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Strengthening cognitive skills and building reading fluency

Every educator understands the central role that reading plays in learning.  Students who aren’t able to read by third grade face significant academic hurdles and an increased risk of dropping out of school.

That’s why so many states are working to enact legislation requiring retention for students who are not reading at grade level.

The key role that cognitive skills play in learning is less well understood.  So we’ve made it our mission not only to apply proven research on how the brain learns, but also to educate educators about how well-developed cognitive skills contribute to successful learning—and how weak cognitive skills detract from learning.

Cognitive Skills: The Missing Piece

In our national effort to accelerate learning for all students, conversations have focused primarily upon two points:

  • Curriculum standards
  • Strategies for individualizing instruction to give learners optimal and repeated exposure to content they haven’t mastered

While these objectives are critically important, they do not directly address the needs of many struggling students:

  • Learners who have difficulty paying attention to instruction
  • Learners who have difficulty remembering what they are taught

They also do not address the cognitive challenge faced by nearly every learner from English language learners to learners at grade level and above:

  • The inability to process information in one or more subject areas as quickly as it is being presented.

Even high-performing students can lose motivation when keeping up with the pace of instruction becomes more difficult.   But when students’ brains are ready to learn at the pace required in the classroom, there’s no stopping what they can achieve.

There are four key cognitive skills that make a classroom-ready brain:

  • Attention – the ability to focus on information and tasks, and ignore distractions.
  • Processing rate – the speed at which one is able to accurately process incoming information.  In the context of reading, processing rate refers to how quickly a student can distinguish speech sounds and identify letters and words to create meaning.
  • Memory – the ability to retain and recall information, essential for word recognition, comprehension of complex sentences, and remembering instructions.
  • Sequencing – placing the detail of information in its accustomed order.  In the context of reading, sequencing is that ability to determine the order of letters within words or words within sentences.

How the Fast ForWord Program Helps

Neuroscience research has shown that with the right input, the brain can change and reconfigure itself throughout life.

That’s why we’ve designed the proven brain fitness exercises in the Fast ForWord program to help students become better learners—able to pay closer attention to their teachers, absorb information faster, and remember what they are taught.

Developing attention, processing rate, memory, and sequencing  together as the Fast ForWord program does—in combination with great teaching—can have dramatic results:. 

  • Accelerated acquisition of knowledge
  • Greater ability to use and organize information from existing curricula
  • Increased learner readiness to actively engage in their own education

More than 250 research studies have been conducted on the efficacy of the Fast ForWord program, including scientifically based research and independent Fast ForWord reviews that meet the highest standards of research as defined by the What Works Clearinghouse within the U.S. Department of Education. Overall, these various evaluations have clearly indicated that combining brain fitness exercises with great teaching and a strong, standards-based curriculum can yield dramatic and enduring improvements in academic achievement. Full research reports show improved test scores using the Fast ForWord program with diverse student populations.  Students using the Fast ForWord® program can raise their reading skill level up to 2 years in as little as 3 months.

Building Fluency with Reading Assistant™

Students with strong cognitive skills may still have work to do in becoming fluent, proficient readers.  All beginning readers require plenty of reading practice to build fluency and automaticity in reading, and even advanced readers may struggle when reading unfamiliar texts.

The Reading Assistant program acts as a personal reading coach for every student, “listening” as the student reads and providing immediate corrective feedback when the student stumbles or gets stuck.  And because it’s available online, students can use it get in extra reading practice anytime and anywhere an internet connection is available. 

With Reading Assistant, students can improve their reading grade level up to 50% more than students receiving classroom instruction alone.

Given today’s busy classroom, Reading Assistant can be the key to providing all students with the literacy support they need to achieve fluency with a variety of text types—enabling them to effectively read to learn across subjects.

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