Katie Flowers directs a tutoring project for a small liberal arts college. The program has worked continuously for fifteen years, and is very popular with college students. Nearly one hundred of them volunteer each term to go out to a local school and work one on one with a first-, second-, or third grade student who has been recommended by a teacher for extra help. At the beginning of each semester, the students are given a couple of hours of training; then they come back periodically for more training during the semester. The students go out to a local school two times each week, both before and after school. Each time the students go out, they follow a lesson plan with five parts.
The lesson plan was borrowed from Darrell Morris’s Howard Street Tutoring Manual (2006).
- Read an easy book to develop fluency.
- Read a harder book to help the children learn new words.
- Do a word study task—phonics or vocabulary.
- Have the child write something.
- Read aloud to the child.
Katie asks the teachers to fill out feedback forms at the end of each term. Last spring, one teacher reported that over the year, a third-grade student progressed from 58 to 153 words per minute. Another teacher reported a big increase in a child’s Lexile score on a commercial reading test. Children enjoy the companionship of the college tutors. “Here come the teenagers!” one excited boy was heard to say, as the tutors trooped off the bus and into the school. Beginning to read is like learning to ride a bicycle. The young cyclist has a general idea what bike riding is about, having watched with longing admiration as her older siblings strapped on helmets and rode off on adventures. She has learned most of the separate skills of bike riding—pedaling, steering, braking, and balancing. Her challenge now is to coordinate all of those skills so that she, too, can pedal some wobbly distance down the sidewalk. Likewise the young beginning reader knows what reading is about (she developed early concepts about reading as an emergent reader), and she has learned or is learning the parts—print concepts, phonics, some memorized words, strategies of comprehension, and what to expect from texts. Her challenge, too, is to get all of these parts to work together smoothly enough so she can make her way through a couple of lines of print. Both children have one other thing in common. There is an adult hovering close by, one running alongside and holding up the bike, and the other prodding, supplying hard words, and praising efforts as the child works her way through a line of print.
To describe beginning readers in more technical terms, beginning readers:
■ Can read texts with a couple of words on a page that also has a closely related picture.
■ Have a sight-word repertoire of more than a dozen words.
■ Can confidently break a word into its constituent sounds, or phonemes.
■ Can recognize many words that begin with the same consonant sound, and many with the same vowel sound.
■ Have limited reading fluency.
■ Are more concentrated on reading words than on understanding meaning.
Fledgling readers have moved beyond the beginning stage. Fledgling readers can:
■ Recognize 50 words or more at sight.
■ Decode unknown words by onset and rime.
■ Read simple texts with less contextual support.
■ Read with more fluency.
■ Use comprehension strategies. (Morris & Slavin, 2002; Tynan, 2009)
The rest of this chapter will be devoted to explaining what these things mean, how they
Gillet, Jean Wallace. Understanding Reading Problems (What’s New in Literacy) (p. 78). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.