills, children tended to score lower on tests of basic skills than they would have without the program.
The researchers concluded that "most Follow Through interventions produced more negative than positive effects on basic skills test scores" (Stebbins et al., 1977). The only notable exception to this
trend was the Direct Instruction Model, which promoted the teaching of skills and concepts essential to reading, arithmetic, and language achievement. It emphasized the systematic teaching of phonemic and language skills and promoted academic engagement. Students who participated during four full years (kindergarten through third grade) in the direct instruction program performed close to or at national norms on measures of reading, math, language, and spelling.
The national Follow Through evaluation study has been criticized for many problems of the type often associated with field research in education and social services, including nonrandom assignment of subjects, unclear definition of treatment, problems of assessing implementation, less than ideal instrumentation, misleading classification of models and outcome measures, inadequate research design, questionable statistical analyses, and the use of methodological and statistical strategies that favored some type of model over others (Stebbins et al., 1977; House et al., 1978). Perhaps because of some of these factors, intersite variation among models was larger than between-model differences (House et al., 1978).
In subsequent analyses, however, much of this variation disappeared when demographic factors were properly considered in the designation of control sites and outcome aggregation (Gersten, 1984), adding confidence to Project Follow Through's positive data on the value of the Direct Instruction Model. Moreover, follow-up studies of students suggested lasting effects of direct instruction. (Recall our discussion of direct instruction and cognitively oriented preschool education models, which have some similar results as those findings on direct instruction in kindergarten through grade 3 and also some contrasting findings.)
Although the Follow Through results suggest very positive effects for the program, it has not been as widely embraced as might be expected. It may be that teachers believe that direct instruction in general is only for teaching factual content to students of low ability and not for promoting problem solving or higher-level thinking (see review by Peterson et al., 1982), although confirmatory evidence is not available.
The classroom observational research of Stallings et al. (1986) and Soar (1973) described and linked critical features of the Follow Through approach to student outcomes. The work of these researchers played a large role in the various syntheses of research on effective teaching written in the late 1970s and the 1980s, such as those by Brophy and Good (1984) and Rosenshine and Stevens (1986). Classroom observation by Stallings and Soar uncovered the strong correlation between children's academic engaged time and growth in achievement and certain patterns of teacher-student interaction. In addition, it indicated the importance of explicit instruction for enhancing the achievement of disadvantaged students, a conclusion reinforced by subsequent observational research (e.g., Brophy and Evertson, 1978; Good and Grouws, 1975).
Given previous efforts to assess instructional practice, the committee sought to examine current research on reading instruction. The next section describes the criteria used in selecting such studies.
Building on the previous work on instruction, the committee examined instructional practices that were supported by convergent evidence. We sought evidence about individual differences in response to treatment. Furthermore, we were interested in studies that assessed both short- and long-term reading outcomes, although long-term outcomes were available for only a few programs. Evaluations of instructional programs in kindergarten classrooms are not numerous, yet inferences about what such programs must cover are tightly constrained by the preschool predictors of literacy success on one side and the first-grade requirements on the other. Moreover, the major instructional tension associated with kindergarten literacy objectives is less about what children should learn than how they can be helped to learn it in an appropriate manner.
Similarly, we know from intense research efforts what first-grade children ought to accomplish in reading, yet intense debate contin-
ues on what and how they should be taught. Questions of how to organize and support learning in a way that results in the best possible outcomes for the largest number of children are an urgent educational priority. In view of this and because the research base permits, the section on first grade is principally directed to evaluations and comparisons of instructional programs. Beyond first grade, the relevant issues and goals multiply as the relevant research base recedes. In the dual interest of reviewing what is known and pointing toward key unknowns, our discussion of second- and third-grade issues is taken up goal by goal.
Converging evidence from experimental investigations, correlational studies, nonequivalent control-group studies, and various other quasi-experimental designs and multivariate correlational designs presented in this and other chapters led the committee to focus on particular practices and programs. Many of the classroom investigations presented in this chapter have high external validitythat is, their results are generalizable to the children and settings that we are studyingand are less robust in internal validity (i.e., experimental control of variables) because of the logistical difficulties involved in carrying out such investigations. Hence, there is a need to look for a convergence of resultsnot just consistency from one method. When convergence is obtained, confidence increases that our conclusions have both internal and external validity.
Among the most important ways to prevent reading difficulties is classroom instruction in literacy activities, which begins in kindergarten.
The Kindergarten Challenge
A kindergarten classroom typically consists of an adult and 20 to 25 studentsa very different scenario from a home or preschool. The management demands of the typical kindergarten classroom necessitate a level of conformity and control of comportment that challenges many entering children, regardless of how accommodating the classroom may be to children's individual natures and needs.
A child can no longer demand the attention or assistance of the attendant adult at will; each must learn how to solicit individual attention and to wait patiently while the teacher is attending to others. To a greater or lesser extent depending on the classroom, every kindergartner must learn to sit quietly, to listen considerately to both the teacher and other students, to communicate cooperatively, to restrain behavior to within acceptable limits, to accomplish tasks both independently and with others, to share resources, to treat others respectfully, and to try to learn and do what she or he is asked to learn and do. Meanwhile, preparing children to learn to read is the top priority on the kindergarten teacher's agenda.
Fostering Literacy in the Kindergarten Classroom
The delicate balance for the kindergarten teacher is thus one of realizing means of promoting literacy learning in ways that are at once developmentally sensitive and appropriately foresighted, in order to ensure that as children leave kindergarten they have the capacities needed to function well in the typical first grade. More specifically, two goals are paramount. The first is to ensure that children leave kindergarten familiar with the structural elements and organization of print. By the end of kindergarten, children should be familiar with the forms and format of books and other print resources and be able to recognize and write most of the alphabet; they should also have some basic phonemic awareness, that is, understanding of the segmentability of spoken words into smaller units. The second major goal of kindergarten is to establish perspectives and attitudes on which learning about and from print depend; it includes motivating children to be literate and making them feel like successful learners. In this section, we provide examples of materials and activities that have been used well toward these ends.
Reading aloud with kindergartners has been broadly advocated. By actively engaging children with different aspects of shared books, read-aloud sessions offer an ideal forum for exploring many dimensions of language and literacy. This is especially important for children who have had little storybook experience outside school (Feitelson et al., 1993; Purcell-Gates et al., 1995). Among the goals
of interactive storybook reading are developing children's concepts about print, including terms such as ''word" and "letter" (Holdaway, 1979; Snow and Tabors, 1993); building familiarity with the vocabulary of book language (Robbins and Ehri, 1994), as well as its syntax and style (Bus et al., 1995; Feitelson, et al., 1993); and developing children's appreciation of text and their motivation to learn to read themselves.
Effective practices for fostering these goals include encouraging children to ask their own questions about the story; to respond to others' questions; to follow the text with movement, mime, or choral reading; and to notice the forms and functions of print features (words, punctuation, letters, etc.). In addition, children's learning from and about storybooks is enhanced by repeated readings (Martinez et al., 1989). Recall from Chapter 4 that many of the outcomes of reading aloud as measured in kindergarten are significantly associated with reading achievement outcomes in first through third grades.
In recent years, parents and teachers have been increasingly encouraged to share nonfiction as well as fiction with youngsters. To explore the educational impact of these recommendations, Mason et al. (1989) asked several kindergarten teachers to read three different types of selections: storybooks, informational texts, and easy-to-read picture books. They found that, depending on the type of text with which they were working, these teachers spontaneously but consistently and dramatically shifted the focus and nature of the accompanying discussion and surrounding activities. Not only the instructional emphases but also the complexity and nature of the language produced by both the teacher and the students appeared to change distinctively across these types of reading situations.
Before reading the storybook aloud, the teachers initiated discussions about its author, central characters, and concepts; during story reading, they clarified vocabulary and engaged the students in making predictions and explaining motives and events; afterward they asked them to reflect on the meaning and message of the story.
Given the science text, in contrast, teachers engaged the children in activities designed to help them relate the text to their everyday experiences. Socratically probing their responses, teachers led stu-
dents to predict and explain, to deduce and test causes, and to discern necessary from sufficient conditions. In addition, vocabulary tended to be handled through rather elaborate concept development instead of definition.
Finally, given easy-to-read picture books, discussion was more limited but firmly focused on the print and the words on each page. In short, the potential value of reading different genres with children extends well beyond any properties of the texts themselves. Moreover, the kinds of activities and discussion associated with each genre make distinctive contributions toward developing children's appreciation of the nature, purposes, and processes of reading.
The sheer availability of books has been suggested as an important catalyst for children's literacy development (Gambrell, 1995; Gambrell and Morrow 1996; Krashen, 1996). But the impact of books on children's literacy development depends strongly on how their teachers make use of them. Demonstration of the effects of books, augmented with materials, training, and home involvement to stimulate oral interaction around books, with Spanish-speaking kindergartners can be found in Goldenberg (1994).
A good kindergarten program should also prepare children to read by themselves. Few kindergartners are developmentally ready for real reading on their own. However, a variety of print materials have been especially designed to support early ventures into print. By way of example, we describe three: big books, predictable books, and rebus books.
Big books are nothing more than oversized storybooks. As such, they offer opportunity for sharing the print and illustrations with a whole group of children in the ways that one might share a standardsized book with just a few (Holdaway, 1979). A common classroom activity with big books, for example, is fingerpoint reading: as the teacher points to the words of a familiar text or refrain in sequence, the children are challenged to recite the words in time. Beyond leading children to internalize the language of a story, fingerpoint reading is useful for developing basic concepts about print, such as directionality. Slightly more advanced children can be led to discover the visual differences between one word and two words or between long words and short words. Repeated words may be
hunted down with the goal of establishing them as sight words, and rhyming texts may be well suited to introducing a basic notion of letter-sound correspondences.
