Revisiting Silent Reading: New Directions for Teachers and Researchers (International Reading Association Institute #6, Chicago 2010): Part Three

photo of toddler with eyes on text

Eyes on Text... A Very Good Thing!



This is part three of my reflections on the International Reading Association’s Institute called, “Revisiting Silent Reading: New Directions for Teachers and Researchers” that was held in Chicago on April 25, 2010. You can find part one here. In that part, I discussed the presentations from P. David Pearson and Susie Goodin; D. Ray Reutzel; and Kathleen Wilson. You can find part two here. In that part, I discussed the presentation from S. Jay Samuels titled, “Movements and Reading: Without them you cannot read.”

After Samuels spoke, we had a choice of three sessions to attend during the second breakout series. I chose to attend Devon Brenner’s presentation titled, “Increasing eyes on text in high-impact schools.” Brenner started her session by sharing this alarming fact,

“The national average for time spent reading is 12 minutes during the entire school day.”


That sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it? Only twelve minutes out of the entire school day. This made me think of Richard Allington’s widely cited article, “If They Don’t Read Much, How They Ever Gonna Get Good?” (Journal of Reading, 1977), so I tried to find it online for you. Unfortunately, you must pay to read it. You can read the first page and most of the abstract for this article here. Allington revisited his thirty-year-old article in an International Reading Association institute I attended in Toronto in 2007. Going to Elfrieda Hiebert’s website, I found slides and handouts from that institute titled, “Opportunity to Read: How Much? What Kinds of Texts? For What Reasons?” Many of the same people presented at both institutes. Some handouts at this link are also from Barbara Foorman, John Guthrie, Michael Kamil, Paula Schwanenflugel, and Marilyn Jager Adams.

While looking for the Allington article, I also ran across a website I originally found while in the master’s program for teaching reading. There is a wealth of information in this website. I am going to link to a page that discusses fluency. The part that talks about the amount of reading students do in school starts in paragraph eight. It focuses on how the ones who need the most practice get the least. It is a great read (as is the rest of this site). The site is www.BalancedReading.com and it was created by Sebastian Wren. The article I am talking about in particular is, “Fluency–A Review of the Research.”

Back to Brenner’s presentation.... Her presentation was about a study they conducted in thirty-two Reading First schools in Mississippi. They wanted to know if they could increase the amount of time students spent in school with their eyes actually on text by providing teachers with nine professional development modules. (You can read more about this study in Brenner’s handouts from the 2007 institute I mentioned above.) They found that students had their eyes on texts for approximately 18 minutes during a 90-120 minute instructional block. Of those 18 minutes, 9 were assisted and 9 were unassisted. Alarmingly, in nearly 25% of their observations, they found that there was no reading at all during the portion of instruction they observed! Wow, again!

Brenner talked about what was involved with the professional development and briefly described the nine modules they used. The professional development modules included:

  1. Keep a Reading Log (Teachers reflecting on the amount of time their students are actually reading.)

  2. Reading Rich Instruction (Looking at language arts activities in the classroom to determine if they were reading rich or reading poor (i.e. lots of time with eyes on text vs. minimal amount of time with eyes on text.)

  3. Readable Texts (Looking at readability factors–vocabulary, text complexity, background knowledge.)

  4. Matching Students to Texts

  5. Reading with Accountability

  6. Partner Reading

  7. Repeated Reading

  8. Critiquing Scenarios

  9. Putting It All Together


The teachers spent seven weeks with these professional development modules. Afterwards, teachers were more aware of how much time students actually spent reading in the classroom and the amount of time with eyes on text was increased; however, it was not enough to satisfy the research team. The challenges they faced had a lot to do with the core programs in use and teachers trying to juggle this professional development with other professional development/Reading First requirements.

Brenner gave us a website and a password to access the modules they used. I believe their 147 slide PowerPoint presentation of the modules would be a great professional development tool for any school wishing to increase the amount of eyes on text during the school day. Included in this PowerPoint presentation are great quotes about reading fluency and comprehension, great questions for teacher reflections, great ideas for keeping kids accountable for what they read when they are not working directly with the teacher, explanations on why teachers should not use round robin reading, round robin reading alternatives, and suggestions for repeated reading. It stresses incorporating more informational text into the classroom and includes resources for finding leveled informational text.

