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

photo of some Read 180 audiobooks

Read 180 Audiobooks - A Great Scaffold for Struggling Readers



This is part five 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.” You can find part three here. In that part, I discussed Devon Brenner’s presentation, “Increasing eyes on text in high-impact schools.” You can find part four here. In that part, I discussed Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen’s presentation, “Why so much oral reading in reading lessons & elsewhere?”

After Allington & McGill-Franzen’s presentation, we had our choice of three breakout sessions. I meant to write about the one I attended, but I ended up writing about one I did not attend. This session was called, “R5: A sustained silent reading makeover” and it was presented by Michelle J. Kelley and Nicki Clausen-Grace. Although I did not attend their session, I received a copy of their handouts and they piqued my interest very much.

Luckily, their website, www.teachingcomprehension.org was listed on the handout. I just spent quite a bit of time there and found some great things. I found (and read) chapter three “Launching R5″ from their book, R5 in Your Classroom: A Guide to Differentiating Independent Reading and Developing Avid Readers (Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2006). It was a great read, made me TWRC, and made me want to read the entire book. My guess is that the handouts I received at the institute are included in that book. If they are not, I think you should be able to access them at the library section of Elfrieda H. Hiebert’s website in the near future.

Because of a link on their website, I also found a podcast based on their book for teachers, but geared towards how parents can help implement R5 in the home. R5 stands for “Read, relax, reflect, respond, and rap. I listened to the podcast and found that it made me TWRC some more. You can listen to this International Reading Association podcast, “Creating a home reading program” here.

Thinking about the entire institute and all the additional resources I discovered while TWRCing about it, I think it is clear that, teachers need to do more than just model reading during independent reading time–especially for struggling readers. We need to go from having Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) to having Scaffolded Silent Reading (ScSR) in the classroom. From what I learned in the institute and this PowerPoint by D. Ray Reutzel, “Exploring Scaffolded Silent Reading (ScSR): Effective Practice for Increasing Reading Fluency and Comprehension,” my understanding of ScSR is that teachers need to:

  1. Guide students’ text selection to optimize reading engagement and ensure independent level reading.

  2. Monitor student behavior and hold them accountable.

  3. Provide feedback to students.


Although I have only read the institute handouts and chapter three of the R5 book, I do think this model targets all important aspects of ScSR. However, I think a book I received as a member of the International Reading Association’s Book of the Month Club might target guiding students’ reading selection even better. The book is titled, BOOKMATCH: How to Scaffold Student Book Selection for Independent Reading (Wedwick & Wutz, 2008).

Although I did not read this book in its entirety either, I talked with my students (all struggling readers) at length about each letter in the BOOKMATCH acronym and posted charts in the room for reference. I believe that this really helped many of them become better at finding “just right books” because each letter in the acronym easily led to discussions of what makes books difficult for readers–a concept that is difficult for many struggling readers to understand. Our discussions and the reference charts also gave us common language to use throughout the year when discussing books students found personally challenging. Reproducibles that explain the acronym, “BOOKMATCH” can be found here. (Note: The reproducibles were free when this post was originally written.)

On the BOOKMATCH website, I found a video that is an “overview of BOOKMATCH and part of a lesson in which Jessica introduces sorting as a way for the first graders to take ownership of the classroom library.” Although it took a while to load, I think watching it was well worth my time. I imagine these students really did have a great sense of ownership of their classroom library and student excitement over the available books was evident–two very good things. You can find that video here.

Another important part to think about during ScSR is managing the classroom library. Personally, I continuously refined how I did this through the years, but I know my management still could use improvement. Recently, I read a great post by a very passionate literacy advocate, Tess Alfonsin and it gave me plenty of great ideas for the future. The post is titled, “Classroom Library Check Out System” and is a great read.

In her post, Tess also links to a book that I really want to read–The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller aka “The Book Whisperer”. Both Tess and Donalyn are on Twitter. If you use Twitter, I highly recommend you follow them. They are very knowledgeable and passionate about matching books to readers. A few others who fit this category are Paul W. Hankins, Teri S. Lesesne aka “Professor Nana” and “The Goddess of Young Adult Literature”, and Keith Schoch. If you use Twitter, who do you consider great at matching books to readers?

Well, I thought I would wrap up my TWRCs on this institute today, but I think I will end here instead. I would love to hear what you think about what I have shared so far. I also wonder if you use any of the resources I mentioned or if you think you will use them in the future. How do you teach your students to select books? What do you use for accountability purposes? How do you give your students feedback during this time?