Patterned or predictable books, as their name suggests, are composed of text that is at least semirepetitive or predictable. The classic in this category is the story by Bill Martin, Jr., Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1992). The first page of the story vividly depicts a red bird along with a printed answer for the bear, "I see a red bird looking at me." The second page restates the initial question as "Red bird, red bird, what do you see?" and answers with reference to a third animal. Each successive page varies only the name of the creature that is pictured and named. By perusing patterned and predictable books, children learn how to use predictions and picture cues to augment or reinforce the text, even as they develop basic book-handling habits.
In rebus books, words or syllables of words that are beyond the children's reading ability are represented in the text itself by little pictures, or rebuses, of their referents. An example of a sentence in a rebus book is presented in Box 6-1. Entry-level rebus books are often designed to build a basic sight repertoire of such short and very frequent function words as "the," "of," "is," and ''are." As the child's skill in word recognition progresses, the number of different printed words is increased. Several studies have demonstrated that the use of rebus books at entry levels can measurably ease children's movement into real reading (Biemiller and Siegel, in press; MacKinnon, 1959).
Variations of the language experience approach offer yet another way to ease children into reading. The objective of this approach is to impart the understanding that anything that can be said can be
written and vice versa (Allen, 1976). The basic method of the language experience approach thus consists of writing down what children say and then leading them to appreciate that what has been written is what they have said.
The range of opportunities for capturing talk in writing is enormousfrom labels or captions on artwork for young children, to illustrated storybooks produced by older ones. The method can be used for cognitively preparing a class activity or, afterward, for summarizing it. The approach provides a natural medium for clarifying such print basics as the idea that individual words are separated by spaces in print and that the end of a line is not always the end of a thought. The children may be led to notice that every time a particular word is written, it is comprised of the same ordered set of letters. From there, the child might be led to notice that "each letter of the alphabet stands for one or more sounds that I make when I talk" (Allen, 1976:54). Research affirms that use of language experience activities in the kindergarten classroom is of general benefit in enhancing reading readiness (Stahl and Miller, 1989).
Play-based instruction, in which children are encouraged to reflect on situations through dramatizations of their own invention, is also appropriate in kindergarten (Galda, 1984; Smilansky, 1968). Settings that provide choice, control, and appropriate levels of challenge appear to facilitate the development of self-regulated, intentional learning (Turner and Paris, 1995). Meanwhile, a major goal of sociodramatic play is to increase oral language use. Children interact and use new language as they plan, negotiate, compose, and carry out the "script" of their play (Crenshaw, 1985; Levy et al., 1992). In addition, children practice verbal and narrative skills that are important to the development of reading comprehension (Gentile and Hoot, 1983).
Researchers have observed that 20- to 30-minute play sessions are necessary for children to create the elaborate scripts that lead to the intentional use of literacy in dramatic play (Christie et al., 1988). Similarly, children write more often when they have ready access to appropriate materials, such as paper, markers, pencils, and stamp pads (Morrow and Rand, 1991; Neuman and Roskos, 1992; Schrader, 1985; Vukelich, 1990). Even so, the teacher's participa-
tion and guidance are pivotal in helping children to incorporate literacy materials into their play (Himley, 1986; Isenberg and Jacob, 1983; Morrow and Rand, 1991). For example, one study compared children who played in a print-rich center with or without literacyrelated guidance from their teacher (Vukelich, 1994). When later tested on their recognition of print that had been displayed in the play environment, those who had received teacher guidance were better able to recognize the words, even when presented in a list without the graphics and context of the play surround
Kindergarten teachers can facilitate language and literacy development through play-based literacy instruction if they:
· allow enough time and space for play in the classroom,
· provide the needed material resources,
· develop children's background knowledge for the play setting,
· scaffold the rehearsals of dramatic retellings, and
· become involved in play settings so as to guide the children's attention and learning through modeling and interaction.
Helping Children to Discover the Alphabetic Principle
As discussed in earlier chapters, English is an alphabetic language in which printed letters systematically, but not entirely consistently, represent phonemes (the smallest meaningful phonological elements within spoken words.) In order to grasp this fundamental principle of alphabetic literacy, it is therefore imperative that children first acquire some degree of (a) letter knowledge, including the ability to distinguish and identify the letters of the alphabet, and (b) phonological awareness, an appreciation of the fact that spoken words are made up of smaller units of sound. The training studies of Byrne and Fielding-Barnesley (1989) illustrate dramatically that both letter knowledge and phonological awareness are needed in combination for young children to acquire the alphabetic principle. Several lines of research offer some guidance on how these skills can successfully be promoted through kindergarten activities.
Questions of how much alphabetic instruction kindergartners need have been contentious. It seems clear that there is no need to
wait until a child knows all the letters of the alphabet to start explicit instruction in decodingknowledge of the sound value of a few consonants and vowels may be enough on which to build phonemic awareness and initial word reading instruction (Fielding-Barnesley, 1997). Yet, until a child can reliably recognize some letters, learning the alphabetic principle and using it to read novel words is precluded.
As reviewed in Chapter 4, children enter school with widely varying degrees of letter knowledge, and how well kindergartners can identify letters is a strong predictor of future achievement in reading. Almost all kindergartners can comfortably learn to recognize and print most of the letters by the end of the year, if they are taught in ways that respond to their developmental needs. Some evidence suggests that an environmental literacy or whole-language orientation in kindergarten is more effective than phonics-oriented instruction, particularly for children with low initial scores on knowledge of literacy conventions, including letter knowledge (Sacks and Mergendoller, 1997), presumably because these children are not yet developmentally prepared to benefit from explicit instruction in letter-sound relationships.
Turning to phonological awareness, there is an extensive research base in support of the effectiveness and practical utility of providing kindergartners with instruction in this skill. As noted in earlier chapters, children begin school with different degrees of insight into the phonological structure of words, with some of them still unaware that words contain smaller speech elements, and other children having already become aware of the existence of syllables, onsets and rimes, and even phonological segments. Research indicates that the latter are very likely to turn out to be successful readers (see Chapter 4) but that the prognosis for entering kindergartners with little or no phonological awareness is less clear. Many can and do begin to attain this sensitivity during the kindergarten year and respond successfully once formal reading initiation begins.
Several studies have documented, furthermore, that young children who receive specific training in phonological awareness are able to learn to read more quickly than children of similar backgrounds who do not receive such training. Lundberg et al. (1988)
provided training in phonological awareness to Danish children before they began formal reading instruction and then measured their achievement at the end of first and second grade. In comparison to children who did not receive the training, the trained group showed stronger word reading skills at the end of second grade (although this difference was not as apparent earlier). Moreover, the benefits were significantly stronger for children whose initial phonological skills were lowest (Lundberg, 1994).
Similar evidence for the effectiveness of training in phonological sensitivity in facilitating early reading acquisition have been obtained in large-scale studies of German (Schneider et al., 1997) and Norwegian (Lie, 1991) beginning readers. Likewise, in Cunningham's (1990) kindergarten sample, post-test reading scores were higher for children who received phonological training than for a comparison group that instead listened to stories and discussed them. In a longitudinal study of Australian youngsters, furthermore, the benefits of phonological awareness training at ages 4 to 5 years have been shown to be maintained through third grade (Byrne and Fielding-Barnsley, 1991, 1995).
These findings are theoretically important in showing the effects of training in phonological awareness alone, unaccompanied by instruction in letters or spelling-sound relationships. They tell us that the positive effects in other studies, which have introduced training in phonological awareness in conjunction with lessons about letters and reading, probably did not succeed solely because they included print instruction but rather because the (oral) training in phonological skills also made a contribution to the trained children's superior achievement (e.g., Ball and Blachman, 1991; Cunningham, 1990; Fox and Routh, 1976, 1984; McGuinness et al., 1995; Uhry and Shepherd, 1993). In a similar vein, Scanlon and Vellutino (in press) found that, of all the various foci of language arts instruction observed in the kindergarten classroom, only the proportion of time that was devoted to analyzing the internal structure of spoken and written words reliably predicted differences in reading achievement at the end of first grade. Although the relative contributions of the various components of training cannot be readily estimated, the con-
sistent gains in reading achievement obtained in these studies are of considerable practical significance.
In both classroom-based and experimental interventions to train phonological awareness, the nature of the training has been crafted to be age appropriate and engaging. A variety of games and activities have been designed to direct children's attention to the sounds, rather than just the meanings, of spoken words. These activities can involve, for instance, detecting and producing rhymes and alliterative sequences in songs and speech, identifying objects in the environment whose names begin (or end) with the same sound, clapping to indicate the number of syllables (or phonemes) in a spoken word, and so forth. An English translation of the original Lundberg program has recently been published in the United States (Adams et al., 1998), and other research-tested materials and commercial products (including software) for use in phonological awareness training prior to formal reading instruction are now widely available for kindergarten teachers who wish to strengthen the phonological skills of their students.
Another kindergarten activity that promotes both letter knowledge and phonological awareness is writing. In many kindergarten classrooms, children are encouraged to compose and write independently. Interestingly, in the aforementioned Scanlon and Vellutino (in press) study, writing was the context in which word analysis most often took place, typically as using phonological analysis in the service of "figuring out" the spellings of words. At the earliest stages, writing may consist of scribbling or strings of letter-like forms. If opportunities to write are ample and well complemented by other literacy activities and alphabetic instruction, kindergartners should be using real letters to spell words phonetically before the school year is out.
