Showing posts with tag learning to read Show all posts >
It’s not exactly news that there’s a relationship between auditory processing skills and reading disorders in children. But with research by scientists such as Elise Temple and Nadine Gaab helping to establish and confirm the connection, the mounting evidence points to just how strong the correlation is—especially for children with dyslexia.
In a recent study by Jane Hornickel and Nina Kraus published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the authors set out to determine whether inconsistency in the brain’s response to speech sounds is correlated with poor reading skills. The study evaluated 100 normal-hearing children from 6 to 12 years of age who were divided into 3 groups—good readers, average readers, and poor readers—based on their fluency scores.
The researchers asked the children to listen to the syllables “ba” and “ga” while measuring the children’s auditory brainstem response. They also measured the children’s brainstem response to a simple clicking sound for comparison.
The authors found that the auditory brainstem response was considerably more variable for poor readers than for good readers, but only when listening to the relatively complex speech sounds—not when listening to the simple click sound. They also found that the inconsistencies in brainstem response were more closely associated with the consonant portion of the syllable than the vowel portion.
The variability in brainstem response occurred intermittently throughout the testing rather than building over time, and was primarily seen among the poor readers rather than all three groups, indicating that neural fatigue was likely not a factor. The authors note that the more likely explanation for the intermittent variability is poor encoding of speech sounds in the brains of the struggling readers.
According to Kraus, it’s this inconsistency of brain response that prevents some children from making the crucial connection of sound to meaning that is the foundation of language and reading skills. Strong readers, on the other hand, typically make the connection with ease. The relationship between reading ability and auditory processing skills, she says, is “a highly significant relationship.”
Distinguishing between consonants can be particularly difficult for children with dyslexia, as this study shows, because they are spoken so much more rapidly than vowels. But consonants typically give meaning to words (think “cat” vs. “bat”), so that missing bit of information can make learning to read enormously difficult. The takeaway is that when children with normal hearing experience reading difficulty, auditory processing plays a role.
Fortunately, our students’ brains are highly adaptable and responsive, enabling dramatic improvements with appropriate intervention. When the auditory processing issues are corrected, children are then able to make the critical sound-to-meaning connections that lead to proficient reading and improved learning all around.
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Tim Rasinski is on a mission to change minds and he shares that mission with us in his webinar, “Keys to Increasing Reading Comprehension in the Age of Common Core.”
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Rasinski laments the fact that reading fluency has been ranked “Not Hot” for years in the annual “What’s Hot, What’s Not Literacy Survey” in Reading Today. Worse, he says, is the fact that the reading experts surveyed said that fluency should not be hot.
Fluency is one of the key skills, says Rasinski, that increases comprehension, the real goal of reading. So he wrote an article called “Why Reading Fluency Should Be Hot!,” which was featured in last May’s Reading Teacher magazine.
Building a Bridge to Reading Comprehension
Rasinski likens reading fluency to a bridge that connects accuracy in word study (phonics, decoding, spelling, and vocabulary) to comprehension. When students do not pick up the connection intuitively, educators have to teach it. But, if educators do not see fluency as an important component of reading instruction, the bridge to comprehension may never be built.
Teaching fluency means developing automaticity in word recognition, so learners can devote their available cognitive energy to comprehension. When that limited energy is spent on word recognition, there’s often not enough left over for the difficult task of deriving meaning from the words that have been read.
Ways to Develop Fluency That Really Work
Rasinski outlines what he calls “the essentials” of developing reading fluency:
Anyone interested in helping students become eager and capable readers should take the time to watch the full webinar and hear Rasinski’s thoughts on these points in his own words. It’s a topic he’s thoroughly studied, and he brings his extensive knowledge and passion to the discussion.
The online Reading Assistant program, as Rasinski points out, supports classroom teachers by delivering these five essentials—including real-time corrective feedback—to any number of students simultaneously.
Reading comprehension all comes down to meaning, says Rasinski, and teaching reading fluency ultimately helps learners get better at deriving meaning from any text.
Doesn’t that sound “Hot!” to you?
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As spring begins to overtake winter, I’ve noticed an increasing number of children riding their bicycles in my neighborhood.
Seeing one father helping his daughter with her new two-wheeler reminded me of my own initial experience with my first bicycle. The bike I received for my birthday had no training wheels on it and so I floundered on my first attempts to ride it.
