I attended Institute #6 at the International Reading Association’s 55th Annual Convention on Sunday, April 25, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The title of the Institute was, “Revisiting Silent Reading: New Directions for Teachers and Researchers.” There will be a book with the same name published by the International Reading Association in September 2010. It is edited by Elfrieda H. Hiebert and D. Ray Reutzel. (To see the itinerary, click on the institute title above.)
The presenters for the plenary (or whole group) sessions included: Elfrieda “Freddy” Hiebert, P. David Pearson, Susie Goodin, D. Ray Reutzel, S. Jay Samuels, Richard Allington, and Anne McGill-Franzen. The speakers for the three breakout sessions included: Maryann Manning, Gary Ockey, Kathleen Wilson, Gwynne Ellen Ash, Melanie Kuhn, Devon Brenner, Jacquelynn A. Malloy, Michelle J. Kelley, Nicki Clausen-Grace, Kathie Bach, and Emily Swan.
**Updated 8/19/2010: Click here to find all presentation handouts from this institute at http://www.textproject.org.**
After Freddy’s welcome, P. David Pearson and Susie Goodin spoke. Their topic was “Silent Reading Pedagogy: An historical perspective.” Here are some items from their presentation that I found particularly interesting:
- Public libraries were developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
- The first bookmobile (or book wagon) was founded 1905. Here is an article about the original founder, Mary Lemist Titcomb, and the first book wagon on Wikipedia. This reminds me of the teacher in Columbia, Luis Soriano Bohorquez, who operates a biblioburro, or donkey library. I love that he named his donkeys “Alpha” and “Beto” (Alpha bet). Here is a video:
- Public librarians knew the people wanted fiction and they slowly and reluctantly embraced it, but teachers resisted allowing public library texts in their classrooms.
- Once more secular texts became available, silent reading was increasingly practiced.
- “By the early 1900s, silent reading instruction began to be widely espoused over oral reading.”
- “As research and experimentation in the field developed, an instructional methods debate about silent versus oral reading instruction gained momentum.”
- “Research of the time confirmed the superiority of silent reading over oral reading in speed and comprehension, initiating the call for silent reading in schools (Matthews, 1966).”
- However, silent reading prevailed in the schools until World War I. After administering assessments to the troops, it was realized that “many soldiers could not read well enough to follow written instructions and prompted public calls for better reading research and reading instruction.”
- During this same time, librarians supported children’s reading practice by designing reading programs and focusing on children in libraries.
- USSR (Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading) was coined in the 1960s. It was believed that everyone needed an individualized reading approach.
- The first federal funding of school library materials came about in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1967 (Michie & Holton, 2005) (after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957). This “helped establish school libraries as a valued part of public education, in part for their contribution to independent reading programs.”
- “Even though we lack definitive studies of the incidence of silent reading in classrooms across the decades, it is probably fair to conclude (from examinations of basal readers, standards, and curriculum guides) that from the 1960s through the early 2000s, silent reading played an important role in America’s elementary classrooms…”
- “But with the publication of the National Reading Panel Report in 2000, silent reading, at least as a regular classroom activity within the reading class, has met its most serious policy and curricular challenge.” (Most policy makers misinterpreted the NRP to mean, “that we should cease the practice of allocating class time to independent reading, replacing it instead with instruction in various aspects of reading.”
- Principal: What are you doing?
- Reutzel: I’m modeling reading.
- Principal: Is this news to your children?
- give them any suggestions on which car to drive
- limit where they drove
- watch them drive
- give them any feedback on how they were driving
- explain/model how to drive in different road conditions
- ask for any accountability while driving or after driving
- In Utah (?), our motto is to “stack ‘em deep and teach ‘em cheap.” (This was said sarcastically. Unfortunately, it sounds exactly like what education looks like in California.)
- Reality check! The misinterpretation of the National Reading Panel’s report was “one of the worst misinterpretations of all-time” because silent reading has pretty much been banned in schools and “silent reading is what professional readers do.” (Right after this, he brought up the important work of Kuhn & Stahl on wide reading.)
- I am concerned about the amount of time student’s eyes are actually on the page–their reading stamina
- Pizzas [as a reading incentive] don’t make readers; they just make fat kids!
- Oral reading is a performance activity.
- It is difficult to skip unfamiliar words when someone is assessing your oral reading fluency.
