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Teaching Reading, Teaching Anything

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					                 Teaching Reading, Teaching Anything
                                      May 2001

"Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen of perception from one to
another mind."
                                                              —James Russell Lowell


The Components of Effective Reading Instruction

Decades of research in the fields of education and cognitive psychology have shown
that the following skills are critical to learning to read proficiently:

      Phonemic awareness
      Letter-word correspondence skills
      Fluent word recognition
      Vocabulary
      Comprehension skills
      Appreciation of literature

Once students have developed good phonemic awareness skills, research strongly
supports concurrent training of the other five reading skills (letter-word
correspondences, word recognition, vocabulary, comprehension, and appreciation of
literature) as the next step towards reading fluency. Students learn to read most
proficiently and quickly when all these skills are taught at the same time rather than
sequentially.


From Learning to Read to Reading to Learn

Reading skills taught by the end of 3rd grade must prepare students for the literacy
expectations they'll encounter in 4th grade. In 4th grade, students make a critical
transition from learning to read to reading to learn. This changeover requires
students to be fluent and automatic readers by the end of 3rd grade so they are
prepared to read and comprehend complex narrative and expository texts in such
content areas as history and science.

Students in 4th grade are expected to read for literary experience as well as for
information, and are expected to show:

      Initial understanding of the text
      Ability to develop an interpretation of the text
      Personal reflection on the content and response to the content
      Critical stance on the material

In addition, in 4th grade, the types of words students encounter in the texts they are
required to read are not typically found in everyday language; reading assignments
become more technical and specific to the subject, such as science or social studies.
If students are not reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade, they will not have
the skill basis for comprehending these more challenging texts, nor will they have
the vocabulary basics and decoding skills that will enable them to comprehend new
words. Their academic performance (and enjoyment of reading) will suffer. Thus it is
imperative to give students the best possible reading foundation as early as possible.




Next Page...

Teaching Anything: Instruction Based on Research on How the Brain Learns

Neuroscience research has found that there is a potent combination of elements that
lead to efficient learning of new tasks and concepts:

      Frequency
      Intensity
      Cross-training
      Adaptivity
      Motivation and attention

Frequency
For the brain to build and strengthen the pathways needed to learn a new skill, the
student must be repeatedly exposed to the material being studied. Haphazardly
picking at the piano usually produces little more than random melody, but daily
practice can bring about true accomplishment. Learning to read is no exception;
studies have shown that the more a person reads, the better that person will be at
reading at any age and at any level of reading proficiency!

Intensity
Learning a new skill efficiently requires concentrated practice. Intense focus on a
new skill allows the student to build more neural support for that skill in a short
timeframe. When you train for a run, half-hearted jogging will not prepare your body
for a race the way sprinting can. Reading skills are similar; the student must focus
on the foundational skills critical to reading in order to become a proficient reader.

Cross-Training
Cross-training students on a wide range of skills reinforces the student's overall
comprehension of the material while focusing on one or more specific skill sets. Just
as good nutrition necessitates many different types of food at each meal,
accomplished reading requires that the student be simultaneously proficient in many
different skills.

Adaptivity
Adaptivity is a special feature of specialized reading instruction. It involves
instruction that adapts to the student's incoming skill level. As the student continues
to train, this type of instruction tracks the number of correct and incorrect answers
and adjusts the training level when the student is ready to advance or needs to
transition to different training material. This flexible approach ensures that the
student is challenged but not frustrated, which in turn ensures that the student
continues to pay attention to and enjoy the training, as well as continues to learn
and progress in the exercise.
Motivation and Attention
Motivation keeps students interested in paying attention to the material and
maintaining frequency of training. Instructional programs that offer several different
motivational strategies keep students interested, and thus attention is sustained and
motivation to continue is reinforced.

				
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