The practice of encouraging children to spell words as they sound (sometimes called invented or temporary spelling) has been shown to hasten refinement of children's phonemic awareness (Adams, Treiman, and Pressley, in press; Treiman, 1993) and to accelerate their acquisition of conventional spelling when it is taught in first grade and up (Clarke, 1988). Such spellings can be carried out using letter blocks or letter cards, to ease the motor challenge of printing.
Children's independent spellings yield direct evidence of their level of phonological sensitivity and orthographic knowledge, enabling the knowledgeable teacher to tailor instruction and respond to individual difficulties.
Enhancing children's letter knowledge and phonological awareness skills should be a priority goal in the kindergarten classroom. Not only will these abilities be key to the children's success in learning to read in the first grade, but they are also critical to the effectiveness of the prereading activities so important in kindergarten. For example, fingerpoint reading with big books is meant to help children learn to recognize individual words and induce general knowledge about the alphabetic system through repeated, active, and meaning-laden associations of the spoken and printed wording of texts (Holdaway, 1979). Instructional intentions notwithstanding, however, research indicates that children's ability to fingerpoint in phase with recitation depends on their ability to sound the initial consonants of words; it depends, in other words, on prior letter knowledge and phonemic awareness (Ehri and Chun, 1996; Ehri and Sweet, 1991; Morris, 1983, 1992, 1993). Similarly, a major goal of posting meaningful labels and print in play centers and around the classroom is to induce students, by virtue of repeated attention, to learn the letters and words displayed; again, however, children who do not already know some letters tend neither to attend to nor to learn from environmental print (Masonheimer et al., 1984).
Hanson et al. (1987) found positive effects of a kindergarten reading program in which children were given code-oriented instruction and used decodable texts developed by SWRL, the Beginning Reading Program. Small positive effects were found when the children were in their senior year of high school (Hanson and Farrell, 1995). A similar type of program for Spanish-speaking children learning to read in Spanish (Goldenberg, 1994) is presented in Chapter 7.
Activities and materials for supporting appropriate instruction in the kindergarten classroom abound. Examples beyond those already mentioned include books on tape; puppet theater; computer-based reading, writing, and storybook activities; board games; activity sheets; children's magazines; and all manner of individual and group
projects. In large measure, of course, the differences among these activities and materials are in the strategies chosen to engage the children's interest and attention. Reanalyzing the various techniques just reviewed to extract the underlying instructional activities, we can see that they are relatively few in number:
· oral language activities for fostering growth in receptive and expressive language and verbal reasoning,
· reading aloud with children to foster their appreciation and comprehension of text and literary language,
· reading and book exploration by children for developing print concepts and basic reading knowledge and processes,
· writing activities for developing children's personal appreciation of the communicative dimensions of print and for exercising printing and spelling abilities,
· thematic activities (e.g., sociodramatic play) for giving children opportunity to integrate and extend their understanding of stories and new knowledge spaces,
· print-directed activities for establishing children's ability to recognize and print the letters of the alphabet,
· phonemic analysis activities for developing children's phonological and phonemic awareness, and
· word-directed activities for helping children to acquire a basic sight vocabulary and to understand and appreciate the alphabetic principle.
Basal Reading Programs in Kindergarten
Basal reading packages provide another view of instructional priorities for each grade. These commercial packages constitute the core reading program in many classrooms. They generally include instructional manuals for teachers, with detailed lesson plans and activities for the whole school year, and accompanying reading and lesson materials for students. In addition, the packages typically include any of a variety of ancillary resources and materials, such as big books; games, workbooks, and manipulables for students; as-
sessment forms; puppets; pocket charts; wall charts and posters; audiotapes of songs for classroom use; books on tape; etc. To accommodate state adoption and purchasing schedules, basal programs are revised and reissued every two to five years, and publishers' decisions about which objectives to emphasize in each new edition are strongly guided by market research. Because of this, an inventory of basal objectives is a slightly time-lagged profile of modal instructional preferences and practices.
The results of a recent analysis of basal reading programs at the kindergarten level is presented in Table 6-1. The reading curriculum programs analyzed were:
· The Addison-Wesley Reading Program, Addison-Wesley;
· Connections, Macmillan;
· HBJ Reading Program, Imagination: An Odyssey Through Language, Impressions, Reading Today and Tomorrow,Harcourt Bruce Jovanvich;
· HeathReading,D.C. Heath;
· The Literature Experience, Houghton Mifflin;
· Merrill Linguistic Reading Program, SRA School Group;
· Open Court Reading and Writing, Open Court;
· Reading Mastery, Science Research Associates;
· Scott Foresman Reading, Scott Foresman; and
· World of Reading, Silver Burdett and Ginn.
As reported in Table 6-1, six categories of instructional activities were a part of the majority of these programs: reading aloud, oral language, phonemic awareness, letter recognition and phonics, writing, and print awareness. Stein's analysis notes what programs have as a part of their package rather than what teachers actually do with the materials.
The analysis included the major reading curriculum programs on the market in 1993. In the years since Stein's analysis was completed, however, most of the programs have been revised; some have been entirely reconstituted; several have been acquired by other publishers; two have been abandoned; and one new package (by Scho-
TABLE 6-1 Kindergarten Basal Reading Programs
Suggestions for reading aloud to students
Any recommendation that the teacher read aloud to the students
Oral language activities
Any activities designed to teach language concepts, vocabulary, and background knowledge, as well as those activities designed to promote listening comprehension
Phonemic awareness activities
Games or activities that focus on words and their phonemic elements, oral segmenting and blending activities, oral syllabication, and rhyming activities. (It should be noted that to discriminate phonemic awareness from decoding strategy instruction, only oral activities are included in this category.)
Letter recognition or sound/symbol relationships
Activities that isolate letters and/or sounds.
Tracing, copying, printing, and/or composing activities.
Print awareness activities
Activities that provide exposure to print in various forms or as represented by different media (e.g., signs, labels, letters in clay or fabric).
SOURCE: Based on Stein et al. (1993)
lastic) has joined the ranks of major offerings. The point of including the table, however, is that many of the activities mentioned throughout this kindergarten section are represented in the basal programs. Most but not all of the basal programs accord consider-
able emphasis to reading aloud, oral language development, and letter-sound fundamentals.
Since recommended activities and emphases are fixed, the instructional progression and materials of any given basal are likely not to match the needs and interests of at least some and possibly all students in a class. Currently, the most popular strategy for accommodating the potential range of student needs and interests is to include in each lesson an ample menu of optional activities. Another widely used tactic is to stretch the effective range of suggested activities by giving students themselves license to choose among activities or to exercise options in the activities' execution. Also, although differing in manner, many programs lay out plans that afford classroom time and means for allowing individuals or small groups to work at their respective instructional levels. Except in the hands of the most competent teachers, each of these strategies carries its own variety of risks to classroom order and instructional coverage. Thus, another approach, although increasingly rare, is to ensure the program's conduct and coverage by adopting the safe assumption that no students know anything that has not been taught and detailing everything to be taught in sequence.
Simmons et al. (1994) recently examined the four best-selling commercial basal reading programs to answer two questions: (1) To what extent have educational publishers incorporated instructional design and pedagogical features supported by current research on beginning reading, in general, and phonological awareness, in particular, in the design of beginning basal reading programs? (2) To what extent are the instructional design and pedagogical features of the beginning basal reading programs likely to accommodate the needs of diverse learners? They have a number of general findings:
1. Phonological awareness activities occur but in limited quantity and scope.
2. The phonological awareness activities of segmenting and blending that are most highly correlated with beginning reading acquisition are simply not included in any of the basal reading programs.
3. Strategies for teaching students to manipulate the sounds of language are often not conspicuous and do not appear to provide the necessary scaffolding for students with diverse learning needs.
4. The phonological activities required students to manipulate primarily single-syllable and multisyllable words, instead of phoneme-level phonologic units.
Simmons et al. (1995) argue that these findings are common to the design of all four of the programs analyzed and can be construed as reflecting the architectural or pedagogical framework of mainstream commercial reading programsbasic design features that serve as templates for publishers and developers.
Effective instruction necessarily recognizes that learning builds on prior knowledge. Beyond any collection of compelling objectives and engaging activities, therefore, effective instruction requires a developmental plan that extends across days and weeks of the school year as well as a means for monitoring progress so as to adjust that plan accordingly. Most basal reading programs do provide such a plan, as embodied in its lesson sequence. To the extent that these plans are pedagogically well designed, the basal programs can be seen to offer instructional value that extends beyond the specifics of their activities and materials. To the extent that the programs also provide a rationale for activities, including tips and tools for monitoring student progress, they are of great value for improving student performance in reading (Chall et al., 1990).
The potential benefits of a good basal program would seem especially significant for novice teachers. Research demonstrates that, across fields, experts distinguish themselves from novices not merely in the depth and breadth of their domain-specific knowledge, but also in its organization and integration (see Glaser, 1984), leading to advantages in classroom management, in planning, in clarity of presentation, and in responsiveness to student confusion and questions (Borko and Livingston, 1989; Collins and Stevens, 1982; Leinhardt, 1987; Leinhardt and Greeno, 1986).
There is no reason in principle why existing basal programs should not offer manageable, effective, and classroom-friendly instructional guidance. Do they? Unfortunately, the instructional
efficacy of commercial basal programs is rarely evaluated and, at present, we can identify no objective, empirically sound evaluation of major kindergarten offerings. Given the programs' potential for supporting teachers, as well as teachers' widespread use and even dependence on these programs in the classroom, such evaluation should be a priority for public policy.