I asked Brenner if I could include the website and password in this post. She got back to me quickly and said that if my readers would like access to the materials, they can email her at dgb19@msstate.edu for the password. That way if they change the modules, they can email you the changes. In addition, they would love to have feedback if their modules are used. I am in awe of the researchers’ generosity. I can tell they put a lot of work into these modules and I really believe they are important things for classroom teachers to consider–especially if the amount of time their students have their eyes on text is at the national average of only 12 minutes in the entire school day! I know I took away food for thought from reading through the modules and I have a master’s in teaching reading. I think it would be extremely beneficial to work through these modules as a professional learning community. If you decide to use the modules for professional development, I would also love to hear about it!

I would like to conclude this post with a HUGE thank you to the researchers on the professional development modules: Devon Brenner, Elfrieda H. Hiebert, Jeanne Holland, Monica Riley, and Renarta Tompkins.

**Updated 8/19/2010: Click here to find all presentation handouts from this institute at http://www.textproject.org.**

You can find part four here.

Note: I love comments and feedback. If you do not have time to comment, could you at least take a second to click on the stars below to rate this post on a scale of 1 to 10? Thanks a bunch! In addition, if you take the time to read the comments, I encourage you to click on the “Like” button located next to comments you like, so that the “Sort by” drop-down menu will be useful. Thanks again and happy TWRCing! :)

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  • devonbrenner

    Allington revisited his “If They Don't Read Much” chapter in a booked that Freddy Hiebert edited called Reading More, Reading Better. It's called “If they Don't Read Much . . . 30 Years Later.” That book also presents the full study of the impact of the PD on teaching practices and student achievement.

    The modules are each one-hour long. We designed them to be implemented during Peer Coaching Study Team meetings. We really do hope that they will be used by as many schools as possible and are interested in your feedback. If you download them and have any questions, do contact me!

  • http://www.twrctank.com/ Julie Niles Petersen

    Thanks for the extra information, Devon. I hope to read the book soon.

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  • http://www.twrctank.com/ Julie Niles Petersen

    Children of the Code,You are absolutely correct–I did appreciate that video! Thank you so much for sharing. I especially loved that Allington included “reflect” and “wonder” in his definition of “What is Reading.” I don’t know if you know, but I linked to your interview with Todd Risley on this post: http://twrctank.com/2010/04/15/what-happens-in-… In addition, I linked to your site in my sidebars in the “External Link Categories” area under “Websites to See.” If this was not okay, please let me know and I’ll remove them. In addition, if you would like me to change the wording in the sidebars, please let me know. I think your website is a goldmine of great information. I also just subscribed to your YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/ChildrenoftheCode Thank you for always making me TWRC!P.S. I am delighted and honored that you stopped by!

  • Children of the Code

    What is Reading? Here is an Allington video you might appreciate:

    http://www.youtube.com/ChildrenoftheCode#p/a/04

  • http://www.twrctank.com/ Julie Niles Petersen

    Children of the Code,

    You are absolutely correct–I did appreciate that video! Thank you so much for sharing. I especially loved that Allington included “reflect” and “wonder” in his response to, “What is Reading?”

    I don't know if you know, but I linked to your interview with Todd Risley on this post: http://twrctank.com/2010/04/15/what-happens-in-… In addition, I linked to your site in my sidebars in the “External Link Categories” area under “Websites to See.” If this was not okay, please let me know and I'll remove them. In addition, if you would like me to change the wording in the sidebars, please let me know. I think your website is a goldmine of great information. I also just subscribed to your YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/ChildrenoftheCode Thank you for always making me TWRC!

    P.S. I am delighted and honored that you stopped by!

  • Children of the Code

    Hi Julie,

    Thank you for sharing our work and for all the great work you are doing with TWRC! Feel free to link to or embed our content in any way that serves your work. Thanks again and all the best, David Boulton

    PS you might find some of my earlier work on learning interesting: http://www.implicity.org and http://www.youtube.com/ImplicityLearning

  • http://www.twrctank.com/ Julie Niles Petersen

    Hi David,

    I just watched the video you shared on learning and you definitely have me TWRCing! I look forward to learning more through you and Children of the Code. I definitely have a thirst (or more precisely, a quest) for knowledge.

    I know I previously mentioned that I subscribed to Children of the Code's YouTube channel. As I was getting ready to subscribe to yours, I realized that I was subscribing under my personal account where I subscribe to family and friends' channels that do not have anything to do with education. So, I decided I should make a professional account. In doing so, I realized that having a YouTube account could be a *very* valuable resource. I will definitely have to spend more time there searching for great educational videos related to teaching reading.

    Thanks again for everything!

    Note: For anyone who is interested, my YouTube channel is: http://www.youtube.com/user/TWRCtankcom

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