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Volunteers Making a Difference for Struggling Readers: Demonstrating that Structured Tutorials Improve Reading Performance Jill Allor Beverly Weiser Jennifer.

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Presentation on theme: "Volunteers Making a Difference for Struggling Readers: Demonstrating that Structured Tutorials Improve Reading Performance Jill Allor Beverly Weiser Jennifer."— Presentation transcript:

1 Volunteers Making a Difference for Struggling Readers: Demonstrating that Structured Tutorials Improve Reading Performance Jill Allor Beverly Weiser Jennifer Cheatham Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education Southern Methodist University

2 Our Purpose Our primary purpose for this study was to determine whether college students are effective tutors for struggling elementary students (even though they receive little training) A secondary purpose was to learn whether college students can help develop the confidence of elementary students in their reading abilities, and, in turn see how the involvement of college students made a difference in elementary students reading progress

3 The Problem Preventing or minimizing reading difficulties is a national priority….. –On average, over 30% of fourth graders read below the basic level – the same is true of secondary students –Over 50% of minority students read below the basic level –Not all students receive quality instruction during the normal school day, especially in low-performing schools where the majority of students come from low-income families –The majority of students that dropout each year have very limited reading skills

4 What We Know….. Tutoring has been shown to have positive effects on the academic performance of low-achieving and at-risk students (Allor & McCathren, 2004; Elbaum et al., 2000; Lauer et al., 2004; Ritter et al., 2009) One of the benefits of tutoring is that working one on one allows tutors to individualize to meet their needs (Ehri et al., 2007; Justice, 2006; Lane et al., 2009) Another benefit is that tutors can ensure a high rate of engagement and more opportunities to respond and practice (Baker et al., 2000; Carnine et al, 2005; Vadasy et al., 2007)

5 Research Question Can an after-school tutoring program, using minimally trained undergraduate students and a highly structured reading program, increase the reading performances of elementary students in grades K through 6 th grade experiencing reading difficulties?

6 The Setting –Tutoring occurred at a free, privately funded after-school program housed in two low-income apartment complexes in a large urban city in the Southwest –This program was designed to provide a safe after- school environment and academic support –Residents in these apartments included children who were English Language Learners and Refugees who were very new to the US

7 Participant Selection All participants attended the after-school program and a local public elementary school Screened 66 students in K- 6 th grade using grade-appropriate subtests of DIBELS; 39 students were selected because they did not meet published benchmarks Students were rank-ordered; one of each pair assigned to treatment or to a business as usual condition 10 were lost due to attrition (i.e. stopped attending the afterschool program) 8 new students joined the afterschool program and were screened in January; of those, 5 qualified to be in the study Final Sample Size = 34 Students (Treatment n=19; Contrast n=15)


9 Who Were the Tutors? Undergraduates who were non-education majors; taking an elective Literacy and Society service learning course No prior tutoring experience 19 undergraduates in Fall course 20 undergraduates in Spring course Each assigned one child to tutor; thus children had different tutors each semester Tutors were responsible for making up tutoring sessions they were not able to attend

10 Tutor Training and Supervision Four – 1 ½ hour instructional sessions (as part of their elective course) –General expectations, basic lesson procedures, how to model specific skills, how to provide appropriate feedback, and basic behavior management –Tutors were trained to keep records: Daily field notes (lessons completed, page numbers, books, and student progress) and a reflection journal describing each days events Tutors assisted as needed by the class professor and research assistants

11 Tutoring Program 2 sessions per week, min per session minutes per day of instructional phonics routines From Bookshop Phonics for First Grade (Allor & Minden-Cupp, 2007); Sequence was individualized for students, including letter-sounds, advanced phonics, sight words, and connected text minutes per day of shared book reading at the students instructional level to promote fluency and comprehension 5-15 minutes per day of practice in a game format