A Wobbly Start
My dad came home from his factory job one spring afternoon and saw me struggling to keep my balance as I rode. Getting out of the car, he walked over to me and had me get on the bike while he steadied it by grasping the seat.
As I pedaled and steered my bike, he ran next to me holding me up. When I turned, I usually leaned too much or too little into the curve; my dad gave me feedback (he’d say “lean the other way”) and supported me by tilting the bike in the opposite direction.
The Power of Supported Practice
After a few trips up and down the block he gave me a push, let go of the seat, and before I knew it, I was riding without his help. I could ride my bike! Later that afternoon my father gave me a few more tips on bike safety and expressed how proud he was of my accomplishment.
The experience of learning to ride my bike reminds me of what happens during assisted reading with feedback.
The Importance of Feedback in Learning to Read
A considerable body of theory and research in reading acquisition tell us that the foundational skills in reading (in the Common Core Standards, phonics, word recognition, and fluency) are best developed through instruction followed by practice with support and feedback.
When a struggling or developing reader reads a text while simultaneously hearing it read to them (either with a partner, a group, or a recorded reading) the developing reader will eventually be able to read that text (and others) without assistance.
An essential key to the assist, however, is to provide formative feedback to the reader in the same way that my father gave feedback to me. That feedback can take a variety of forms—emphasizing a word that was mispronounced, providing the definition to a word or phrase, or briefly discussing the reading after the reading and focusing on an area of need or areas in which the reader has improved.
Most learning, it seems, is facilitated by an assist, scaffold, or support provided by another. Learning to read and learning to ride a bike are no exception.
The Teacher’s Touch
As teachers, our role in reading acquisition is to find ways to support our students in their reading while providing formative feedback during and after their reading. When we do so we will find our students not only making great progress in their reading but also viewing themselves as competent and independent readers.
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As an educator I spend a considerable amount of time providing advice to parents whose children are finding it difficult to be inspired with reading! Parents will describe their child as “struggling,” “disinterested,” or ”anxious” about reading and are searching for ways to instill the love of reading, when it is such a tedious task for their child.
It’s really quite simple: Children who do not read well will not be inspired to read, or to practice reading more. So, how do we get our reluctant readers to find reading fun?
As the director of a school that specializes in working with students with reading disorders—and a parent of a youngster who was diagnosed with dyslexia in 3rd grade—I see this issue from both sides. Some suggestions that I share with our parents (and that I used with my own son) can create a safe haven for reading for the emerging reader, gifted reader, or a student who needs more direct instruction to improve reading skills.
The Practice of Reading Skills
Keep the work of developing reading skills separate from pleasure reading. Students who require reinforcement in their decoding or vocabulary should practice those tasks for a short time (15-20 minutes) several times per week. Use some of these ideas to make the reading fun!
Reading for Pleasure
Children who are behind in their reading abilities, such as decoding, vocabulary, or comprehension, may not always select independent reading material that “matches” their age and grade. In fact, many children who struggle with the mechanics of reading may be interested in topics that are way above their independent reading level. To meet their intellectual interests and instill the “habit” of reading for pleasure, consider these ideas:
Above all, BE PATIENT and ENCOURAGING with your child as they develop independent reading habits. The “art” of reading is quite complex. Some children will require more support, individualized instruction, and continued practice, and may benefit from the services of a reading specialist. Your positive influence, patience, and support can make your child feel safe to take the “risk” of reading new words or selecting more challenging material. Celebrate the small steps, and keep positive so your child will become more confident!
On November 5th, Dr. Martha Burns and Mr. Charles Wilson, principal of the Korematsu Discovery Academy in the Oakland Unified School District, presented a live webinar that explained the research behind the Fast ForWord program and how it took Korematsu from NCLB Program Improvement (PI) status to achieving double-digit learning gains -- and emerging from PI status in only two school years!
Dr. Burns focused on the neurophysiology of learning, specifically the importance of several key left hemisphere pathways. Dr. Burns noted that these pathways appear to be originally founded in object naming networks but gradually expand to symbolic representation systems. She described how information is moved from perceptual/comprehension regions in the rear of the brain to the anterior regions of the frontal lobe, where the learner can utilize the information in useful ways.
