I have been searching for ways and methods to use with reading programs such as AR to not only motivate and engage my students as readers but also to effectively build skills such as comprehension and fluency. I have tried using reading points, amounts of books, and even requiring written summaries but many of my students are still not progressing to be on grade level or above. I am really concerned about how to use these programs to target the needs of my EC children and the English Language Learners. It is within this subgroup,(ELL) that I have the hardes time reaching. This group typically scores lower than my other students on standarized reading test and show little motivation with reading independently and in class. Any suggestions would be really helpful, as this new school year is on the verge of beginning.
Your students next year are going to be lucky to have a teacher who has taken time over her summer break to come up with reading strategies to help them succeed! What grade do you teach? I have some general suggestions, but they might need to be modified depending on the grade level.
I have taught 1st grade and 5th grade. Most of my 5th graders were English Language Learners and were about 2 to 4 grade levels behind in the reading proficiency. I found that small reading groups were the most beneficial to my students. I used different reading programs for each of my groups. I see from your post that you are considering Accelerated Reader . This is a fine program, but you might find that it doesn't meet the needs of ALL your students, so I think you are going to have to use a variety of strategies/programs. You mentioned that your students aren’t motivated to read independently and a big component of the Accelerated Reader program is that kids work independently on a computer. I had mainly Spanish speaking students and I found that they thrive in small groups where they can be social and cooperate. They didn’t care too much for independent work so I tried to incorporate cooperative learning when I could.
I mentioned earlier that I used different reading programs for different groups. For my low readers (we are talking 5th graders reading at a 1st grade level) I used a program called Collaborative Literacy Intervention Project (CLIP) which is an intervention program for at-risk students to teach them to become strategic readers and writers. Then for my 2 middle groups, I used the district adopted reading program which was Houghton Mifflin but I used the books that were a few grade levels below and we worked our way up to grade level. For my highest reading group, we used Houghton Mifflin at grade level and we incorporated the methods from Great Books that promotes shared inquiry. This method combines a sound theoretical base with proven strategies to engage all readers in higher-order thinking and collaborative problem solving. By the end of the year, all my groups were participating in the Great Books method where they were comfortable sharing their interpretations, gaining new insights and deepening their understanding.
To add to all these reading programs, I was teaching in a bilingual classroom where every other day we read in Spanish. My level of Spanish proficiency was equivalent to my students' English proficiency which provided an ideal environment for me to model all the reading strategies I was teaching them. During my small reading groups, I would take my turn reading in Spanish and when I got to a “tricky word”, I would use my decoding strategies. I would say the beginning sound, read the rest of the sentence, look at the picture, sometimes sound out the word and come up with a word that would make sense, look right and sound right. Sometimes the students would need to help me and teach me about this new word. I think seeing me use strategies, made them feel more comfortable using strategies when they were reading.
There are many wonderful reading programs out there. You can do some more research on the different programs before you try some. Go to What Works Clearinghouse and type in your search criteria and you will see data for reading programs.
Good luck and let us know what you discover and what works for you and your students.