12 Beginning Word Study Activities

13 Beginning Decoding Activities




17 Comprehension Fluency Making Predictions Summarizing

18 Instructional Reading Games *Scripted Directions *Scripted Corrective Feedback



21 Pre- and Post-Treatment Individual Assessment Measures Woodcock Language Proficient Battery- Revised (Woodcock, 1991) Letter Word Identification – Decoding Real Words Word Attack – Decoding Non-Words Passage Comprehension Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS; Good & Kaminski, 2002) –Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF) –Oral Reading Fluency (ORF)

22 PRETEST EQUIVALENCETreatment (n = 19)Contrast (n = 15) Measure MSDM F(1,32) ns WLPB-R (standard scores) Letter Word Identification Word Attack Passage Comprehension DIBELS (raw scores) Nonsense Word Fluency Oral Reading Fluency *F(1,28 ) ns 3.16 ns No significant differences found at.05 level on any measure *Kindergarteners did not take Oral Reading Fluency

23 Fidelity of Treatment Procedures Two researchers observed each tutor twice each semester. Implementation of 4 components evaluated on a 3-point scale (1) appropriate corrective feedback and scaffolding, (2) organizational skills and time management, (3) following procedures outlined in the script, including correct modeling of sounds and decoding strategies, and (4) including verbal praise and positive reinforcement. Feedback provided based on observations Fidelity implementation over both semesters ranged from 84% to 100% with the mean average being 96.3 %.

24 Growth on Pretest to Posttest Measures Treatment n = 19Contrast n = 15 Difference of Post Test - Pretest MSDM t Effect Size Measure LWID - Letter Word Identification * WA - Word Attack * PC - Passage Comprehension * ORF - Oral Reading Fluency * NWF - Nonsense Word Fluency *p <.05 LWID, WA, and PC are from standard scores; ORF and NWF were from raw scores.


26 Tutors Reflection Questions What are some experiences you have had during tutoring that have been positive for either you or the child or for both of you? What gains have you seen your child make over the last few months? What are some things you do during tutoring that help motivate this child? What is the hardest part about tutoring this child? Overall, have you enjoyed this tutoring experience? Why or why not?

27 Samples of Tutors Responses I found that I greatly underestimated the energy I would be exerting to keep the students attention and to ensure his progress as a fluent reader. Although it was hard at first, trying to get her motivated and showing her that she really could do it, I think that we both gained a lot from the experience. When he began to recognize words and became capable of sounding out unfamiliar words, I rarely saw him frustrated. It was really frustrating at first because I thought that I was just wasting my time. But when she realized that I was there to help her and that I just wanted to help her read things got easier. Observing his progress into a much better reader and the shift in his attitude concerning school work was by far the most positive experience of tutoring. She has actually learned how to sound out the word if she doesnt know it. She doesnt just guess words anymore, she actually reads.

28 Student Interviews Child: ______________________ Grade: ________ Age: __________ Family information: brothers? ____ sisters? ______ Mom? ______ Dad?_______ Who else lives with you? _______________________________ pets? _________ What are your favorite things to read and learn about? What do you like to do the best at school? What do you like to do the least at school? Do you like having a tutor when you are at here? Why or why not? Do you think your tutor is helping you learn to read better? Why or why not? What is the best part of the time when you are with your tutor? Are there more things that you would like for your tutor to help you with? What? If you could tell your tutor something, what would it be?

29 Samples of Students Responses She has showed me so many words I have learned to read. Youre the nicest person Ive ever met…you are lovely...thank you for helping me read. She helps me be smart. …because it is fun to read and if I didnt have my tutor I wouldnt read so good. I used to never raise my hand in class to read because I was too embarrassed…now I do it all the time because Im now one of the best readers in my class!

30 Educational Implications for Practice This intervention was a low-cost way to dramatically improve the reading performance of elementary students at- risk or already experiencing reading difficulties. This tutoring program contains several features that can be easily replicated for others to use to provide effective instruction to students at-risk for academic difficulties. College students with very little reading instruction training were able to implement the program with fidelity by following a structured research-based reading program, resulting in significant gains for elementary students.

31 Questions?? Comments?? For more information:

32 References

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