• The Four Keys to Motivating Struggling Readers

    The Four Keys to Motivating Struggling Readers

    During a recent ‘organization spree’, my mom unearthed from the depths of the basement, a pile of report cards from my elementary through high school years.  On my first grade report card my teacher had written, “Stacy can do anything that she puts her mind to.”  I am sure that as a first grader, I took that as a compliment. As a teacher, I now understand it to mean that motivation was an issue. This supposition was supported by a comment written on one of my high school report cards, “Stacy is capable of more. Prod her a bit.”  I am pointing out the obvious here, but all of us would probably agree that whatever is required of us is more enjoyable (and more likely to be completed) when we are motivated.

    Recently, efforts to improve student achievement have been focused on providing our schools with better curriculum and instructional materials, more highly qualified teachers, and standards that clearly define what students are expected to learn. Even IF all of these things are in place, gains in student achievement will be difficult to show if students are not motivated to learn. Motivation can make the difference between learning something temporarily and being able to ‘own’ and apply what they have learned permanently. One study showed that students who are motivated to read, spend 300% more time reading than students who are not motivated to read (Tweet!) (Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997).  Student motivation is not only linked to higher levels of achievement but it is also linked to satisfaction with school, positive self-esteem, social adjustment, and lower dropout rates.

    Motivation to read is only one piece of the reading puzzle but it is a necessary piece, especially if we, as parents and/or teachers, want students to develop a habit of reading that will benefit them throughout their lives. There are various aspects of motivation, but researchers agree four factors are critical for motivating students: ...

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    Jan 23 2013
  • Adult Reading Instruction —Teach the Reader, Not the Reading

    Adult Reading Instruction —Teach the Reader, Not the Reading

    By Guest Writer, Stephen Dolainski, ABE Consultant

    Imagine you are an observer in an adult reading classroom. Twenty or so students are present; their reading abilities range from the 4th-grade level to the 8th-grade level. The teacher, like many adult reading teachers, has no specialized training in reading instruction. She relies on a variety of texts and instructional resources and is deeply committed to helping her students improve their reading ability so they can move on to the GED prep class or a job-training program.

    On this particular occasion, the students are going to read a selection about cells that is from one of the texts. The teacher puts up a diagram of a cell that is labeled with the cell’s various parts. Before the students read the selection, the teacher asks students to study a vocabulary list that contains words from the selection, such as nucleus, cell membrane, cytoplasm, and vacuole. Next to each word is the definition. At the bottom of the list is a matching exercise. When the vocabulary activity is complete, the teacher conducts a brief discussion with the students about what they already know about cells. Then she has the students silently read the selection and answer a few questions at the end of the reading. After going over the correct answers with the class, the teacher has the students draw a cell and label the different parts.

    Based on your “observation,” what can you say about the reading instruction that took place in the class? ...

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    Jan 11 2013
  • The Case for Managed Enrollment in the Adult Reading Classroom

    The Case for Managed Enrollment in the Adult Reading Classroom

    By Guest Writer, Stephen Dolainski, ABE consultant

    I was talking to an adult reading teacher in Los Angeles the other day and asked her how her evening class was going.

    “Well, I’m not sure,” she said. “I’ve got 40 students, so my administrator seems happy, but I’m not. Besides that, I’m exhausted and I’m afraid my students aren’t getting what they need.”

    This was an experienced teacher who was not one to complain. ...

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    Jan 07 2013
  • Teaching Habits That Will Help Struggling Readers Succeed in 2013

    Teaching Habits That Will Help Struggling Readers Succeed in 2013

    The New Year brings with it the opportunity to reflect back on the previous year and to look at what went well and what we hope to do differently in the coming year. For many of us, it is easy to get caught up in the negative thought pattern that things can’t really change. We may have experienced a hope for change and may have made efforts to change something only to have it not “stick.” While every effort for positive change is beneficial, we may have the best intentions but may not have the best resources for effective and lasting change.

    When I was teaching English to 8th graders, I remember the strong desire to call in sick on the day I had to teach concepts like adding inflectional suffixes or the pronunciations and spellings when using y as a vowel. There was no structure or systematic way to present the information. It felt like I was given a bucket of information that I just dumped in front of my students for them to sort through and pick and choose what they could understand and use.

    However, as I have learned and trained teachers in the Reading Horizons methodology, I have learned: ...