You can find part six here.

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

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

photo of Allington & McGill-Franzen

Allington & McGill-Franzen



This is part four 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.” You can find part three here. In that part, I discussed Devon Brenner’s presentation, “Increasing eyes on text in high-impact schools.”

After Brenner’s presentation, Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen presented, “Why so much oral reading in reading lessons & elsewhere?” If you have ever heard Allington speak, you know he talks very fast and normally does not give a handout. My notes from this presentation are messy and may have some inaccuracies. Here are some interesting points (many of which I have heard/read before):

  • We need to get rid of round robin reading practices. They are still prevalent.

  • In 1910, only 10% of the population graduated from high school. Fewer than 50% completed 8th grade.

  • Silent reading was seen as anti-social.

  • In 1917, Gray wrote a piece stating that silent reading should become the primary reading method.

  • Thorndike knew that lots of kids could bark at print, but they could not comprehend.
  • Note: I often quoted the title of one of Thorndike’s papers without having read it because I was unable to access it. Actually, I quoted it as, “Reading is Thinking.” Well, by researching, “Thorndike” on the Internet today, I found that paper and read it. It is great read. By clicking on the following link, you can access it yourself in many different forms (see the top left hand side of the web page), “Reading as Reasoning: A Study of Mistakes in Paragraph Reading.” (Thorndike, 1917) What a great find!!!! (I added it to the sidebars.)

    The last page of “Reading as Reasoning,” talks about how Thorndike thought silent reading should replace oral reading. After reading this, I looked back at my notes and realized that either my notes were wrong, or both Gray & Thorndike wrote a paper in 1917 advocating silent reading. Being the TWRCr that I am, I could not resist doing a little research to find out. Sure enough, I ran across a paper that says Gray advocated silent reading in 1917, too. This paper comes from an International Reading Association Special Interest Group called, “History of Reading.” The paper is very long, but very interesting, too. If you are interested, you can read all about, “A Short History of United States’ Reading Research and Instruction: 1900 to 2006″ here.

  • The non-oral reading method (which I talked about in part 1) was around in the 1930s–students and teachers never read aloud.

  • Why is there so much oral reading–especially for struggling students all the way to high school? Doing seatwork and workbook pages is not the same as silent reading.

  • Oral reading seems to dominate instruction for students with learning disabilities and in Title I classrooms.

  • DIBELS has been adopted by 39 states without any independent evidence of its efficacy. The test doesn’t test anything that is worth knowing. The focus on rate and accuracy focused teachers on getting kids to “bark at print fast.” (Allington credits Samuels with this phrase)

  • Students cannot cross-check when they attempt to read nonsense words.

  • Teachers interrupt struggling readers to correct them more often than they interrupt good readers. Struggling readers are interrupted on 4 out of 5 words while good readers are only interrupted on 1 out of 5 words. Struggling readers are often interrupted before they even get to the second letter. This fosters word-by-word reading, not fluent reading. The more students are interrupted, the more their error rate increases dramatically. Readers should be given time to reflect and revise.

  • It is impossible to read decodable texts with fluency and they make very little sense.

  • Corrective Reading was designed in the 1960s so that readers were unable to use context or pictures to help read unfamiliar words. It is now owned by McGraw Hill, so it is “scientific.”


Thinking about Allington & McGill Franzen’s presentation title, “Why so much oral reading in reading lessons & elsewhere” along with everything else I heard throughout the institute, I think there is currently more oral reading (especially for struggling students) because it is easier to assess and because the National Reading Panel includes fluency as one of the five pillars of reading instruction. Furthermore, the NRP’s definition of fluency includes the word “expression” which cannot be assessed when a student reads silently. I think with researchers beginning to focus on assessing silent reading more, the times will change. However, considering the fact that researchers have been advocating for more silent reading in the classrooms since the early 1900s, this change seems extremely slow. I find it so hard to believe that Round Robin reading is still prevalent! One teacher even mentioned to Allington that, “I know the research says Round Robin reading isn’t good, but it’s effective for me. It lets me monitor progress.” His thoughts were that, “Yeah, it’s effective. Effective at keeping the teacher in charge.”