Kindergarten is offered in nearly every state and is mandatory in many. It thus offers itself as a nearly universal, publicly funded opportunity for providing children the literacy preparation they need. In too many schools, however, that opportunity is not used well. Research consistently points to the importance of ensuring that children enter first grade with the attitudes and knowledge about literacy that will enable them to succeed in learning to read. A strong message of this report is that a priority mission of every school district in the United States should be to provide good kindergarten literacy preparation to all children.
Fostering Reading in the First-Grade Classroom
The primary job of first-grade teachers is to make sure that all of their students become readers. Given the current variability in commitment to kindergarten literacy preparation and the widely varying capacities and needs in any group of first graders, this is a challenge whose importance is exceeded only by its complexity.
First-grade instruction should be designed to provide:
· explicit instruction and practice with sound structures that lead to phonemic awareness;
· familiarity with spelling-sound correspondences and common spelling conventions, and their use in identifying printed words;
· sight recognition of frequent words; and
· independent reading, including reading aloud.
Well-written and engaging texts that include words that children can decipher give them the chance to apply emerging skills with ease and accuracy, thereby teaching themselves new words through their relation to known words. In addition, the instructional program should ensure that children have exposure to the following activities:
· Throughout the early grades, time, materials, and resources should be provided (a) to consolidate independent reading ability through daily reading of texts selected to be of particular interest and beneath the frustration level of individual students and (b) to promote advances in reading through daily assisted or supported reading and rereading of texts that are slightly more difficult in wording or in linguistic, rhetorical, or conceptual structure.
· Beginning in the earliest grades, instruction should promote comprehension by actively building linguistic and conceptual knowledge in a rich variety of domains.
· Throughout the early grades, reading curricula should include explicit instruction on strategies, such as summarizing the main idea, predicting events or information to which the text is leading, drawing inferences, and monitoring for misunderstandings, that are used to comprehend text (either read to the students or that students read themselves).
· Instruction should be designed with the understanding that the use of invented spelling is not in conflict with teaching correct spelling. Beginning writing with invented spelling can be helpful for developing understanding of phoneme identity, phoneme segmentation, and sound-spelling relationships. Conventionally correct spelling should be developed through focused instruction and practice. Primary-grade children should be expected to spell previously studied words and spelling patterns correctly in their final writing products.
As in the case of kindergarten instruction, activities and materials for supporting appropriate instruction in the first-grade classroom abound and include many of the types of materials described earlier. The strategies chosen to engage children's interest and attention in these activities and materials determine their effectiveness. In
the sections below we present several types of research on effective first-grade reading instruction. The studies presented are ones that in the committee's judgment best represent the converging evidence from observational studies, from experimental training studies that have taken place in controlled settings, and from studies in classroom settings.
Outstanding teachers can make a big difference in a child's grasp of reading. Outstanding teachers have been characterized in research studies as effectively and deliberately planning their instruction to meet the diverse needs of children in a number of ways. Techniques include:
· creating a literate environment in which children have access to a variety of reading and writing materials;
· presenting explicit instruction for reading and writing, both in the context of ''authentic" and "isolated" practice;
· creating multiple opportunities for sustained reading practice in a variety of formats, such as choral, individual, and partner reading;
· carefully choosing instructional-level text from a variety of materials, with a reliance on literature, big books, and linking reading and writing activities;
· adjusting the mode (grouping) and explicitness of instruction to meet the needs of individual students;
· encouraging self-regulation through cognitive monitoring strategies; and
· "masterful" management of activity, behavior, and resources.
A recent observational and survey study conducted by the National Reading Research Center examined the literacy instruction of 123 outstanding primary teachers (identified by supervisor referrals) in general and special education classes (Pressley et al., 1996). The study suggests that excellent teachers effectively cover the key aspects of literacy (see Box 6-2). Other studies confirm this finding
In Ms. Levine's first-grade reading class, each of her students had his or her own basket of books, chosen to match their ability. The bulletin boards offered children word attack strategies. The children's journals were full of writing. The class had only 18 children, 9 of whom have limited English ability and 12 of whom are living in poverty.
For two and a half hours. the children moved at an upbeat and energized pace from one interesting and valuable activity to another. Every time the children started getting restless, it seemed to be time to move to a new activity. The children were:
reading in pairs (shoulder to shoulder),
reading in groups of four,
writing and writing some more.
While the children worked individually or in groups by themselves. Ms. Levine taught other children individually or in small groups. She then brought the whole class together to teach a phonics lesson on the aw sound in words like drawing. Without prompting, children clapped out the sounds in the words. Next she read two books to her students, one fiction and one nonfiction, and talked with them about the content of those books. They reviewed what helped them in understanding the book.
(Korkeamaki and Dreher, 1996; Tyler, 1993). Box 6-3 provides a more detailed example of a good teacher at work with her class on literacy activities.
Although portraits of excellent and highly effective teachers are inspiring, we must recognize that the vast majority of children are taught to read by average rather than exceptional teachers. We need to know more about the typical instruction provided by typical teachersthe sources of knowledge they possess and the range of practice and learning opportunities they provide to their students. We turn in the next section to research carried out with teachers across the full range of abilities.
Researchers have documented one first-grade teacher's method to meet the diverse literacy needs of her students through whole-class reading instruction (Cunningham and Cunningham, 1992; Cunningham et al., 1991). The daily two-hour language arts period was organized into four distinct half-hour instructional blocks devoted to (1) process writing instruction, (2) basal reading instruction, (3) independent free-choice reading of trade books, and (4) word study instruction.
The word study block is the central focus of this discussion. It consists of two primary activities, word wall and making words. The word wall serves as a foundation for spelling instruction and practice, using five words selected each week from a basal reading lesson or the children's writing. These words are posted and, as a whole group, the children practice reading and spelling them, with a daily chanting-clapping-writing routine. New words are added weekly, and a subset is practiced daily.
Making words is part of the instruction in phonemic awareness, letter-sound relationships, and spelling patterns. For this activity, each child has a set of 26 letter cards, with corresponding uppercase and lowercase letters printed on either side (vowels in red, consonants in black). The teacher displays one or two vowels and three or more consonants to the whole class. After the children locate the same letters from their own collections, the teacher calls out a word for the children to make. A two-letter word is presented first, with succeeding words using more letters; 12 to 15 additional words are spelled daily in this manner and added to the display.
The highlight of this daily routine is the mystery wordone that requires use of all the selected letters. The teacher does not identify this word; the children are encouraged to discover it on their own. Subsequently, the teacher and the children together explore the new words, sorting by various spelling or phonetic features, such as word families, rhymes, and common vowel and consonant combinations.
The making words activity is an engaging medium for explicit instruction about specific spelling-sound correspondences and the alphabetic principle in general. It also provides opportunities for self-assessment and correction, as each new word is displayed and the children compare their spelling construction with that of the teacher. It supports children who are struggling to recognize letters automatically by limiting the number of letters encountered at once. Meanwhile, the physical manipulation of the letter cards accommodates children who might otherwise have difficulty sustaining their attention in whole-group instruction. Finally, the activity is inherently motivational, since children at all levels of achievement can experience both success and instructional challenge as the lessons proceed from simple to more complex.
Three Approaches to First-Grade Instruction
Three classroom approaches represent three distinct and frequently discussed views on explicitly how to develop beginners' phonics and decoding skills in a print-rich environment:
1. whole language in which the emphasis is on connected text, with alphabetic learning assumed to go on implicitly;
2. embedded phonics in which sound-spelling patterns are systematically embedded in connected text; and
3. direct code, in which letter-sound correspondences and practice take place with various kinds of text.
In Box 6-4, we present brief portraits of these three approaches, which are widely used in first-grade classrooms. These portraits are based on a recent study that evaluated the effects of classroom instruction as practiced by teachers representative of the typical range of ability in a Houston metropolitan area school district (Foorman et al., 1998). In reviewing instructional methods and actual classroom practice, it becomes clear that there is enormous variability in how teachers actually conduct their classes. One whole-language classroom may look nothing like another. Thus, the illustrations of instruction in this box are not assumed to be highly representative but rather possible realizations of the basic approach.
As defined in the Foorman study, the principle governing instruction in the classroom using the implicit code or whole-language framework is to give priority in reading and writing activities to the child's construction of meaning. Phonics lessons are conducted opportunistically in the context of meaningful reading and writing. The teacher is conceived as the facilitator rather than the director of learning. Authentic performance-based assessments, such as portfolio entries, are preferred to formal or skill-focused assessments of progress.
Using Whole-Language Instruction
Ms. A began the language arts block by writing the date on the board and having the childrenseated on the floor in front of herchoral read the sentence as she pointed to each word. Then Ms. A pointed to the decorations on the walls, to the trade books visible around the room, and to the big book on the easel and reminded the children that the theme for the week was Thanksgiving.
She asked the children why we celebrate Thanksgiving and, from among the enthusiastic flutter of hands, selected one child, who responded, "To celebrate the good food we eat." The teacher nodded and asked. "And what kind of food do we tend to eat on Thanksgiving?" Again, from among the even more enthusiastic waving of hands, Ms. A selected another child, who proudly announced, "My grandma makes turkey and stuffing." Comments of "Mine too!'' and "Pumpkin pie" were offered by other children. Ms. A wrote turkey and pumpkin on the chalkboard and asked the children to repeat after her as she read these words.
Then she proceeded to introduce the big book, explaining that it was about a Thanksgiving feast. She named the title, author, and illustrator, pointing to each word as she said it. She asked the children to name other books by the same author.
Then Ms. A opened the book and introduced the main character, Pam. She covered up the letters -am and asked what the first sound of the girl's name was. A girl in the front row confidently proclaimed "/p/." Ms. A praised this response and proceeded to read the story, pointing to each word.
