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Reaching Struggling Readers Leigh A. Hall University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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Presentation on theme: "Reaching Struggling Readers Leigh A. Hall University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill"— Presentation transcript:

1 Reaching Struggling Readers Leigh A. Hall University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

2 What Will You Learn? Deeper understandings about struggling readers Ways to engage struggling readers with texts Practical ideas you can use tomorrow

3 Today’s Meet

4 Common Understandings Typically understood as students: reading below grade level who do not read much and/or enjoy reading who are unmotivated to improve who have repeated difficulties comprehending academic texts

5 “Adolescents who struggle with reading are part of the same cloth from which good readers come. Neither group stands alone in opposition to the other, both are bound up in the cultural contexts they inhabit.” ~ Donna Alvermann, 2010

6 Many Adolescents Read by Choice I like to read mystery books and books about the holocaust. I read the biography of Mohammad Ali over the summer. I like reading fantasies and imagining things. I can read any book I want.

7 Adolescents Engage in a Variety of Literacy Activities

8 Many Adolescents Want to Improve I want to be great Reading on a 9 th /10 th grade level A well reader who understands the text. A great reader who can pronounce hard words I want to understand more words I want to read more challenging books

9 Consider…… All students are always doing the best they can do at any given moment What counts as someone’s best today may look different tomorrow (for better or for worse), but it is still their best Someone’s best changes based on context, environment, and experience

10 What You Can Do Right Now Ask a struggling reader: (a) to share what they read with you (b) for ideas on what to read in class (c) what they want to improve on

11 The Role of Identity What is a reading identity? Why are reading identities important?

12 What is a Reading identity? Reading identities are: - how students understand themselves as readers within a given context - created at an early age and reinforced (or disrupted) over time - often constructed in terms of skills

13 Why Are Reading Identities Important? Students’ reading identities position them within their class and influence how they engage with classroom reading practices Students who see themselves as poor readers may not read much or use the instruction you provide Students who see themselves as good readers may think they do not need additional help

14 Students’ Reading Abilities and Identities as Readers (n=72) Identified As Low Performing Reader Identified As Average Performing Reader Identified As High Performing Reader Read Below Grade-Level (n=35) 23%60%17% Read On Grade- Level (n=13) 15%62%23% Read Above Grade-Level (n=24) 8%50%42%

15 Types of Readers Low-Performing: not good at reading, not as capable of reading as their peers, and not good at solving comprehension problems. Average-Performing: enjoyed reading, believed they could read as well as most of their peers, and thought they had few difficulties comprehending. High-Performing: believed they were the best readers in their class, that their peers, teachers, and/or family members thought they were excellent readers, and that they had few if any comprehension problems.

16 Pick Any 10 NameHow you Identify Why/EvidenceHow Student Identifies Why/Evidence

17 One Approach for Addressing Identity Engage students in six steps: (a) comprehension strategy instruction (b) read a piece of text and document strategy use (c) engage in a small group discussion (d) read second piece of text/document strategies (e) engage in second discussion (f) reflect on and discuss what was learned about texts and strategies

18 Learning About Students’ Identities How would you describe yourself as a reader? Why do you think this description fits you? If someone told you that you were a good reader what would this mean to you? If someone told you that you were a poor reader what would this mean to you? How would other people describe your reading abilities? Why? This study used:Henk, W.A. & Melnick, S.A. (1995). The reader self-perception scale (RSPS): A new tool for measuring how children feel about themselves as readers. Reading Teacher, 48,

19 Classroom Procedures Strategies taught: (a) Becoming metacognitive (b) Making/checking predictions (c) Activating prior knowledge (d) Asking/revising/answering questions before, during, and after reading Texts were selected that were written on grade level and matched the curriculum.

20 StrategyUsedExplain how using the strategy was/was not helpful Making and Checking Predictions Activating Prior Knowledge Asking and Answering Questions

21 What You Can Do Right Now Think of new ways to describe readers Students typically define themselves as excellent, average, or poor readers. Different ways to describe ourselves can include: Social reader Hungry reader Reader as writer

22  Try out identity-based reading instruction  Learn what to expect from students with different reading identities  Engage students with pop culture texts

23  Read text  Complete strategy chart as you read  Be prepared to discuss text (15 minutes)

24  In your group, discuss the text.  You can: (a) discuss strategies you used (b) discuss the text itself (c) ask for help in understanding something (15 minutes)

25  What would be the benefits of this instruction?  What would be the challenges of this instruction?  How would this instruction help students comprehend texts and learn content?  What kinds of support would you have to put in place initially?

26  Low-Performing: not good at reading, not as capable of reading as their peers, and not good at solving comprehension problems.  Average-Performing: enjoyed reading, believed they could read as well as most of their peers, and thought they had few difficulties comprehending.  High-Performing: believed they were the best readers in their class, that their peers, teachers, and/or family members thought they were excellent readers, and that they had few if any comprehension problems.

27  Students who identified as high-performing readers, regardless of their reading abilities, engaged in the following actions: (a) used comprehension strategies to clarify/deepen their knowledge of content (b) used strategies to support their interpretations of text (c) selected strategies based on what they believed would best address their comprehension problem

28 Example of an HPR Group [a] Diane: Ok. Look right here. [b] Michael: Starting with the second sentence? [c] Diane: Yeah. The second sentence in paragraph five has it. Reread it. [d] Michael: Man, that’s what I just said. [e] Diane: They were a highly developed society but, but… [f] Michael: But the volcano killed all their island. [g] Thomas: It says that “more than half the island sank into the ocean.” You gotta look at it again. [h] Michael: The volcano blew everything up. It exploded and then it sank. [i] Diane: Ohhhh. I get it. [j] Thomas: That’s what volcanoes do. You have to think what you know about them. Volcanoes they like tear everything up. So like first it blew up, and then the island sank. [k] Michael: It wouldn’t have sank if the volcano didn’t blow up.