This process is particularly important in reading. Reading represents one form of symbolic processing in which the visual symbol corresponds initially to speech sounds and ultimately to words and sentences. Fast ForWord is particularly designed to activate and strengthen speech perception, comprehension and production regions and those key pathways that enable processing for struggling learners by:
The best testament to Fast ForWord’s capabilities is real-world success, which is exactly what Mr. Wilson provided in his section of the webinar. Korematsu is a heavily disadvantaged school with a 95% free lunch rate and a high percentage of ELL students. Korematsu found itself in NCLB Program Intervention status due to not meeting AYP requirements, at which point Wilson and his staff adopted Fast ForWord. In the subsequent school year, the Academy experienced double-digit gains on the CSTs and was named the Alameda County English Learner School of the Year.
Those of us who have worked in a low-performing school understand the immense challenge it is to improve student achievement, especially in the midst of record budget cuts. A lot can be learned from Mr. Wilson, a man who has achieved such great success for students in one of the most challenging educational environments. With a mix of leadership, determination, innovation, and inspiration, Mr. Wilson shows us that anything is possible.
“One in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not
graduate from high school on time, (which is) four times greater than that for
A major finding in "Double Jeopardy: How Third Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation", by Donald J. Hernandez (Professor, Hunter College and Graduate Center, City University of New York) and The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The sobering statistics related to third grade reading proficiency and high school graduation are expertly laid out in the 2011 study quoted above, and the subject has subsequently become a hot topic in education circles ever since.
Dr. Martha Burns' latest free webinar for Scientific Learning, Read by Third Grade, directly confronts the facts related to this issue and offers tips and tools for educators to reverse this statistic. By identifying reading difficulties early and implementing proven solutions, educators can put students back on track to reading proficiency.
Using neuroscience research and relevant data from a wide range of sources to illustrate her points, Dr. Burns first reminds us of the enormous power classroom teachers possess as "brain-changers": adults who have the ability to increase, enhance, and upregulate the capacity of young people's brains on a daily basis. She then takes viewers step-by-step through the nuts and bolts of "brain-building" for reading proficiency and includes a thoroughly scientific but completely accessible primer on "brain architecture". She also offers a wealth of information about English Language Learners, provides easy-to-implement classroom tips, and reviews compelling statistics on how Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant products specifically target the skills that prevent so many struggling readers from reaching proficiency.
For further reading:
Our Fall Webinar Series for Educators is here! Join us for presentations on topics from how the brain learn to how you can increase test scores and reading proficiency for your students.
How the Brain Learns
Dr. William Jenkins, one of our four founders and an expert in learning-based brain plasticity, will review the three dimensions of executive function often highlighted by scientists—working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. Learn about the development of these skills across childhood and look at some popular misconceptions about executive function in children. His last webinar on executive function was a big hit—you‘ll want to join us for this one!
10/11 - Teaching with the Brain in Mind
Brain-based learning expert Eric Jensen returns to share specific, practical brain-compatible strategies you can use in the classroom right away. Discover how the brain works, how teaching changes the brain, and what it takes for students to acquire complex learning and achieve their best. Jensen’s webinars are always packed—be sure to register and arrive early!
Dr. Paula Tallal will join us to discuss the latest neuroscience research on learning, her original research on auditory processing and language, and the classroom application of these scientific findings to help struggling learners succeed. Dr. Tallal is one of our four founders and a very engaging presenter—don’t miss this rare opportunity to learn from her!
Real Life Results with Scientific Learning Programs
Returning presenter Cory Armes will discuss how the Fast ForWord program supports English Language Learners by simultaneously developing academic skills critical for reading, such as English language conventions, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, and comprehension. A live Fast ForWord demo will be included in this webinar.
Dr. Martha Burns will open the webinar with an overview of how the brain learns. Then, special guests Dr. Dave Mundy and Cindy Keever from Westfield-Washington Schools in Indiana will discuss how students achieved nearly double their expected gains in reading with the Fast ForWord program. Bring your questions for our guests!
Maura Deptula will provide an in-depth look at the Reading Assistant online reading coach and results achieved by students using it. Reading practice with Reading Assistant helps strengthen fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. This webinar will include a live product demonstration.
9/10 - The Science of Learning
One of our most popular presenters, Dr. Burns returns to discuss ways to accelerate your children’s learning. Recent brain research shows that developing the critical cognitive skills of memory, attention, processing, and sequencing can make a significant difference for your children and result in improved test scores. Dr. Burns will discuss key areas of the brain and how these areas influence reading and academic performance. Angela, a parent from Wisconsin, will discuss her son’s progress and results with the BrainPro program.