When Ms. A came to the word pumpkin, she pointed to the first letter and asked who remembered which sound that letter made. She ignored hands from the front row and called upon a child in the back who tentatively ventured "/p/?"
Ms. A smiled and announced, "Good job!" Then, underscoring the rest of the word, she pointed to the pictures of pumpkins on the page with her other hand and asked, "Now, what does this word say?" The children chimed in "Pumpkin!" Ms. A continued reading the big book in this manner, periodically drawing their attention to the sounds of initial letters and urging them to use context clues to guess the meaning of words.
Then Ms. A told all but eight children to return to their seats and to draw a picture and/or write about their favorite Thanksgiving food. She gathered the eight children around her and passed out individual copies of the book just shared in the big book format. She had the children choral read the story with her, pointing to each word as they read. At the
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BOX 6-4 Continued
end of the story she asked the children if they thought Pam had a good Thanksgiving dinner. Then she passed out pieces of paper that had the prompt "I like to eat ___." She read the stem to the children and then asked them to complete the sentence by writing down what they like to eat. If they wanted help with writing a word, she encouraged them to say the word slowly, syllable by syllable, and to write the letters for each sound they heard.
When one child asked how to write "pie," Ms. A modeled [the sounding out] "/p/ /i/" and accepted the child's spelling of pi with ''That's very good! Why don't you draw a picture of the kind of pie you like to eat for Thanksgiving and we'll add that to your portfolio."
Next Ms. A planned to read a story about the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving. Then she would have them act out the story, donning the Pilgrim and Native American hats they had cut out yesterday.
Using Embedded Phonics
Ms. B started the language arts block with a morning message, using yesterday's target spelling pattern, -am.
She wrote "Sam will be 15 years young on tuesday" Then she asked the children to help her edit the message. They changed young to old and pointed out that Sam will be 7, not 15. With prompting, they agreed to capitalize the t in Tuesday and add a period at the end of the sentence.
Ms. B's target spelling pattern for the day was -ap. She introduced this pattern through shared reading of a big book. During this shared reading the teacher pointed to each word in the big book as she read the story, occasionally checking the understanding of the 22 children seated cross-legged in front of her by asking a question about the story. When she came to a word containing the target pattern, tap, she stopped reading the story, wrote tap on the blackboard and asked the children what word family tap belonged to. Then Ms. B asked what other words belonged to the -apword family. Hands shot up in the front row with suggestions of map. rap. and slap. She asked the children to spell these words to her as she wrote them on the board. The children had trouble with the l inslap, so Ms. B had the children stretch out the sounds so that the letter I was apparent.
After writing these words on the blackboard, Ms. B sent all but eight of the students to their seats. A strip of construction paper and a pile of alphabet letters from a bag of cereal were placed at each seat. Students were instructed to glue the letters -aponto the construction paper and make new words by adding letters to the front. One student made pay
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BOX 6-4 Continued
and was not corrected because the teacher was busy working with the group of eight. When students were finished with this seat work, they were told to read independently a book of their choice.
Ms. B worked with the group of eight by writing yesterday's spelling pattern, -am, on a slate board. She elicited words with this pattern in itclam, slam, ramand wrote them down. She checked their understanding of ramby asking a student to use it in a sentence. Then she passed out copies of a book to each child that had the word family in it. The children were familiar with the story and read along with the teacher in choral reading. When they had finished, she gave them each a laminated tag board mat and laminated letters. She asked them to write some words with the -ampattern while she listened to one of the children read the story. As he read, Ms. B took a running record of his reading miscues, prompting him to use context cues to guess the meaning of unknown words. Finally, Ms. B introduced a new book to the children that contained the spelling pattern of the day, -ap. She previewed each page, eliciting prior knowledge from the students by asking them to expand on their interpretations of illustrations. Then she put the book in a plastic bag for each child to take home and practice reading with a parent.
With 30 minutes left in the language arts block, Ms. B began a process writing workshop on Thanksgiving activities. Students brainstormed about Thanksgiving activities while the teacher wrote down sentences that expressed their ideas. If previously taught spelling patterns appeared, she pointed that out. Once the brainstorming was complete, students wrote about their favorite Thanksgiving activity.
Using Direct Code Instruction
Ms. C started the language arts block by having the children sit cross-legged in front of her and playing a game that practiced discriminating the previously taught consonants mand h. After writing these letters on opposite sides of the chalkboard and asking the children to say their sounds, Ms. C explained that she would say words that would have either the /m/ or the /h/ sound at the beginning and that they should point to the corresponding letter on the board when they heard its sound.
Then Ms. C introduced an oral blending activity by explaining that she would tell them a story and might need their help blending some of the words. She started out: "The old brown frog sat in the /s/ /u/ /n/. Where did the frog sit?" After finishing the story, Ms. C brought out the children's favorite puppet, Emmett, and said that they were going to play the game they'd played the day before where the children corrected the puppet when he left out a sound. For example, Ms. C would say "loud" and
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Emmett would reply "lou!" The children eagerly chimed in: "No, loud! /d/, /d/, loud!"
The phonics part of the lesson consisted of introducing /p/ spelled p. Ms. C turned over the Sound/Spelling Card 16, Popcorn, posted above the blackboard with all the other cards. To introduce the /p/ sound and its spelling, Ms. C read the popcorn story, starting with: "Ping and Pong like to pop popcorn. As it cooks, it makes this sound: /p/ /p/ /p/ /p/ /p/ /p/ /p/.'' In subsequent stanzas, the children joined in, making the /p/ sound very fast. Then Ms. C wrote pon the blackboard and asked the children to trace the letter pon the rug. After that, she taught them how to hold up a fist and burst open their fingers like a kernel of corn popping whenever (giving her a way to see which children were and were not catching on) she pronounced a word beginning with the /p/ sound (e.g., choosing among the set: popcorn, chair, peanut, pumpkin) and, later, ending with the /p/ sound (e.g., top, dog, snoop). Then she asked the children to suggest some words that begin with /p/. When one child suggested "pumpkin pie," Ms. C nodded and asked how many children had had pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner last week.
The next activity consisted of blending words and sentences. Ms. C built words at the board spelling by spelling, encouraging the children to say each sound with her (/p/ /a/, /pa/ /m/, Pam), then to reread it with a natural intonation. She checked their knowledge of capitalization by asking why Pambegins with a capital letter. Then she wrote "I am Pam" on the board, underlining I because it was an "outlaw" word that they would not be sounding out.
Then Ms. C read a rhyming story that she had written on chart paper resting on an easel. First, she read the title "Dan the Man and His Fat Cat," and then read the story while pointing to each word. The children were able to chime in because of the predictable rhyme patterns. After finishing the story, Ms. C asked if any children had a cat at home and, if so, did their cat behave like this cat. With about 30 minutes remaining in the language arts block, Ms. C dismissed all but eight children to their seats to work on a worksheet that provided additional practice with /p/ spelled p(followed by independent reading in a book of their choice). With the remaining eight children she passed out bags of letter cards, a, h, m, p, and t, and engaged them in a word-building game to spell sam, ham, hat, and pat. As the children worked on building words, Ms. C completed an assessment form, noting each child's progress on the skills taught. Later, she shared a big book about animal habitats and diets with the children, developing their vocabulary and language while encouraging them to discuss and wonder about the sometimes strange animal behaviors described and depicted.
Embedded Phonics Instruction
In the classrooms Foorman et al. (1998) examined using embedded phonics, phonics instruction was sequenced according to a list of rhyming word families. At the outset of a phonics lesson, teachers present a word containing the target spelling pattern and, by deleting the word's initial consonant or consonant cluster, direct attention to the spelling and sound of its remainder. By substituting different beginning sounds and spellings, students are led to generalize the pattern to new words. Teachers are also given a list of trade books containing words corresponding to each of the instructed spelling patterns. The spelling patterns are then practiced by the children in context through repeated readings of these books, complemented with writing activities in instruction.
The embedded phonics approach has also been shown to be more effective for disadvantaged students than the whole-language approach in a study conducted by its developers (Hiebert et al., 1992).
Direct Code Instruction
The first phase of direct code instruction focuses on establishing the children's basic knowledge and understandings about how print works through linguistic awareness activities, the use of big books, writing, and language games and rebus activities. The second phase focuses on learning to read and spell words independently. Letter-sound correspondences and spelling conventions are explicitly taught and interactively practiced and extended. Independent reading is introduced through a graduated series of books, methodically designed to review/offer practice with the sight words and phonics lessons to date. The purpose is to secure the strategy: if you don't recognize a word, sound it out. In the third phase, the children use anthologies and trade books to develop reading strategies and practice phonics, spelling, and writing.
The Foorman study compared the effects of the three types of instruction for 285 children in eight elementary schools in a Houston metropolitan area school district that serves a high proportion of students at risk for reading failure (Foorman et al., 1998). The students were three to eight economically disadvantaged children in each regular education classroom who received services through Title I (the federal school aid program serving poor, underachieving students); the sample was 60 percent African American, 20 percent Hispanic, and 20 percent white. Although both first- and second grade classrooms were included, the second graders were being taught using the first-grade sequence of instruction because of their low achievement.
There were 53 volunteer teachers: 19 using whole-language instruction, 20 using embedded phonics, and 14 using direct code instruction. Professional development sessions for all teachers were conducted by members of the research staff who had teaching experience and were strong proponents of the approach for which they were responsible. In addition, an "unseen control" group of 13 teachers using whole-language instruction (the district's standard instruction) was trained and supervised by district personnel. Bimonthly monitoring confirmed that classroom teachers in the study generally complied with their assigned instructional approaches. The instructional groups had similar scores on baseline word reading and phonological processing.
