Misconceptions About Struggling Readers
There are four lies/misconceptions about struggling readers that have become embedded in school systems, said Terrie Noland, Vice President of Educator Initiatives, during an edWebinar sponsored by Learning Ally, “School leaders are just following along and are starting to believe them.” These misconceptions are having a detrimental impact on struggling readers, and school leaders need to set the tone and build a school culture where best practices and evidence-based research are shared to create a system of support for all readers.
- Struggling readers have a lower cognitive capacity than typical readers
All students have similar cognitive capacities in their brains, however, the connections to learning are different in the brain of a struggling reader. These students need a specific type of fluency intervention for them to make connections to the cognitive capacities in their brains that lead to learning. The four elements of fluency that launch students into the cognitive process are rate, automaticity, accuracy, and prosody. By building these skills, students start to develop their neuro-networks and move to the learning area of the brain.
- Lower expectations for students that are falling behind due to reading
The belief that lowering reading expectations benefits struggling readers not only hurts students’ competency but under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) is against the law. In the case Endrew F. v Douglas County School District, the Supreme Court ruled that “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives” and that “goals should be as ambitious as is reasonable for the student.” Setting a low bar is not a recipe for reading success. Schools need to set challenging goals for students with disabilities while also scaffolding up the content. Giving struggling students individualized tools and accommodations, enables them to reach their learning potential and be given the same assessments as non-struggling students.
- Our curriculum needs to embed leveled reading no matter the goal
Leveled reading must have a specific purpose and intent when used as a tool for struggling readers. Using predictable text that utilizes repeated patterns provides students opportunities to practice the taught skills. Controlled text where the text is written with words that utilize decoding skills can be used to help students move onto the cognitive process. Leveled texts where stories and informational text that has been written to control the level of difficulty and some aspect of skill application provide students with guided reading instruction to practice skills necessary to read non-leveled content when back in the classroom.
- Audiobooks are cheating; students should be taught to read
Noland agrees 110% that students should be taught to read. However, when struggling students use audiobooks correctly, it can dramatically increase their reading skills. Audiobooks do not replace explicit instruction in reading that scaffolds and models oral reading strategies. Audiobooks should be used to support struggling readers’ reading-skill development as it reinforces the development of fluency, hearing, vocabulary and builds the comprehensive and cognitive capacity. Human-read audiobooks should be used to support struggling readers when it comes to hearing what is going on in a particular book because it models oral reading skills.
This edWeb broadcast was sponsored by Learning Ally.
This article was modified and published by eSchool News.
About the Presenter
Terrie Noland’s greatest strengths lie in the ability to motivate, inspire, and create enthusiasm in others to be passionate educators that support the diverse needs of students. Terrie serves as the vice president of educator initiatives for Learning Ally, where she works to develop engagement programs, professional learning services, and communities for educators. Her passion is working with educators to create dynamic classrooms, and recognizing educators in their tremendous efforts. Terrie has more than 25 years of experience as both a motivational leader and developer of content for educators and administrators. Her focus for the past six years has been on the pedagogical practices needed to create effective environments for struggling readers and students with dyslexia. She has the opportunity to lead and facilitate groups numbering in the thousands, helping to build a better understanding of working with struggling readers and students with dyslexia. Terrie is certified as an academic language practitioner and is currently working towards a Ph.D. in literacy, with an emphasis in educational leadership from St. John’s University.
Join the Community
Empowering Struggling Readers is a free professional learning community on edWeb.net that provides educators, administrators, special educators, curriculum leaders, and librarians a place to collaborate on how to turn struggling readers into thriving students.
Learning Ally is a leading ed-tech, nonprofit proven to transform the lives of struggling readers. We provide access to grade-level content to bridge the gap for students with learning differences who can cognitively comprehend the information but read below grade level. Our high-quality, human-read audiobooks coupled with a suite of teacher resources is a cost effective solution for your school.