- Oral reading rate is bound by the rate of speech. (This was a big ah-ha to me a few years back. I had a reader who was not having difficulties comprehending, but her oral reading rate was well below the 50th percentile. She was a slow speaker in general. I don’t know why I never thought about the fact that if students speak slowly, their oral reading rate will be slow, too. I guess you could say this was one of those ah-has, where you think, “D’oh!”)
- Oral reading is often evaluated by a teacher or an assessment administrator.
- Few references to stamina in the literature. (Sad, isn’t it? I plan to write a post about this in the future.)
- How does familiarity with the subject matter and vocabulary impact stamina with a longer text?
- Will rates increase in longer texts due to increasing familiarity?
- What about variations in self-regulatory behaviors–especially in low performing readers?
- Does context (hard copy vs. digital) make a difference?
- Does assessment format make a difference? (maze assessments with 3 or 4 choices vs. passages around 300 words)
Pearson and Goodin also mentioned the McDade non-oral reading method of the 1930s and 1940s in the Chicago area in their presentation. Unfortunately, I did not take many notes on this because I was so fascinated. From what I remember, in this method, there was absolutely no oral reading allowed (not even read alouds from the teacher). Not even sub-vocalization. In order to prevent students from sub-vocalizing, pencils were placed in their mouths. I think this method was used in various Chicago public schools for three to four years. Once they realized the students had not learned how to read this way, they abandoned the method. I performed a brief Internet search, but mostly came across articles for purchase. I found one chapter in a book that mentions this method and the chapter can be read online. I read this book a few years ago and it really shaped my understanding about reading fluency. I highly recommend it. It is called, What Research Has to Say About Fluency Instruction edited by S. Jay Samuels and Alan E. Farstrup. The McDade method is mentioned in Chapter 1 (pages 4-23) which is titled, A Brief History of Reading Fluency by Timothy V. Rasinski.
After Pearson & Goodin spoke, D. Ray Reutzel discussed, “Changing Perspectives on Silent Reading Instruction.” You can find his PowerPoint presentation on the International Reading Association’s website at the following link (scroll down to “Reutzel” and look for “Silent Reading Revisited”).
Reutzel started his presentation mentioning that he wrote an article for Reading Research Quarterly fifteen years ago in which he advocated oral reading. Now he advocates silent reading. (Personally, I love when people talk about how they went from believing one thing to believing the opposite). Then, he talked about his own memories of SSR time (Sustained Silent Reading) which included the SRA reading libraries. He remembered that nobody wanted to be brown and that everyone wanted to be aqua. He also remembered that student data was posted on the wall. It did not sound like he was a fan.
The SRA Reading Laboratory kits are still sold today. If you are interested, here is a link to the SRA Reading Laboratory website. I would love to hear about your experiences with this program–either as a student or a teacher. As a student, I remember passing the little quizzes without even reading the articles. I did not read the articles because they did not interest me for the most part. I also remember how much competition they created. Although I was a good reader, I felt very bad for those who had difficulty passing the various colored levels. I must say I was not a fan either.
Then, Reutzel talked about how he embraced SSR as a first grade teacher “nearing the epicenter of the whole language movement.” He specifically talked about a memory of his principal walking into his classroom while he lounged on a beanbag chair reading the book he self-selected. This is the gist of their conversation:
This little conversation made him reflect on why he loved SSR so much. He realized that during this 20 minutes, he did not have to deal with the children (after all, it was uninterrupted reading) and that it was very easy to plan–he just put “SSR” in the planner. He also convinced himself that practice made perfect. But then he thought, “Were they really practicing?” He reflected on his own SSR time and realized that there were times he took “in-the-room fieldtrips to the Bahamas” instead of practicing his reading. He wondered how often his students were doing it, too.
Then he talked about a great analogy. He imagined teaching someone how to drive a car the same way he was “teaching” reading during SSR time. The analogy went something like this: “Watch me. This is how you drive.” That’s it! He would not:
I think this is a great analogy for what SSR time looked like in the past and why it needs to change. Would you really let your children choose any car to drive and under any driving conditions without any sort of monitoring? Personally, I do not think that would be very safe, nor would it be a wise way to teach a youngster how to drive. The same goes with independent reading–especially for the strugglers who always seem to choose books that are too hard for themselves. In addition, without any kind of monitoring, it is these students who are masters at the art of fake reading and the ones who learn to use up all of the actual reading time by “selecting books.”
