At the beginning of March, I spoke with Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin at the Tests and the Rest podcast about some of the issues involved in helping struggling teenage readers prepare for standardized tests. The interview was originally scheduled for 25 minutes, but our conversation picked up so much steam that Amy and Mike decided to keep going and turn the interview into a two-parter.
The first part aired a few weeks ago, but I’ve been so busy that I actually forgot to post it (whoops!), but now that the second part has aired, I really don’t have an excuse.
Listen to Part 1, and Part 2. (more…)
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed (for the third time!) by Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on their podcast Tests and the Rest. During the course of what ended up being a marathon conversation about how to help struggling older readers—Amy and Mike ended up having to split our discussion into two parts!—we covered a wide range of topics, and it was only after we had finished that I realized I hadn’t gotten in quite as many practical tips as I would have liked. So obviously I had to post my top ones here instead. And if you’re interested in the full webinar (covering the basics of what’s come to be known as “the science of reading” and walking you through a full, age-appropriate phonics program for teenage readers), you can find it at video.thecriticalreader.com.
1) Have students put their finger on the page and follow along with the text as they read
I’ve written about this in a number of posts over the years, but this is one strategy I truly cannot emphasize enough. For students who habitually remove their eyes from the page, it is absolutely crucial to improving comprehension. You cannot understand what a text literally says if you’re not looking at the words!
To the greatest extent possible, the student’s finger should be under the word they are reading at any given time—it should not lag behind, trail off, or suddenly jump ahead. Hand-eye coordination: it’s not just for sports. (more…)
Slowly but surely, I am making progress on my webinar for tutors working with struggling older readers.
After a crash course in using Zoom to record PowerPoints, numerous attempts, and much time spent finagling computer-camera angles in my office, I’ve actually managed to produce what I hope is a serviceable recording. (I was having a bad hair day in pt. 2, but I’m hoping that everyone can deal;)
There are two parts: a shorter (approx. 40 mins.) introduction part, in which I summarize some of the key issues and background information (the Simple View; the Matthew effect; the three-cueing system); and a longer recording (1:45), in which I present and demonstrate a series of short exercises based on the sequence developed by my colleague Richard McManus at the Fluency Factory in Cohasset, Mass.
Although I spend a lot of time going over the exercises, they can actually be done in about 30 mins. and can thus be split with regular test prep. I’ve also tried to actually integrate SAT/ACT-based materials into the exercises as much as possible.
I’m currently working on the materials packet (probably in the range of 70-75 pages) and will hopefully have the whole thing ready by the week of November 7th. I haven’t yet determined the overall price, but the packet will be included along with the webinar because it would be pretty ridiculous to explain all of the exercises without, you know, actually providing them. Initially, I was going to focus on the ACT since that’s the test where speed and processing issues tend to become most apparent, but because the SAT is the more popular test, I’ve integrated some material from that exam as well.
A few points: (more…)
At the beginning of the summer, after I did my series of posts for tutors who have unexpectedly found themselves working with struggling high-school readers trying to prepare for college admissions tests, I started putting together a presentation for a webinar to address the major issues at play and demonstrate some of the exercises that can be used to help remediate such students.
Alas, my summer and the beginning of my fall got hijacked by my IELTS books, followed in rapid succession by necessary updates to my GMAT, ACT English, and ACT Reading books (followed by the IELTS again).
I’m happy to announce, however, that I finally seem to be back on track and am planning to record the webinar in the next week or so, and then people can access it at their convenience. I’m also doing my best to put together an accompanying materials pack that includes all the exercises covered. (more…)
In a recent post, I talked about the challenges that (ACT) tutors often face when working with struggling readers; I also discussed how different types of problems can signal difficulties in different component skills that combine to produce reading. In this post, I’m going to cover how to identify a reading problem and provide some strategies for determining whether it stems from decoding, aural comprehension, or both.
To quickly review, the Simple View (Gough and Tunmer, 1986) states that General Reading Ability = Decoding x Aural Comprehension, with the weaker factor limiting overall skill.
Proficient teenage-adult readers decode at approximately 200 words per minute, or the speed of speech; however, many struggling readers never learned sound-letter combinations well enough to “map” them orthographically—that is, to store them in their brains for automatic retrieval. As a result, they read slowly and dysfluently, and may guess at, skip, misread, reverse, add, or omit letters/words.
On the other side, weak vocabulary (particularly words denoting abstract concepts); difficulty making sense out of complex syntax; and poor general knowledge can cause students who are solid decoders to have trouble understanding what they read.
Problems can be restricted to either of these areas; however, they often involve both factors and together produce a general reading problem. (more…)
Image by GOLFX, Shutterstock
When Breaking the Code, the reading-instruction group I helped found last summer, held its most recent workshop last week, I stuck an announcement in my newsletter almost as an afterthought. A test-prep tutor had participated in our previous workshop and seemed to have gotten a lot of out of it, and it occurred to me that others might be interested. Nevertheless, I was a bit taken aback at the number of inquiries I received from ACT tutors—more emails, incidentally, than I got from elementary-school teachers.
In retrospect, this should not have been at all surprising, but I guess that given all the current backlash over standardized testing, I neglected to realize how many students are still getting tutored for college-admissions exams, and how many tutors are encountering the exact same kinds of reading problems I repeatedly saw. The issues I discuss here do also apply to the SAT (and any other standardized test), but I’m focusing on the ACT here because it brings a set of specific issues into particularly sharp focus. (more…)