Improving Student Reading Skills Essay

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Curriculum and Instruction

Compare and contrast the bottom-up curriculum and the top-down curriculum. Discuss instructional objectives, materials, learning environment, instructional strategies, and assessment.

The top-down belief system related to curriculum centers on reading for meaning. Teachers who hold this philosophy of reading instruction stress engaging language arts activities that students find relevant and interesting. Indeed, teacher with this top-down perspective of reading curriculum are likely to encourage students to select their own reading materials in order to optimize the students' enjoyment of reading. The shift in this approach is definitely away from a focus on individual words, letters, and phonetics. Although teachers who embrace the top-down belief system want students to be proficient readers with robust skills that enable them to enjoy their reading, these teachers tend to believe that what motivates students to work hard on their reading skills is a strong appetite for story. Accordingly, their instruction targets sentences, paragraphs, and selections of text that are crucial to story meaning, and these are the language units that receive the bulk of their instructional attention (Vacca, et al., 2012, p. 40). Students are guided to work on passage comprehension and these teachers generally refrain from correcting word errors.

Teachers who hold a bottom-up philosophy of reading instruction tend to emphasize sequential, systematic approaches to reading (Vacca, et al., 2012, p. 40). These teachers believe that it is important for students to recognize and be able to correctly pronounce each word in order to comprehend the passages they read. Teachers who prefer a bottom-up approach to curriculum are apt to engage students in re-reading passages in order to build fluency and strengthen their word recognition skills. Generally, teachers who consider total word recognition critical to understanding passages being read will not hesitate to correct word pronunciation in the oral reading sessions they conduct with students.

Pretend you are a teacher in a diverse classroom. Explain what you would do to encourage students to learn English but still not abandon their own cultures.

Relevance is one of the strongest determiners of attention and of motivation. As reader, we love best the books that are relevant to our own existence. Favorite movies are often about people like us in some important way -- though the protagonists may not resemble us at all in appearance, they often mirror our deepest hopes, persistent fears, and highest aspirations. Protagonists that are likeable are most often like us. This same principle of relevance applies to teaching English to diverse learners. Students from different cultural, ethnic, or national backgrounds must be able to find themselves in the curriculum materials they are expected to use to learn English and, of course, the content in the subject matter they are currently studying. For these reasons, my selection of instructional materials -- or enrichment curriculum materials -- would meet this criteria of relevance.

Access to and use of technology is a key motivator for learning -- not just the ins-and-outs of the technological device itself -- but for discovering all manner of new facts, ideas, and cultural artifacts, such as art, drama, literature, and, of course, music (Vacca, et al., 2012, p. 82). As a teacher in a diverse classroom, I would find ways to integrate the use of popular technology as an avenue to learning English and appreciating different cultural perspective and contributions.

Write a letter to parents explaining at least 4 ways (2 informal and 2 formal) of how you will assess your students. Justify your response.

Dear Parents,

Our class is working hard to develop reading skills. One of the ways that teachers can help students learn to read is by using appropriate and proven methods of assessment. As we go about the process of assessing the reading skills of our students, we will use two different types of tools: Formal reading assessment tools and informal methods of assessing reading.

Our school district uses several formal reading assessment tools:

1. Standardized tests are use to make comparisons between the reading performance of students in our schools with the reading performance of students in other locations or states, and at a national level. The standardized tests used in our district are norm-referenced. That is to say that these standardized tests compare student performance according to norms, which represent average scores in student samples that are representative of the larger population of students in all the important ways.

2. Criterion-referenced tests are also used in our district. Instead of comparing students to students in the manner of norm-referenced standardized tests, criterion-referenced tests measure the degree to which a student can or cannot perform a desired skill or demonstrates a particular competency. The important use of criterion-referenced tests is that they provide a window into students' strengths and weaknesses in particular areas.

In my classroom, I also employ several methods of informal assessment of reading performance.

3. Informal reading inventories (IRI) are used in our classroom to measure performance of students on specific areas of instruction. For example, informal reading inventories include the word lists, reading passages, and comprehensive questions that are specific to our student's grade-level. One strong benefit of the informal reading inventories is the way it helps teachers make decisions about which reading materials to use with students in order to get the best fit and maximize students' opportunities to improve their reading skills.

4. Oral reading miscue analysis is used in our classroom to help figure out why students engaged in oral reading make errors. Researchers have learned that when readers say something that is not printed on the page, their own thinking and their own acquired language combine to construct the ideas that readers perceive the author of the passage is trying to convey. In this sense, miscues are not errors. Rather they are ways students' cognitively attempt to make sense of the reading in which they engage. We measure oral reading miscues quantitatively (by how many miscues occur) and qualitatively (by the differences between the miscues and the words on the page). Both measures of oral reading miscues help teachers determine how to help students become more proficient readers.

Don't worry if this seems like a lot of information to take in all at once. As we work on our reading skills in class and practice at home, each type of assessment will become clearer -- and you will see the outcomes of both the formal and the informal assessments in which your child is engage.

As always, I stand ready to answer any questions you may have and would welcome a visit from you to take a look at the tools and materials we use in our classroom to help your child become a strong reader.

Thank you for reading this, and best regards, [Signed]

*Information for this response was derived from a review of pages 187, 191, 192 and 196 of Vacca, et al.

Name and explain 3 strategies you would use to help struggling readers develop vocabulary knowledge and concept development.

Learning vocabulary and developing concepts are two sides of the same coin. Consider the information that you find when you look up a word in the dictionary, which today is more likely to be an online version of a dictionary than an actual print dictionary. Words are defined in a dictionary in a standard manner that incorporates clues and facts about the words in a variety of forms: pronunciation (which often includes auditory pronunciation in digitized dictionaries; click on the speaker symbol and the word is spoken by a native speaker, and it can be replayed over and over again), word origin, plural forms, and one or several examples of the word used in a sentence. Thus, it seems the dictionary provides a model for vocabulary knowledge from which teachers can borrow. For instance, when constructing a Word Wall on which to display and organize new vocabulary words, the categorical arrangement could be something other than the initial letter of the word. New information about words could be conveyed by organizing new words by language of origin, or types of words (things, living things, actions, places, characteristics) (Vacca, et al., p. 303-306). Perhaps new word concepts could be introduced in a mind map fashion, in which different attributes of a noun or pronoun are visually linked. Various combinations of the new vocabulary words and the word concepts can be used to illustrate how a concept is built and can change according to how it is used in a sentence.

Human beings gravitate toward and mentally construct patterns. Some of these patterns become cognitive frameworks that we use to interpret and organize information. Students can learn to create and use schemata as a type of heuristic for building vocabulary and developing concepts. For instance, consider the word bulldog. One schematic using the word bulldog could center on types of dogs -- a concept that is easy to illustrate visually. A second schematic using the word bulldog could focus on ways that people use to influence one another, in which case the…[continue]

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