He talked about how our assessments of reading need to change, too. One thing he discussed that was new to me was using high speed infra-red eye movement photography to assess silent reading. S. Jay Samuels talked about this at length a little later in the day, too. According to them, it sounds like there are goggles that students can put on and we can keep track of their eye movements as the read. The goggles would allow for a digital record that we could easily access. I am fascinated and just did a little Internet research. I think they might be talking about Eye Movement and Miscue Analysis (EMMA). I found this nice blog post by Mr. Ferguson that talked about EMMA. I look forward to learning more. Here is Mr. Ferguson’s post. If you have any experience with this, I would love to hear about it!
Some quotes from Reutzel I liked (not necessarily verbatim) include:
From this point on, my notes basically cover his PowerPoint. It has great suggestions for how he envisions successful SSR times and it also includes great questions for future research, so be sure to check it out.
After this plenary session, we chose which breakout session to attend. I chose the strand “Special Issues in Silent Reading” where Kathleen Wilson presented, “A comparison of oral and silent reading development.” Her presentation began by asking, “How do I know if they are really reading” and about how the misinterpretations of the NRP report resulted in a de-emphasis of silent reading during the school day. She also discussed how there was a lot of research on oral reading rates and on comprehension, but that there was scant attempts to study the two components at the same time. She also brought up something I was unfamiliar with, “Comprehension-Based Silent Reading Rate (CBSRR) which is “the optimal rate needed to comprehend text when reading silently.” She mentioned (and I know it’s true) that many teachers focus on rate and not comprehension even though comprehension is the most important aspect of reading.
She also mentioned that there were several norms for oral reading rates, but only one set of norms for silent reading rates and this data was gathered in the late 1950s and only reported the 50th percentile. Wilson mentioned that the Hasbrouck & Tindal oral reading rates are not based on comprehension at all and that their 75th percentile is approximately the same as the 50th percentile silent reading rate norms. Here is a chart of the Hasbrouck & Tindal oral reading rates which I find very useful–although it is only one measurement. I could not find a copy of the silent reading rate chart that I could include.
Wilson mentioned that oral reading rates seem to stall at the sixth grade, but that silent reading rate increases dramatically and on into college. In regards to oral reading rate, she mentioned these constraints:
Some problems with measuring silent reading rates are that students self-reports of silent reading rate are unreliable with struggling readers and we lack adequate technology to measure student’s silent reading rate.
Here are some great points/questions she brought up about reading stamina:
Then, Wilson talked about a study they did with fourth graders in a midwest urban area. Hiebert developed the assessments for this study. There were five passages in each text set with three paragraphs per passage for a total of 1,000 running words. Four comprehension questions followed each passage (two literal, one inferential, and one interpretive). Some of the students were assessed using a paper and pencil version, while others took the assessment on the computer. Interesting findings from the computer group: the lowest group fake read (they could tell because their silent reading rate was off the chart) and the second lowest group seemed to try two passages and then gave up (fake read) for the last three passages. The average and high students read silently with comprehension. Their conclusion? Limiting silent reading is unnecessary and inappropriate for about 80% of students once they are at a basic level of reading.
A potential benefit of silent reading is that “30 minutes of silent reading vs. oral reading can yield exposure to over 1,000 more words each day. Students are calculated to learn about 530 additional words per year [by predominantly reading silently rather] than though predominately oral reading.”
Wilson’s PowerPoint was great and includes great questions to think about that I did not mention in this post. I hope it is available on www.textproject.org soon. If it is not, I will email her to ask if I can include it in this post.
Okay, I guess that about sums up the first two hours of this institute. I will continue in the next post. I hope you will share some of your TWRCs about things I mentioned. Also, if any of you have blogged about how you run SSR in your classrooms, please post a link. Some of you whom I know from Twitter do a fabulous job at this!!!
Note: If you have taken the time to read this, would you please take a second to click on the stars below to rate this post on a scale of 1 to 10? Thanks a bunch–I always appreciate feedback. In addition, if you like a comment, I encourage you to click on the “Like” button so the “Sort by” drop-down menu will be useful. Thanks again and happy TWRCing!