Achieving Literacy Through Reading Interventions
Every student learns at their own pace.
When it comes to various subjects, sometimes students require more time spent in some areas over others. That’s where interventions come in and pave the way for teachers and students to excel.
Principals, teachers, and reading specialists are keen to the importance of literacy proficiency. Building strong readers from the very beginning is a district-wide priority.
“We’ve seen literacy proficiency become a collaborative effort with educators and staff in every school,” said Debra Cale, JCSD English Language Arts Coordinator. “Using data, PLC teams work to support each student and make decisions that will aid in their [reading proficiency] growth and success.”
One of the (many) methods used to help struggling readers is an intervention. Mike Sandberg, a fifth grade teacher, leads a reading intervention at Wallace Elementary for students who want or require a focus on reading, in addition to their normal class time. The intervention takes place every day for 30 minutes a day in a small group environment. Their focus: fluency, accuracy, and comprehension.
“Reading is not just about speed or skills,” said Sandberg. “All aspects must be included and built upon.”
For his intervention, Sandberg uses a cold vs. hot read approach to help students improve their fluency. Students are asked to do a cold read of a passage – meaning it is the first time they have seen the passage – while Sandberg takes note for areas of improvement and how many words they are able to read per minute. The students then take home the passage and practice reading it out loud – either to a parent, pet, or toy – before their hot read in class a week later. According to Sandberg, the improvement during hot reads is always amazing to see.
“Every child I’m looking at has evidence of great improvement,” he said. “One child increased from 81 words per minute to 166 in one week. To make that kind of growth is phenomenal.”
Unfortunately, with increases in fluency comes a decrease in accuracy. That’s why Sandberg makes sure to monitor errors, vocabulary, and words per minute. Using the same cold vs. hot read approach, Sandberg keeps track of his students’ improvements on a student chart. Here they are able to see a list of their words per minutes as well as the number of errors.
“The kids really look forward to it,” said Sandberg. “They like seeing their growth on the charts. It, in addition to the small group setting, helps them focus and improve.”
Sandberg also assigns vocabulary for his students to practice along with the weekly passages, making sure accuracy does not fall behind.
The final reading focus, and perhaps the most important, is comprehension. This can include a wide variety of skills – such as compare and contrast, summarizing, and themes. Students in the reading intervention work on these skills by reading short passages and following direct instruction.
“We are currently reading a novel called The Cricket in Time Square,” Sandberg said. “I encourage my students to read independently and closely monitor certain skills within a passage.”
Sandberg went on to say that he has seen nothing but tremendous growth in his students, which he attributes to them gaining individual instruction and encouragement.
“I like to give them the attention and praise they deserve,” he said. “Because they definitely deserve it.”
Cale said the focus on each student’s literacy needs has been key to increasing proficiency district wide.
“In order to build that proficiency, we have to be intentional in our supports and the specific needs of the student,” Cale said. “Our teachers have done a wonderful job of using data to identify areas for improvement and the methods they will use to help students take ownership of their reading.”