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    Dec 31 2012
  • 12 Best of 2012: Strategies for Teaching Reading to Beginning & Struggling Readers

    12 Best of 2012: Strategies for Teaching Reading to Beginning & Struggling Readers

    There are two types of people in the world: those that make New Year’s resolutions and those that don’t. 

    (And yes, that was an adaptation of this quote from What About Bob?: “There are two types of people in the world: those that like Neil Diamond and those that don’t. My ex-wife loves him.”)

    I myself have been both types of people (I don’t even know how to make that sentence grammatically correct – do enlighten me!). There are years where there is such an obvious resolution to make and years where I’m overwhelmed just maintaining what I am doing that the last thing I’m going to do is expend any mental energy to make a resolution I feel no resolve (or energy) to keep.

    But, in light of the cultural pressure to at least acknowledge the concept of New Year’s resolutions, I’ve thought a lot about change and goals lately. I’ve thought about times when I succeeded at making a change and times when I failed. I have memories of changes that I made almost instantaneously and naturally. I have memories of changes that occurred over the course of my entire life.

    My conclusion: ...

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    Dec 27 2012
  • How is the Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary Going to Change the Classroom?

    How is the Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary Going to Change the Classroom?

    I am not going to lie. It is hard to regularly contribute to a blog (well, I am supposed to contribute regularly). Thinking is the hardest part of writing for me so I usually keep a list of possible topics with the hope that something on the list will spur thought. As I looked over my list of possible topics I realized that I cannot ‘think’ seriously about any of the items on that list. I have spent too much time thinking about what has happened at Sandy Hook Elementary school and the things on my list seem highly insignificant in comparison. In keeping with my propensity for lists, here is a ‘list’ of some of the thoughts that have been running through my head since Friday’s tragedy. ...

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    Dec 19 2012
  • How to Get Started When Teaching Struggling Readers

    How to Get Started When Teaching Struggling Readers

    Because struggling readers have a history of struggling, they can be very closed off and resistant to working on their reading skills. Not because they don’t want to succeed, but because they don’t believe they will succeed. As a result of this, it is very important when working with a struggling reader that you are very confident in the effectiveness of your approach. You should always do your best to use research-based best practices that are explicit, systematic, and multi-sensory. If you can’t deliver quality reading instruction that is simple for a struggling reader to understand, you can leave the student feeling even more resistant and closed off to working on their reading skills in the future.

    Once you are confident you have an effective approach for teaching struggling readers, here are some additional tips from Reading Horizons Director of Teacher Training, Shantell Berrett, about how to get started with working with a struggling reader. ...

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    Dec 05 2012
  • Survival Tips for First Year Teachers

    Survival Tips for First Year Teachers

    By Guest Author, Tessa Hardiman

    I know how you feel. I was shaking in my boots the first day I began teaching, too. However, I’m here to tell you that it is not going to be as difficult as you think it is. Let me share two lessons that I learned with you. When I started my first job, I had the opportunity to work in the school for a full week before the students started. This was a huge blessing to me because I had the time to question and pester my fellow teachers with lingering questions I had. They gave me tons of ideas and things to think about. I was so excited and busting at the seams with activities I would do with my little darlings. I planned writing activities, read alouds, higher order thinking activities, and slide show presentations. I was set to make a quick impact on those kids. This was when I learned my first lesson. ...

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    Nov 26 2012
  • Discovering What Motivates Each Individual Student

    Discovering What Motivates Each Individual Student

    We are all motivated by different things - different activities, different interests, different approaches, etc... Motivation is formed by our personalities and is connected to our temperament. It is not shocking that we are not motivated to do activities or tasks that we struggle with and are difficult for us. For example, students with processing disorders such as dyslexia are often unmotivated to work on reading and writing tasks because it is such a struggle.

    So, how do we as educators and parents help? ...

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    Nov 20 2012
  • The Role of Vocabulary in Teaching Students to Read

    The Role of Vocabulary in Teaching Students to Read

    The Common Core State Standards have returned our attention to multiple areas of literacy and language instruction. While at the annual conference for the International Dyslexia Association I attended a symposium titled Reconciling the Common Core Standards with Reading Research. As part of the symposium Dr. Marilyn Adams reminded us of the importance that vocabulary instruction plays in learning to read, and in reading to learn.

    What part does vocabulary play in learning to read? ...

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    Nov 08 2012

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