29  Students who identified as average or low-performing readers, regardless of their reading abilities, engaged in the following actions: (a) separated their talk about strategies from their talk about text (b) did not use strategies to support their interpretations of text (c) used strategies that were their favorites regardless of their comprehension problem

30 Example of an APR Group [a] Karen: He [Columbus] wanted to sail west because the world is round. [b] Jay: That’s not why though. He had to reach the Indies. [c] Karen: I got all the other people trying to reach the Indies went East, and he went West. [d] Terry: Why? [e] Karen: Because he believed the world was round. [f] Terry: Really. [g] Jay: It has nothing to do with it…He was trying to find a shorter way. [h] Karen: Well that’s not what the story said. I promise. [i] Terry: He can’t go East because if he went East, it would be like oh land, how do you sail a boat on land? [j] Jay: If he went East it’d be the same thing as everybody else. He wanted to go the other way to see if he could get there. It had nothing to do with the world being round. [k] Cathy: Well he was trying to find a short cut, but he was trying to find it because the world was round. So you all are both right. [L] Jay: Now, no, because no, no. It wasn’t because the world was round. It was because – [m] Randy: He already knew the world was round so why – [n] Jay: The world was round had nothing to do with it. He didn’t go over there because the world was round…It had nothing to do with the world being round… [o] Karen: Yes it does. [p] Jay: No it doesn’t. No it doesn’t.

31 Example of an LPR Group [a] Natalie: Today in my reading I used making and checking predictions. [b] Mary: I didn’t use making and checking predictions, but I did use my prior knowledge when I read. [c] Natalie: What about you Emma? [d] Emma: Well I used um making and checking predictions, and I used asking and answering questions. [e] Natalie: What about you Patrick? [f] Patrick: I used my prior knowledge when I read and asking and answering questions and uh that’s it. [g] Natalie: Ok. Let’s talk about the story.

32  Students need assistance: (a) seeing how strategies are integrated with reading (b) using texts to support their claims (c) learning how to select strategies based on the difficulties they are having

33  Students who read below grade-level: (a) limited their participation during the first four to six discussions (b) over time began to increase their talk about texts and comprehension strategies (c) began to increase their participation and take on leadership roles within their groups.

34  Struggling readers actively observed and learned from the participation of their group members. Emma: “I wasn’t a very good reader when this started. I just listened to everyone else. The more people explained things the more I understood and the more I learned.”

35  A cooperative, inviting, and accepting environment was important for providing students with a place to learn. Thomas: I didn’t say a lot at first because I never do. If I’m in a group people always argue and try to be bossy. That didn’t happen in my group. My group really helped me. We helped each other think about our questions and stuff like that. And it would be ok if I didn’t understand something or changed my answer to something. We just talked about everything. My whole group was helpful. And I wanted to help them back. So I started talking more.

36  When struggling readers believe their ideas about texts will be heard and respected, they are more likely to participate  Creating such environments requires examining the current climate of our classrooms and our assumptions about both struggling readers and good readers.  The language we use with our students, the books we select, and how we invite participation sends messages about who should participate, how often, and what it should look like.

37  Normalize Struggling  Ask students to identify places where they struggled to comprehend  Have them share how they tried to solve their problems  Have students offer other ideas for how they could have approached their problem

38 “While grade-level reading scores might give a basic starting point of what kinds of instruction some students might need, they give no indication of how students apply instruction or what guides their decisions. It is important to not be too attached to labels and to examine and question the models of identity that permeate reading instruction and are taken for granted within classrooms.” ~Leigh Hall, 2012

39  Most students think reading in school is boring  Texts/curriculum appear to be disconnected from their lives  Students may not understand purpose for reading

40  Establish clear goals for reading  Be purposeful and explicit in teaching skills/strategies  Provide choice in texts  Make real world connections  Support collaboration

41  Students read a wide range of non-academic texts  Their experiences give them significant knowledge about reading  Pop culture texts can be used to engage students with academic texts

42  Okay, so now you know that I'm a cartoonist. And I think I'm pretty good at it, too. But no matter how good I am, my cartoons will never take the place of food or money. I wish I could draw a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a fist full of twenty dollar bills, and perform some magic trick and make it real. But I can't do that. Nobody can do that, not even the hungriest magician in the world.  I wish I were magical, but I am really just a poor-ass reservation kid living with his poor-ass family on the poor- ass Spokane Indian Reservation. ( )

43 1.What do you know about zombies? 2. Do zombies have feelings? 3. Can zombies control their actions? 4. What is your evidence base?

44 Question  What do we know about zombies?  Do they have feelings?  Can they control their actions?  What is our evidence? Ideas  They’re dead; eat braina  No

45  How did this video challenge your understandings about zombies?  What was something new you learned about zombies?  Is it safe to assume all (or most) zombies act the way the main character did?  What do you think the author wants to communicate with you about zombies?

46  The zombie text provides a common framework to engage students in real world issues.  Not all students will be interested in zombies, but all students can learn from them.

47 Part-Time Indian  Can a person fit into two groups?  If you were Junior, would you hide or promote your Indian identity at Reardon?  Do you think Alexie feels that people can exist equally in two groups? Why or why not? Zombie Song  Can a person fit into two groups?  Would you hide or promote a romance with a zombie?  Does the author of the Zombie Song think zombies and humans can co-exist? Why or why not?

48  Talk to your students about their interests  Find out what your students read, listen to, and watch at home  Start making connections between academic texts/content and pop culture texts/content

49  Please contact me at:


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