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Looking Inside Classrooms

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Looking Inside Classrooms: Reflecting on the "how" as well as the "what" in effective reading instruction -- Barbara M. Taylor, Debra S. Peterson, P. David Pearson and Michael C. Rodriquez


We learned that effective teachers maintain an academic focus, kept more pupils on task, and provided direct instruction. Effective direct instruction includes making learning goals clear, asking students questions to monitor understanding of content or skills covered, and providing feedback to students about their academic progress. The National Reading Panel Report (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000) concluded that instruction in systematic phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, and comprehension strategies was important in a complete reading program. The panel's conclusion found that outstanding teachers taught skills, actively engaged students in a great deal of actual reading and writing, and fostered self-regulation in students' use of strategies. The overwhelming sense one gets when examining the observational notes presented in this article is that some teachers feel so compelled to make sure that key information is discussed that they bring it up themselves, thereby robbing students of opportunities to test their own knowledge and skill acquisition, and themselves of opportunities to evaluate students' growth toward independence. Coaching techniques were used to encourage children to elaborate on their ideas. I believe classroom literacy instruction needs to reflect best practices as identified in the research. In addition to what teachers teach, how teachers teach is also important to consider in search of making changes in reading instruction to improve students' reading achievement. 

Readers Theatre Effectiveness

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The use of readers theatre as a way to promote motivation, fluency, and comprehension among students has been proven through theory and research to be a very effective instruction according to Jo Worthy and Kathryn Prater, authors of the article ""I thought about it all night": Readers Theatre for reading fluency and motivation." Readers theatre uses repeated reading, a method that has shown improvement in fluency in studies.

Along with this, however, readers theatre makes the reading authentic and personal to the students, and provides motivation and engagement among all students. "Effective performances are built upon positive social interactions focused on reading, in which modeling, instruction, and feedback are natural components of rehearsals." (295) Students are rehearsing regularly, while monitoring each others' reading. Students naturally read the text with appropriate prosody and expression, and begin to comprehend rather than read to pronounce correctly and read quickly (the unintended consequence of repeated readings).

The article also points out added benefits of using readers theatre as a part of regular literacy instruction. Teachers have noticed motivation to read independently among students who otherwise showed apathy or distaste toward reading, a support of home languages in students whose first, or home, language is not English (using scripts with that home language), and motivating students who were usually introverted and shy to step up and show enthusiasm for reading.

I see the benefits of using a readers theatre, not just a few times a year, but as part of regular instruction in literacy and reading. The article stated that it could take several weeks to get the strategy running smoothly and effectively, but I feel that it would be worth the time and effort, because there are so many benefits for the students. Because it combines so many components (repeated reading, positive social interaction, modeling, instruction, feedback, and use of prosody, expression, and phrasing), it is so much more beneficial for the students, and I feel that it uses time more wisely, incorporating more aspects than one strategy alone might do. While rehearsing, students may come across and practice new vocabulary, they will use strategies to help with reading, and as I mentioned before, it helps with motivation, fluency, and comprehension.

In the article I reread by Nancy Padak and Timothy Rasinski, it talked about successful components of early reading instructional programs including phonics (word decoding) and fluency (effortless reading). These two components are key to helping students to read. A study referenced in the article recommended home involvement being another component to encourage students. The steps taken to help students and their families were first to make goals about the literacy activities done at home. The second, was to provide ongoing training, communication, and support for parents involved in the at home program. Third, was providing authentic reading text that was developmentally appropriate for the students to read at home. Fourth, was making activities easy, enjoyable, and consistent because the home is already a busy place. The fifth was to have families document the activities done on a chart to help remind parents, to create a way that children can see their accomplishments and meet their goals.

The authors ' reactions to this was positive because through the study a program like Fast Start, that helps students and parents start literacy education at home helps to increase fluency and quality time spent together. Parents and teachers working together to accomplish the same goal helps the students, parents, and teachers. In the research done, showed that even being a little involved in the program was beneficial and increased students' literacy capabilities.

My reaction to the article and the authors' reactions to the idea of home involvement and programs like Fast Start are to support both. I have learned from my two reading courses this semester that phonics and fluency piggyback on each other and lead to better comprehension of text. I also learned that parent involvement in their child's education, however they may be involved, is beneficial for the student. I really enjoyed reading this article and believe it is both beneficial to parents and teachers because it is fairly short and to the point. The article also gives statements from children and parents about the Fast Start program, which can help relate the study to their lives.

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