Controlling for differences in age, ethnicity, and verbal IQ, the researchers found that children taught via the direct code approach improved in word reading at a faster rate and had higher word recognition skills than children receiving whole-language instruction (either the research-based or the district's standard version). Furthermore, whereas a relatively large percentage of children in the two whole-language groups and the embedded phonics group exhibited no measurable gains in word reading over the school year, the direct instruction group showed growth in word reading that appeared more or less normally distributed.
Despite lower reading performance, children in the research based whole-language group had more positive attitudes toward reading, a finding consistent with other research (e.g., Stahl et al., 1994). A positive attitude toward reading, although not associated with higher performance in beginning reading, may enable students to sustain an interest in reading through the upper grades. Some decoding skill is likely to be needed before known orthographic rimes are spontaneously used to read unknown words by analogy, so the embedded phonics approach may have positive effects that take longer to be realized. As with any other intervention study, longer term follow-up with these children is clearly indicated.
The results of this study indicate that early instructional intervention makes a difference for the development and outcomes of reading skills among first- and second-grade children at risk for reading failure. However, not all interventions are equal. The amount of improvement in word-reading skill appears to be associated with the degree of explicitness in the instructional method. Furthermore, children with higher phonological processing scores at the beginning of the year demonstrated greater improvement in word-reading skills in all instructional groups. Explicit instruction in the alphabetic principle was more effective with children who began the year doing poorly in phonological processing.
The analysis of basal reading programs discussed in the section above on kindergarten covered first-grade versions of the programs as well (Stein et al., 1993). The study summarized the practices supported by the basal programs that dominated the first-grade market just a few years ago, analyzing their content in four major areas. Table 6-2 presents these areas, their definitions, and the percentage of the programs that included each area.
A notable aspect of Stein's first-grade analysis is the variability with which major instructional categories are emphasized by the different basal programs. As the table shows, although the programs unanimously support instruction on reading comprehension, few programs emphasize the development of reading fluency, and
the extent to which they support oral reading development is unclear. Moreover, the cells with lowest percentages of support center on two categories of instruction: explicit teaching and application of the alphabetic principle and writing. Ironically, these relatively neglected instructional components are among those whose importance is most strongly supported by research. These are the components that have repeatedly been shown to distinguish programs of exceptional instructional efficacy; they also correspond to the abilities that are found to be differentially underdeveloped in students with reading difficulty.
Programs that ignore necessary instructional components tacitly delegate the pedagogical support on which their sales are predicated to the intervention of teachers, tutors, or parents. Even when a program does address key instructional components, it may or may not do so with clarity or effect. In this vein, a particular problem is the currently popular publishing strategy of accommodating the range of student interests and teacher predilections by providing activities to please everyone in each lesson. By making it impossible for teachers to pursue all suggestions, the basal programs make it necessary for teachers to ignore some of them. A good basal program should clearly distinguish key from optional activities.
Basal programs are used in the majority of first-grade classrooms in the United States and thus have substantial influence on both classroom practice and teacher development. In view of this, guidelines and procedures for aligning their instructional goals and methods with research are urgently needed, as are policies for requiring empirical evaluation of their instructional efficacy.
SECOND AND THIRD GRADES
Fostering Independent and Productive Reading
In first grade, the challenge for children is to learn how to read. In fourth grade and up, it is taken for granted that they are capableindependently and productivelyof reading to learn. Written language becomes both the primary and the fallback medium through which they are expected to acquire and demonstrate their
Table 6-2 Analysis of First- Grade Basal Reading Programs
Subcategories with Definitions
Included at High Levels(%)
Included at Minimal Levels(%)
Sound/symbol relationships: activities that promote the relationship between letters and sounds
Explicitstudents saw letters in isolation and are taught their corresponding sounds.
Implicittheir sounds are presented within the context of a word.
Phonemic Awareness: games or activities that focus on words and their phonemic elements, oral segmenting and blending activities, oral syllabication, and rhyming activities
It should be noted that, to discriminate phonemic awareness from decoding strategy instruction, only oral activities are included in this category.
Explicitstudents are encouraged to read unknown words by making associations with known letters or words.
Implicitstudents are encouraged to read unknown words by making associations with known letters or words.
Explicit blendingstudents are encouraged to read unknown words by examining the individual letters and sounds and blending them together.
Word lists and/or individual sentences
Relationship of instruction to text
Observable relationship: activities designed specifically to help students decode the text selection.
Observable phonics relationship: text clearly written to provide multiple examples of the phonics instruction in the program.
Mode of reading test
Includes activities to promote fluency
Activities explicitly labeled as opportunities for students to build reading fluency.
Reading Comprehension and Writing
Activities to promote understanding of the text prior to reading
Activities during reading
Activities after reading
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TABLE 6-2 Continued
Subcategories with Definitions
Included at High Levels (%)
Included at Minimal Levels (%)
Comprehension skill/ strategy training: activities designed to teach students generalizable and strategic skills such as sequencing or discriminating fact from fiction - these activities need not be directly related to a specific text selection
Composing activitiesActivities that require students to compose text
Related to text selection
Independent of text selection
SOURCE: Based on Stein et al. (1993
understanding of school knowledge. By the time students enter fourth grade, it is therefore imperative that their ability to read be sufficiently well developed that it not impede their capacity to comprehend and that their ability to comprehendto analyze, critique, abstract, and reflect on textbe adequate to profit from the learning opportunities ahead.
The second and third grades are critical school years for ensuring that all students can make this transition, by building their capacity to comprehend more difficult and more varied texts. At the same time, the curriculum must be designed with due recognition that students' higher-order comprehension can be limited not only by the presence or absence but also by the automaticity of lower-level skills. Higher-order comprehension processes are necessarily thought in-
tensive. They require analytic, evaluative, and reflective access to local and long-term memory. Yet active attention is limited. To the extent that readers must struggle with recognizing the words of a text, they lose track of meaning (Daneman and Tardiff, 1987; Perfetti, 1985).
Word Recognition, Reading Fluency, and Spelling
By the end of third grade, students should possess the skills, habits, and learning strategies needed for fourth grade success. This means not only that students should be reading on grade level but also that they should be demonstrably prepared to discuss, learn about, and write about the ideas and information encountered in their texts. By the end of second grade, students should have been introduced, with guidance, to representative types of text-based learning and performance to come and should be reading at least simple chapter books and other texts of their choice with comfort and understanding. At the beginning of second grade, however, the reading of many children is too laborious and unsure to admit independent reading or understanding of any but the simplest of texts.
At least in early acquisition, reading ability is a bit like foreign language ability: use it or lose it, and the more tenuous the knowledge, the greater the loss. Thus, the well-documented and substantial losses in reading ability that are associated with summer vacation are especially marked for younger and poorer readers (Hayes and Grether, 1983; Alexander and Entwisle, 1996). On the first day of school, second-grade teachers thus typically find themselves faced with two sets of students. A few are reading independently at relatively advanced levels; typically these are students who read well enough at the end of first grade to read on their own during the summer. Many other students seem not to know how to read at all. Most of the latter have simply forgotten what they learned in the first grade, but some failed to learn to read adequately in the first place. As quickly as possible, the second-grade teacher's job is to figure out which group is which and to ensure that all students gain or regain the first-grade accomplishments and move on.
Second-grade basal reading programs generally provide little help toward this end, as they start where they left off at the end of grade one. Given well-structured review, children who have simply forgotten will generally recover quickly. In contrast, for children who fell or sneaked through the cracks in first grade, identification and assistance are urgent. In school lore, second grade is broadly viewed as children's last chance. Those who are not on track by third grade have little chance of ever catching up (Bloom, 1964; Carter, 1984; Shaywitz et al., 1992).
A major task for the second-grade teacher, then, is to ensure that all students understand the nature and utility of the alphabetic principle. To develop the children's phonemic awareness and knowledge of basic letter-sound correspondences, spelling instruction is important. Beginning with short, regular words, such as pot, pat, and pan, the focus of these instructional activities is gradually extended to more complex spelling patterns and words, including long vowel spellings, inflections, and so on.
In later grades, such instruction should extend to spellings and meanings of prefixes, suffixes, and word roots: leading children to notice such patterns across many different examples supports learning the target words and helps children transfer spelling patterns and word analysis strategies beyond the lesson, into their own reading and writing (Calfee and Henry, 1986; Henry, 1989). Several guides for spelling instruction (e.g., Bear et al., 1996; Moats, 1995; Moats and Foorman, 1997) based on research on spelling development (e.g., Templeton and Bear, 1992; Treiman, 1993) are available, although no evaluative data on their effectiveness in ordinary classrooms exists.
When readers cannot recognize a word or a spelling pattern and have no one to ask, they have one of two options. They can use context or pictures to guess or finesse its identity, or they can sound it out. Each of these options produces its own patterns of error and dysfluency. Laboratory research with good and poor readers at second grade and beyond has repeatedly demonstrated that, whereas good readers become as fast and accurate at recognizing words without context as with, poor readers as a group remain differentially dependent on context. An overreliance on context is symptomatic
that orthographic processing is proceeding neither quickly nor completely enough to do its job.
For readers who are progressing normally, it is often not before the middle of second grade that the ability to read with expressive fluency and comprehension emerges reliably (Chall, 1983; Gates, 1947; Gray, 1937; Ilg and Ames, 1950). Clinical (Harris and Sipay, 1975) evidence and laboratory (Stanovich, 1984) evidence concur that children who can read second-grade texts accurately can read and learn from text with reasonable efficiency and productivity on their own, provided the text level is appropriate. One of the most important questions for second- and third-grade teachers is therefore how best to help children reach this level. Given that the goal is to help children learn to read the words and understand them too, a promising tactic would seem to be to engage them in more connected reading of appropriate text.