I admit that I include oral reading (yes, maybe even too much) when I work with struggling readers. Once I finish writing up my thoughts and notes from the convention, I plan to write more about my work with struggling readers. I am confident in much of what I do, but I often question my use of time because Allington’s voice is always in my head saying, “Struggling readers do not actually read enough in remedial reading classes.” On the other hand, I have read so much research about the many areas in reading where readers struggle and when I work with struggling readers, I find that it is true. I guess this is part of why I love to teach reading and why it can be frustrating all at the same time–there is just so much to think about and consider. I also plan to write about teachers interrupting students while they try to decode. I hope you will share your thoughts–then or now. I would also love to know if you know someone who is still using round robin (or popcorn) reading in the classroom and why.

I didn’t really expect that writing about the convention would take me so long, but it does seem to be going slowly. I am not complaining because I am learning more as I write it up, but I worry that my readers will think that all I will write about is the research. I really want this blog to be helpful to parents, teachers, students, and reading researchers. If you have any questions you would like me to talk about, please let me know on the “Ask Julie” tab. If I don’t hear from you, I will continue on as I have been. Thank you for joining me on my journey.

You can find part five here.

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

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

a photo of Hiebert & Samuels

Hiebert & Samuels



This is part two 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.

The next plenary (whole group) session was presented by S. Jay Samuels. His presentation was titled, “Eye-Movements and Reading: Without them you cannot read.” Again, I believe all presentations will be available on www.textproject.org soon. When they are, I will insert them into each post. If you are not familiar with Samuels’ work on fluency, be sure to check out the links I have for him in the sidebars under, “Fluency.” In addition, if you ever get the chance to hear him speak in person, I highly recommend it–he is extremely intelligent and very funny, too!

As I mentioned in part one, I learned about goggles that can be used to assess silent reading fluency. I just now did a little Internet Research on the silent reading intervention program, Reading Plus. I took the virtual tour and am quite intrigued. I would really love to see it in action. If you are interested, watch the Reading Plus Virtual Tour for yourself. Another thing that has me intrigued is that many of my favorite fluency researchers are on the Reading Plus advisory panel including Elfrieda H. Hiebert, Timothy V. Rasinski and S. Jay Samuels. I also found out what the goggles look like and a little bit more about them. The system is called Visagraph. If you would like to learn more about the Visagraph, you can find out more here.

Samuels was a member of the National Reading Panel (NRP). He stated that he fought hard against putting “no evidence” in the NRP report in regard to the efficacies of silent reading in the classroom, but he lost. I remember at another IRA convention when he mentioned how he wished he included the word “comprehension” into the definition of “fluency” that the NRP used. The definition of “fluency” according to the NRP is this, “Fluency is the ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with proper expression.” At this session, Samuels reiterated, “a fluent reader does two things at the same time–decode and comprehend.”

If you have not read, Toward a Theory of Automatic Information Processing in Reading (Laberge & Samuels, 1974), you should. Unfortunately, it must be purchased. You can read the abstract here. I believe it is this article that helped me understand that our brains only have so much energy and if too much energy is focused on decoding the words, there isn’t enough brain energy left to try to understand what is read (cognitive load theory). On the other hand, that understanding could have come from page 12 of this article that I have included in the sidebars under “Favorite Articles, Charts & Videos,” “Reading Comprehension Requires Knowledge–of Words and the World.” (Hirsch, AFT, Spring 2003) More than likely, it was a combination of both.

Overall, Samuels’ presentation was very interesting, but much of it was a bit over my head since my background knowledge in this area is quite limited. He talked about these things:

  • the history of eye movements in reading

  • scholars who influenced eye movement research

  • a study that was done using Reading Plus

  • eye physiology and reading

  • eye movements (fixations, forward saccades, and backward saccades)

  • some eye problems and reading diagnosis and remediation



One thing I found really interesting was that in the old days to figure out what the eye looked like (I think), they covered people’s eyes in Plaster of Paris. Nice! Another interesting thing was that “each eye fixation can only see about six letters at a time clearly. Consequently, the eye must keep moving from fixation to the next fixation if it wants to read all the words on a line in a text.” It is also interesting that the modern newspaper went from using wide columns to narrow ones. (We lose our place in wide columns.)

Well, that’s it for part two. I wonder if much of this was new to you, too. If you have any experience with Reading Plus, or the eye movement assessment goggles, I would love to hear about it.

You can find part three here.

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

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! :)

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

photo of Hiebert, Reutzel & Pearson

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.”

  • 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:

    • Principal: What are you doing?

    • Reutzel: I’m modeling reading.

    • Principal: Is this news to your children?


    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:

    • 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


    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:

    • 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!



    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:

    • 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.


    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:

    • 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)


    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!!!

    You can find part two here.

    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! :)

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