ASCD Special Report -- Reading: The Core Skill (Part II)
ASCD SmartBrief continues its look at Reading: The Core Skill. In Part II of this two-part, in-depth special report, we examine best practices, technology, testing and how tight budgets have pushed reading off the page and onto the screen.
In case you missed it, Part I, which was published Tuesday, focused on the benefits of reading and writing with students, nonfiction texts, teaching early reading and whether holding back struggling readers is a good idea.
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There are several factors that determine whether text is complex, says Timothy Shanahan, a professor and department chairman at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, professors at San Diego State University, California. They write in this article that vocabulary, sentence structure, coherence and organization of the text can indicate its complexity. Another factor, however, is the level of knowledge students have before reading the text.
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A middle-school language-arts teacher writes in this blog about the benefits of reading aloud with students -- a practice celebrated on World Read Aloud Day, March 7. Donalyn Miller writes that reading aloud builds community, exposes students to books they might not read on their own and supports developing readers.
Students should be given the opportunity to read and analyze books in their entirety, says Ariel Sacks, a seventh-grade English teacher and member of the Teacher Leaders Network. She writes in this article about an alternate approach to the typical piecemeal instruction of text. Instead, she suggests teachers select a literary work, give students time to read, track students' progress, assign group projects and discuss the literature with students.
Four educators in Missouri are studying whether there are connections between English and math instruction that could be utilized in classroom lessons. Early findings show that writing improves students' engagement in math lessons. Some of the benefits are "bigger than learning," the educators found, citing an improved relationship between teachers and students following the introduction of written work.
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As school districts move closer to adopting the Common Core State Standards, educators say they are working to ensure they are prepared for the new focus on informational texts. Some educators say students are less familiar with nonfiction and how to read it. Experts also urge educators to ensure they maintain a balance with instruction on fiction texts.
Schools in Indiana are using the IREAD-3 (Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination assessment) for the first time this year. Educators say they prepared for the exam, administered to third-grade students, through an eight-step process in which students are evaluated every three weeks. Students who fail the exam will be allowed to take it again over the summer. Those who fail after that will be held back one grade.
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Students today are inundated with digital information -- not all of it reliable -- so the author of this article suggests several digital reading strategies. Debbie Abilock, author and co-founder of NoodleTools, says students should examine who has reviewed online sources, compare the online text to other sources and analyze information presented in graphics.
Educators at a California elementary school are using iPods as part of a reading program to help boost students' reading performance. The strategy, which has students using iPods to listen to audiobooks as they read along with the print versions, originally was used with English-language learners and struggling readers but is now being used with other students as well. The school has 400 audiobooks and 50 devices for use by students.
The lower cost of iPad 2 tablet computers, brought on by the March 7 unveiling of the newest iPad version, could lead more schools to consider deploying the devices for students, says Vineet Madan, vice president of McGraw Hill Education, which is partnering with Apple on its e-textbook initiative. "The iPad 2 still a phenomenally powerful device," Madan said. "Our content performs incredibly well on that device. At the same time, we can build better things for new iPad."
Middle-school students in an Illinois school are testing the use of the Kindle Fire in the classroom as part of a pilot program in which students use the devices to read, take quizzes and conduct research. Officials say the Kindle Fire -- which costs $200 -- could be a more affordable option than laptop computers. If adopted, officials say parents could pay for the Kindle devices and students could keep them when they leave school.