It has long been appreciated that a critical factor in considering the learning impact of time spent reading is the difficulty of the text relative to the student's ability. Common terms to describe differences among text are the following:
· The independent reading level is the highest level at which a child can read easily and fluently: without assistance, with few errors in word recognition, and with good comprehension and recall.
· The instructional level is the highest level at which the child can do satisfactory reading provided that he or she receives preparation and supervision from a teacher: errors in word recognition are not frequent, and comprehension and recall are satisfactory.
· The frustration level is the level at which the child's reading skills break down: fluency disappears, errors in word recognition are numerous, comprehension is faulty, recall is sketchy, and signs of emotional tension and discomfort become evident (cited in Harris and Sipay, 1975).
Regardless of a child's reading ability, if too many of the words of a text are problematic, both comprehension and reading growth itself are impeded. As a general rule, it has been suggested that error
rates for younger poorer readers should not exceed 1 word in 20 (Clay, 1985; Wixson and Lipson, 1991). If the goal is to increase reading proficiency as quickly as possible, however, this creates a dilemma: whereas children are capable of learning little from text that is beyond their independent level, there is little new for them to learn from text that is beneath their instructional level.
When the goal is to help students conquer any particular text, one widely validated practice is that of asking students to read it several times over (Samuels et al., 1994). The effect of repeated reading practice generalizes to new texts only if the overlap of occurrence of specific words is high between the texts (Faulkner and Levy, 1994; Rashotte and Torgeson, 1985). Researchers using this approach have recently reported some promising, if small sample, results with poor readers in third and fourth grades (Shany and Biemiller, 1995). Instead of using repeated readings of any single passage, the children read from basal reading series that, in the style of the 1960s, were designed to repeat new words across selections. Each child in the experimental condition began at a level in the series that matched her or his own independent reading level. Each was then asked to read successive selections from these books for 30 minutes a day, four times a week, for 16 weeks. Half the children were assisted by a teacher who helped with word recognition as needed; the other half read in tandem with an audiotape machine whose rate was adjustable from 80 to 120 words per minute.
Over the course of the intervention, the children in the teacher assisted group read five times more words of text than their ability matched classroom controls; those in the tape-assisted group covered 10 times more words of text than the controls. Both experimental groups made significantly greater gains than controls in speed and comprehension of connected reading.
Comprehension and Fluency
In a more ambitious intervention, Stahl et al. (1997) reorganized the entire reading program in 14 second-grade classrooms in an effort to accelerate reading growth. The schools were in mixed- to lower-income districts. On testing in October of second grade, the
children ranged from virtual nonreaders to those who could read comfortably at the fourth-grade level; of the 230 children in all 14 classrooms, 120 were reading at or above grade level. In these classrooms, the teachers introduced each new basal selection by reading it aloud. The discussion following the reading of the selection was complemented with teacher- and student-generated questions and vocabulary work. In addition, the selection was explored more analytically with the help of a variety of organizational frames such as story maps, plot charts, and Venn diagrams. Children in need of extra help were pulled aside for echo reading: each paragraph was read first by the teacher and then by the students. That evening, each student was to read the selection again at home, preferably aloud to a parent.
The next day, students paired up, taking turns reading each page or paragraph to each other. The partner reading routine was pursued for three reasons. First, reading with another was useful in keeping children engaged and on task. Second, the teacher could easily monitor progress and performance by moving around the classroom and listening. Third, following Chall's (1983) recommendation, the researchers sought to increase students' amount of oral reading.
For further reinforcement, a variety of other options were adopted from time to time, such as having each child practice reading one part of the selection for performance; students still having difficulty were asked to reread the selection at least one more time at home. Each selection was also reviewed by completing journals in pairs or as a class. In addition to this work with the basal selections, children were asked to read books of their own choice, both during each school day for 15-20 minutes and at home. In short, the program was set up to promote comprehension growth while encouraging a great deal of reading and rereading for building reading fluency. Responses to the program were strongly positive from both teachers and students.
Oral reading growth was assessed by asking a subsample of 89 students to read aloud both familiar and previously unseen excerpts from their basal reader in November, January, and May. Growth was most pronounced for children who had been reading at or above
the primer level at the start of the year, and it was fastest between November and January. Due to ceiling effects, improvement among the children who began the year above the second-grade level could not be measured. The group that started the year below the primer level never caught up; their readings of the basal passages continued to be slow and error prone.
Impact of the intervention was also measured by using Leslie and Caldwell's (1988) Qualitative Reading Inventory. This test consists of graded passages for oral reading, each accompanied by comprehension questions. Growth across the school year averaged 1.88 and 1.77 grade levels for the 4 and 10 classrooms that respectively participated in the first and second years of the study. Of the 190 students who started second grade at the primer level or above, only 5 were still unable to read at the second-grade level by spring. For 20 who could not read even the primer on entry, 9 reached or surpassed the second-grade level by spring, and all but one could read at least at the primer level.
Thus, although about 10 percent of the children were still performing below grade level, and although results are measured against expectable gains rather than against the performance of a control group, the outcomes of the study are impressive. It was also longer in duration and broader in scope than most other second-grade reading interventions. In particular, its scope embraced both fluency and comprehension support; children need both.
Comprehension and Word Knowledge
Mature readers construct meaning at two levels. One level works with the words of the text for a literal understanding of what the author has written. However, superior word recognition abilities do not necessarily translate into superior levels of reading achievement (Chall et al., 1990). Productive reading involves, in addition to literal comprehension, being able to answer such questions as: Why am I reading this and how does this information relate to my reasons for so doing? What is the author's point of view, what are her or his underlying assumptions? Do I understand what the author is saying and why? Do I know where the author is headed? Is the text
internally consistent? Is it consistent with what I already know or believe? If not, where does it depart and what do I think about the discrepancy? This sort of reflective, purposive understanding goes beyond the literal to the underlying meaning of the text. For purposes of discussion, the development of productive reading comprehension can be considered in terms of three factors: (1) concept and vocabulary development, (2) command of the linguistic structures of the text, and (3) metacognitive or reflective control of comprehension.
Written text places high demands on vocabulary knowledge. Even the words used in children's books are more rare than those used in adult conversations and prime-time television (Hayes and Ahrens, 1988). Learning new concepts and the words that encode them is essential for comprehension development. People's ability to infer or retain new words in general is strongly dependent on their background knowledge of other words and concepts. Even at the youngest ages, the ability to understand and remember the meanings of new words depends quite strongly on how well developed one's vocabulary already is (Robbins and Ehri, 1994).
Can children's word knowledge and reading comprehension be measurably improved through instruction? The answer is yes, according to a meta-analysis of relevant research studies by Stahl and Fairbanks (1986). First, vocabulary instruction generally does result in measurable increase in students' specific word knowledge. Sometimes and to some degree it also results in better performance on global vocabulary measures, such as standardized tests, indicating that the instruction has evidently enhanced the learning of words beyond those directly taught. Second, pooling across studies, vocabulary instruction also appears to produce increases in children's reading comprehension. Again, although these gains are largest where passages contain explicitly taught words, they are also significant given general standardized measures.
Looking across studies, Stahl and Fairbanks (1986) noted differences in the effectiveness of vocabulary instruction as well. Methods providing repeated drill and practice on word definitions resulted in significant improvement with the particular words that had been taught but no reliable effect on reading comprehension scores. In
contrast, methods in which children were given both information about the words' definitions and examples of the words' usages in a variety of contexts resulted in the largest gains in both vocabulary and reading comprehension.
An important source of word knowledge is exposure to print and independent reading. As noted above, books introduce children to more rare words than conversation or television does. So educational approaches that encourage children to read more both in school and out should increase their word knowledge (Nagy and Anderson, 1984) and reading comprehension (Anderson et al., 1988). However, several efforts to increase the breadth of children's reading have produced little measurable effect on their reading ability (Carver and Liebert, 1995; see review in Taylor et al., 1990), perhaps because books selected for free reading tend to be at too easy a level for most children (Carver, 1994). Alternately, perhaps children who are doing poorly are less likely to profit from extensive exposure to print than children who are already progressing quite well.
One group of researchers reviewed interactions among print exposure, word knowledge, and comprehension, teasing apart the relations among prior ability and increased reading (Stanovich et al., 1996). They concluded (p. 29): ''In short, exposure to print is efficacious regardless of the level of the child's cognitive and comprehension abilities. Even children with limited comprehension skills will build vocabulary and cognitive structures through immersion in literacy activities. An encouraging message for teachers of lowachieving children is implicit here. We often despair of changing 'abilities,' but there is at least one partially malleable habit that will itself develop 'abilities'reading."
The relation between print exposure and comprehension need not be limited to the child's own reading in school. Cain (1996) studied the home literacy activities of 7- and 8-year-olds whose word reading accuracy was appropriate for their chronological age but who differed in their comprehension ability. She reports the following contrasts: "The children who were skilled comprehenders reported reading books at home more frequently than the less skilled children, and their parents reported that they were more likely to read story books. The skilled comprehenders also reported that they
were read to more frequently at home by their parents than the less skilled group and this was confirmed by their parents' responses. . . . The skilled children were significantly more likely to read books with their parents than were the less skilled children and also tended to talk about books and stories more frequently than did the less skilled comprehenders." (Cain, 1996:189)
It might be assumed that reading aloud with a child loses its value once children have attained independent accuracy in reading words, but Cain's findings raise the possibility that being read to promotes skilled comprehension at ages 7 and 8, although she points out that no causal link has yet been demonstrated.