Like many people around the world, these last few weeks I’ve spent a little time watching the Olympics. What struck me as I watched this pageant of super human athletes was often the person the camera focused on next—the coach. The coach, the one who worked day in and day out to inspire, lead, support, and challenge the athlete was right there. The coach was living this once in a lifetime moment alongside his/her athletes. What an amazing feeling that must be to watch your team making its way onto the Olympic field knowing that you helped them get there.
As a former classroom teacher I often wonder, would we all be better off if we began to think of ourselves a little bit more like Olympic coaches? Would we be more apt to push, challenge, inspire? Take, for instance, Tim Shanahan’s recent post about the Common Core’s reading recommendations around text difficulty vs. the widely used Guided Reading methodology developed by Fountas & Pinnell. I read this post with great interest because I taught using Guided Reading as my preferred approach for reading. Yet unlike many of the responses posted by other Guided Reading advocates, I found myself completely aligned with Shanahan’s views.
The Common Core take the position that students should be consistently challenged by the texts presented to them so that by the time they leave high school they are able to competently handle the texts and tasks of advanced study and the modern workplace. The Guided Reading approach also aims to present students with challenge, but at the same time it limits students’ exposure to difficult texts that are at a student’s frustration level, those that students would read with less than 90% accuracy on a cold read.
It makes me wonder. If we were coaches, not teachers, would this be a non-issue? What coach do you know who gives you a practice workout every day that is 90% attainable? Maybe she lowers the difficulty on your “rest day” but most of the time the workout is a stretch, your muscles hurt, and you are very tired when it’s over. Usually, you notice that after a couple of days of feeling challenged the task starts to get easier. And if you have a good coach, probably right at the moment when you’re feeling like you’re getting the hang of things, she ups the challenge once again.
Reading is a lot like training for the Olympics—the challenge is real, the rewards are great. Our good readers become champions of academic success and later become leaders in the workplace.
No matter your approach to reading instruction, as teachers—I mean “coaches”—we need to teach students to tackle their frustrations head-on, coach our students through it so that we get world-class learning outcomes. I know not one teacher who wouldn’t trade a medal ceremony over a graduation ceremony any day.
Elizabeth Kline is the Sr. Director of Instruction at Scientific Learning. She began her career in education as a Teach for America corps member in Los Angeles. For the last 10 years she has worked at publishing and software companies building the tools to help great teachers, or “coaches” as she prefers to call them, everywhere.
Reading aloud with expression is a foundational reading skill students should be developing between grades 1 - 5, according to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (2012). It is pretty easy to recognize when someone skillfully reads aloud in an expressive manner. However, to effectively teach or assess this skill, a closer examination of its features, development, and relationship to other reading skills is needed.
Prosody, the defining feature of expressive reading, comprises all of the variables of timing, phrasing, emphasis, and intonation that speakers use to help convey aspects of meaning and to make their speech lively. One of the challenges of oral reading is adding back the prosodic cues that are largely absent from written language.
Researchers have found strong links between oral reading prosody and general reading achievement. For example, after comparing students’ reading prosody in first and second grades with their reading comprehension at the end of third grade, Miller and Schwanenflugel (2008) concluded that, “early acquisition of an adult-like intonation contour predicted better comprehension.” Another study, which included more than 1,750 fourth graders participating in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), found a strong correlation between prosody and overall reading achievement (Daane, Campbell, Grigg, Goodman, & Oranje, 2005).
In the context of oral reading, prosody can reflect linguistic features, such as sentence structure, as well as text features, such as punctuation. Skilled readers pick up on these features, and respond to them when reading aloud, as when they pause briefly at relevant commas, pause slightly longer at sentence boundaries, raise their pitch at the end of yes-no questions, and lower their pitch at the end of declarative sentences.
While punctuation provides some cues to prosody, young readers can be misled by it. For instance, they may pause at every comma, even when the grammar of the sentence does not call for pausing (e.g., “He made his usual egg, cheese, and tomato sandwich.”). As young readers move toward adult proficiency, their pauses increasingly respect the grammar of the text rather than doggedly following the punctuation (Miller & Schwanenflugel, 2006).