Comprehension and Background Knowledge
The breadth and depth of a child's literacy experiences determine not only how many and what kinds of words she or he will encounter but also the background knowledge with which a child can conceptualize the meaning of any new word and the orthographic knowledge that frees that meaning from the printed page. Every opportunity should be taken to extend and enrich children's background knowledge and understanding in every way possible, for the ultimate significance and memorability of any word or text depends on whether children possess the background knowledge and conceptual sophistication to understand its meaning.
A program designed to enhance background knowledge and conceptual sophistication among third graders is Concept Oriented Reading Instruction (CORI). The emphasis of the program is on the comprehension of interesting texts. The program is designed around broad interdisciplinary themes, exploiting real-world experiences, a range of cognitive strategies, and social groupings to promote self-direction. Designed for third graders in high-poverty schools with a history of low achievement, it has been successfully used at both the classroom and the whole-school level. The third-grade students have ranged in reading levels from first to fourth grade, and students with limited English proficiency are mainstreamed and included in the classroom. The program has effectively increased narrative text comprehension, expository text comprehension, and other language
arts skills on standardized tests, as well as increasing students' performance on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) (Guthrie et al., 1996). Compared to control students, students in the program improved significantly on reading, writing, science, social studies, and language use but not in math, which was not taught in the program. CORI has also been shown to increase the amount and breadth of independent reading and volitional strategies for maintaining engagement in reading activities.
Structures, Processes, and Meta-Processes in Comprehension Instruction
Research on comprehension among young readers has not resolved questions about the nature and separate identity of the difficulties they encounter as they attempt to understand texts. It is difficult to tease apart the effect of stores of word knowledge and background knowledge from the effect of processes (e.g., identifying words quickly and accurately, constructing mental representations to integrate information from the text) and meta-processes (making inferences, monitoring for inconsistencies) (Cornoldi and Oakhill, 1996). Instruction for comprehension, however, generally focuses on understanding complete connected text in situations in which many of the possible difficulties appear bound together and often can be treated as a bundle to good effect.
Many comprehension instruction techniques used in schools today are described as meta-cognitive. A meta-analysis of 20 meta-cognition instruction programs found a substantial mean effect size of .71 (Haller et al., 1988). Instructional programs focusing on self-questioning and identifying text consistencies were found to be most effective. A meta-analysis of 10 studies related to a technique called reciprocal teaching found a median effect size of .88 (Rosenshine and Meister, 1994).
For most active comprehension instruction, whether considered meta-cognitive or not, two pedagogic processes are intermingled: traditional instruction in basic stores of knowledge (the background for the text and for particular words) and instruction in particular comprehension strategies complemented by the active skilled reading
of the text by an expert (the teacher) done in such a way that the ordinarily hidden processes of comprehension are displayed (see Kucan and Beck, 1997; Beck and McKeown, 1996). The children have an opportunity to learn from the joint participation (a form of cognitive apprenticeship) as well as from the particulars in the instructional agenda. As Baker (1996) notes, it is an open question whether direct instruction or observational learning provides the greater contribution to student progress.
Reciprocal teaching is a particularly interesting approach to consider in detail both because of its apparent effectiveness and because it illustrates the mixed instructional agenda and pedagogical strategies. Reciprocal teaching provides guided practice in the use of four strategies (predicting, question generating, summarizing, and clarifying) that are designed to enhance children's ability to construct the meaning of text (Palincsar et al., 1993). To engage in reciprocal teaching dialogues, the children and their teacher read a piece of common text. This reading may be done as a read-along, a silent reading, or an oral reading, depending on the decoding abilities of the children and the level of the text. The children and the teacher take turns leading the discussion of segments of the text, using strategies to support their discussion. The ultimate purpose of the discussion, however, is not practice with the strategies but the application of the strategies for the purpose of coming to a shared sense of the meaning of the text at hand. The tenets of reciprocal teaching include (a) meaningful use of comprehension-monitoring and comprehension-fostering strategies; (b) discussion for the purpose of building the meaning of text; (c) the expectation that, when children are first beginning these dialogues, they will need considerable support provided by the teacher's modeling of the use of the strategies and guiding students' participation in the dialogues; (d) the use of text that offers appropriate challenges to the children (i.e., there is content worth discussing in the text and the text is sufficiently accessible to the children); and, finally, (e) the use of text that is thematically related so that children have the opportunity to build their knowledge of a topic or area over time.
Reciprocal teaching was designed as both an intervention to be used with youngsters who were experiencing language-related diffi-
culties and as a means of prevention given the hypothesis that young children should experience reading as a meaningful activity even before they are reading conventionally. It has been investigated principally with children who come from high-poverty areas, children being served in developmental and remedial reading programs, and children identified as having a language or learning disability. Research on reciprocal teaching with young children in first and second grades indicates statistically significant improvement in listening comprehension (which assessed ability to recall information, summarize information, draw inferences from text, and use information to solve a novel problem) and fewer referrals to special education or remedial reading programs. In addition, teachers reported that, as a result of their experiences in reciprocal teaching dialogues, their expectations regarding these children were raised. In other words, children who appeared to have a disability on the basis of their participation in the conventional classroom dynamic appeared quite able in the context of reciprocal teaching dialogues.
Training studies on inferences and comprehension monitoring with 7- and 8-year-olds show that children identified specifically as poor comprehenders profit differentially from certain kinds of instruction. Yuill and Oakhill (1988) compared the effect on skilled and less skilled comprehenders (matched for age and reading accuracy) of a program that lasted for seven 30-minute sessions spread over about two months. The treatment group worked on lexical inferences, question generation, and prediction. One control group read the same texts and answered questions about them in a group discussion format. A second control group read the same texts and practiced rapid word decoding. There appears to have been an interaction between aptitude and treatment. Analyses of post-test results showed that the less skilled comprehenders benefited more from the experimental treatment than did the more skilled, that the less skilled comprehenders derived more benefit from the comprehension training than they did from the rapid decoding condition, but that the more skilled benefited more from the decoding training than from the comprehension training.
Yuill (1996) worked with a similar set of subjects (matched for age and reading accuracy, differing on comprehension ability) to
train for the ability to recognize that texts could have more than a single obvious interpretation by using the genre of riddles, which depend on ambiguity and its resolution. The treatment condition focused the children on alternative interpretations in texts by training them to explain the ambiguity in riddles; the control group children also read amusing texts but focused on sublexical awareness activities rather than on meta-comprehension activities. At the end of the two-month period, the experimental treatment group performed significantly better on the post-test in comprehension than the control group did, but there was no significant interaction between skill group and training.
The nature and quality of classroom literacy instruction are a pivotal force in preventing reading difficulties in young children. Adequate initial reading instruction requires a focus on using reading to obtain meaning from print; understanding the sublexical structure of spoken words; exposing the nature of the orthographic system; practice in the specifics of frequent, regular spelling-sound relationships; and frequent and intensive opportunities to read. Adequate progress in learning to read English beyond the initial level depends on having established a working understanding of how sounds are represented alphabetically, sufficient practice in reading to achieve fluency with different kinds of texts written for different purposes, instruction focused on concept and vocabulary growth, and control over procedures for monitoring comprehension and repairing misunderstandings.
Activities designed to ensure these opportunities to learn include practice in reading (and rereading), writing as a means of word study and for the purpose of communication, invented spelling as a way to explore letter-sound relationships, and spelling instruction to enhance phonemic awareness and letter-sound/sound-letter relationships.
The context of the instruction varied considerably across the interventions considered in this chapter. Although the materials used ranged widely, a significant shared feature was attention to the
use of continuous text. The characteristics of the texts used include predictability, the opportunity the text provides to use spelling patterns that have been studied, what Juel (1991) refers to as "phonologically protected" text.
Effective instruction includes artful teaching, a thing that transcendsand often makes up for the limitations ofspecific instructional strategies (see Box 6-5). Although in this report we have not incorporated lessons from exceptional teaching practices with the same comprehensiveness as other topics in the research on reading, we acknowledge their importance in conceptualizing effective reading instruction.
Classroom instruction is not the only method of intervention used to prevent reading difficulties. In Chapter 5, we reviewed efforts that can take place in the preschool years. In the next two chapters on prevention and intervention strategies to preventing reading difficulties, we review organization strategies in kindergarten and the primary grades and research on providing extended time in reading-related instruction. In the next chapter, we review institutional responses to the prevention of reading problems.
Language Arts:You come down solidly advocating that educators need to teach children rather than to teach a curriculum. And you have also stated that the wars between whole language advocates and phonics advocates "are based more on educator identities than on children's needs." Would you talk about that a bit?
Lisa Delpit:I continue to be astounded that folks seem to put themselves into a political and ideological camp and indicate, "I'm going to stay in this camp come hell or high water." I view teaching a little differently. I don't place myself as a teacher in a camp. I see myself as responder to the needs of children. Some children will need to learn explicitly certain strategies or conventions: some children will not need that because they've gotten it through the discourse that they learned in their homes.
In California I saw a black child who was in a class where the kids were supposed to read a piece of literature and then respond to it. The child clearly couldn't read the selection. When asked about the situation, the teacher said, "Oh, he can't read it, but he'll get it in the discussion." Perhaps it's good that he will be able to get it in the discussion, but at the same time nobody is spending time teaching him what he also needs to learnhow to read for himself. So, we can lose track of the fact that children may need different kinds of instruction, depending on their knowledge and background.
Sometimes we have the best intentions but actually end up holding beliefs that result in lower expectations for certain students. We are content that the students are just becoming fluent in writing, so we don't push them to edit their pieces into final products that can be published. We don't do the kind of pushing necessary to get students to achieve at the level that they might be capable of.
SOURCE: An excerpt from "A Conversation with Lisa Delpit" by Language Arts (1991:544-545).