Prosody can also reflect aspects of meaning. For instance, slight fluctuations in pitch, timing, and emphasis can change a simple question (e.g., “What did you do?”) into an expression of censure. Learning to read dialog in a manner that reflects the intentions and emotional states of the characters is a great way for adolescent readers to delve deeply into literature. However, younger students may not understand this use of prosody well enough to apply it to oral reading (Cutler & Swinney, 1987). Notably, in the NAEP study, only 10% of fourth graders were judged as reading aloud with this level of expressiveness.
Finally, when thinking about prosody, it is critical to remember the other aspects of reading fluency: word reading accuracy and reading rate. Inefficient word reading is the primary barrier to good prosody for most young readers (Schwanenflugel, Hamilton, Wisenbaker, Kuhn, & Stahl, 2004). Children who are struggling to decode individual words tend to pause too frequently and for too long, so that their timing and phrasing are seriously disrupted. Furthermore, they must put so much effort into decoding that they do not have the mental resources left for constructing meaning and conveying it expressively.
Listening to the prosody of a child reading aloud provides parents and educators with a window into many aspects of reading skill. By reading aloud with appropriate timing, phrasing, and end of sentence intonation, younger readers can demonstrate their ability to:
read words accurately;
read at a reasonable rate;
read most words automatically, so that mental resources are available for comprehension;
use grammar and punctuation to help construct meaning;
By reading aloud with increasingly adult-like intonation and expressiveness, adolescent readers can demonstrate their ability to:
use discourse-level features, such as pronouns and signal words, to recognize relationships across and among the sentences in a text;
understand characters and their intentions when reading fiction
understand an author’s purpose or attitude.
Ultimately, all of these abilities must be brought to bear to achieve the ultimate goal of reading with comprehension.
Common Core State Standards Initiative (2012). English Language Arts Standards – Reading: Foundational Skills (Grade 1 – Grade 5). National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO): Washington, DC.
Cutler, A. & Swinney, D. A. (1987). Prosody and the development of comprehension. Journal of Child Language, 14, 145-167.
Daane, M.C., Campbell, J.R., Grigg, W.S., Goodman, M.J., and Oranje, A. (2005). Fourth-Grade Students Reading Aloud: NAEP 2002 Special Study of Oral Reading(NCES 2006-469). U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
Miller, J. & Schwanenflugel, P. J. (2008). A Longitudinal Study of the Development of Reading Prosody as a Dimension of Oral Reading Fluency in Early Elementary School Children. Reading Research Quarterly, 43, 336-354.
Miller, J. & Schwanenflugel, P. J. (2006). Prosody of Syntactically Complex Sentences in the Oral Reading of Young Children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 839-843.
Schwanenflugel, P. J., Hamilton, A. M., Kuhn, M. R., Wisenbaker, J. M., & Stahl, S. A. (2004). Becoming a fluent reader: Reading skill and prosodic features in the oral reading of young readers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 119–129.
Third grade marks a critical turning point in the life of student readers. It’s the time when students move from learning to read to reading to learn—or, more accurately, it’s the time when students are expected to make this transition. The reality is quite different.
With data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showing that two thirds of students nationwide are reading below the “proficient” level at “basic” or “below basic,” many states have begun to implement legislation or programs to ensure that all students can read proficiently by third grade. Consequently, educators are looking for ways to help their students accelerate the acquisition of the reading skills needed to meet academic expectations.
A recent report by the Annie E. Casey foundation reveals that students who are not reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without graduating. Breaking down research data for the first time along a variety of demographic lines, the report presents more grim statistics:
The report’s discussion of policy and program strategies doesn’t provide easy answers, though it does identify integrating PreK-3rd grade education as a research-validated approach to achieving and sustaining gains. According to a Grantmakers for Education briefing on this approach, when fully implemented it includes small class sizes; classroom teachers who are certified to work with PreK-3rd grade learners; collaboration between school and family; consistency of learning environments and instructional approaches; alignment of curriculum, standards, and assessments across grades; and availability of PreK for all 3 and 4 year old children, followed by full-day kindergarten. While schools may begin to move in that direction, such change takes time.
Fortunately, there are proven tools available now that are highly effective in helping students achieve grade-level proficiency in reading: the Reading Assistant program, a personal reading coach that is proven to accelerate reading achievement, and the Fast ForWord program, an online intervention that is highly effective in helping struggling learners rapidly improve their reading skills. Join Dr. Martha S. Burns on July 25th for a webinar about the newest science behind learning to read and find out how technology-based reading solutions can get students back on track.