Repeated Reading Instruction a Powerful and Effective Alternative Teaching Strategy for Students with Learning Disabilities?
This paper discusses how repeated reading instruction is a powerful and effective alternative for teaching reading to students with learning disabilities. When asked about reasonable adaptations that teachers can make to support learning from instructional materials, some of the most frequently cited adaptations are those involving peer support such as cooperative learning groups, student pairing. Studies show that students like working in small groups or being paired with a partner and appreciate it when teachers provide structure in teaching students how to work together and learn from each other. Teachers have utilized the phonics reading method and incorporated the Whole Language technique, but there are many educators in support of using the repeated reading technique as the favored instruction for students who have various learning disabilities.
It is the function of reading instruction to teach students to read and comprehend properly in a safe, warm, and nurturing learning environment while learning to decode, recognize and comprehend the written language. There are many methods of teaching reading and while a teacher may use ideas from several methodologies, usually one theory is applied more frequently than another one. Educators have combined the use of phonics and whole language to create a "balanced program" but while this concept is still used at some level in the classroom, the teacher incorporates their own preference into the instruction of the curriculum. However, repeated reading is the recommended method for teaching students with learning disabilities.
Review of Literature
Teaching reading and methods of teaching reading has been the subject of various opinions throughout the years. While reading appears to be a fairly easy and a natural thing to do, it is actually a complex processes and is anything but natural. In fact, it does not develop incidentally; it requires human intervention and context (Fitzsimmons, 1998). The act of reading is complex and develops intentionally while requiring the bringing together a number of complex actions involving the eyes, the brain, and the psychology of the mind. Students with learning problems generally have average or above average intelligence, however, they have problems performing at the same academic level as their peers. One of the weaker areas is reading with significant deficits often present in memory and metacognition.
The three methods currently explored here are each effective when used properly. While some teachers may integrate each method in various ways for different students or abilities, all three methods teach beginning reading skills to young readers and the teacher must determine which strategy to use for each student. Students have different learning styles, but Kelly (1997) points that children need to learn phonetic sound while Raven (1997) explains that the "analytic and auditory students," benefit from phonics instruction. Students with "visual, tactile and global learning styles" will benefit from the whole language approach.
Cromwell (1997) explains that children who do well in whole-language programs tend to have visual, tactile, and global reading styles. These students are usually classifies as global learners and usually enjoy the opportunity to learn from the popular literature. They also are successful when using manipulatives in lessons and participating in cooperative learning situations. However, if a student is an analytic learner, the whole language approach is an uncomfortable learning style. Cromwell maintains that "if the systematic teaching of phonics doesn't take place, analytic learners can fall behind and fail to develop the tools they need for decoding words."
There are sometimes limitations to teaching reading. One approach to teaching reading may not always work for all students. Therefore, the teacher must be aware of various learning styles and research methods that fit the needs of the student so that successful academic learning takes place. After assessing the situation, the teacher may need to use strategies from different approaches in order to be successful.
Three Methods of Teaching Reading
Phonics - According to the National Institute for Literacy (Lin, 2001), phonemic awareness is the ability to think about and work with individual sounds in spoken languages. Children learn how sounds work before they learn to read. This type of instruction begins by teaching children to categorize the smallest functional unit of speech in words and then progress to more complicated combinations. Once they learn about the first sounds or phonemes, then additional skills are taught and integrated with the development of phonemic awareness, fluency, and text reading comprehension skills.
Whole Language - This approach teaches reading across the curriculum. The whole language method allows children's literature, writing activities, and communication activities to be used in all subject areas to teach reading. Cromwell (1997) explains that by providing as much structure as needed and some step-by-step skill work, especially for analytic students, literature can be exciting and fun. Students should be provided sufficient tools for decoding words, using small amounts of direct instruction in phonics for auditory and analytic learners. Invented spelling lists result from the weekly subject lessons and the use of tape recorded books are a plus.
Repeated Reading - Individuals who have learning disabilities in reading have difficulties decoding or recognizing words such as letter or sound omissions, insertions, substitutions, reversals and also have problems comprehending them in ways such as recalling or discerning basic facts, main ideas, sequences, or themes. They also may display other difficulties such as losing their places while reading or reading in a choppy manner. Some researchers argue that a difficulty with phonological awareness or phonological processing-recognizing sound segments in the spoken word-underlies reading disabilities, and this capability is requisite for understanding the relationship between written letters and sounds (Torgesen & Wagner, 1998). Numerous research studies have documented the impact of repeated reading in improving reading fluency and word recognition accuracy and in playing a significant role in improving reading comprehension (Schumm, 1999).
When using the repeated reading technique, teachers must begin by working with students to develop a reason for using the repeated reading technique. Students can be asked to contribute reasons why they feel we all learn things if we practice them over and over. Students will understand that reading needs to be practiced in order to become a better reader.
By modeling repeated reading, the teacher shows the students that by selecting an enjoyable book to read over several times. The story should be read out loud for the students to hear the teacher's voice and see behaviors that might characteristic of a first reading, such as stopping to focus on difficult words. After finishing the story, the teacher should discuss with the students that areas might have been more challenging than others. Then, the teacher should reread sentences to model how practice will improve a person's reading.
The story should be read a second time for the class, this time showing improvement with words and by adding a greater intonation and expression. It should be explained to the class that by practicing the reading over and over, words would become more easily recognized, fluid, and animated resulting in a greater fluency, thus promoting a greater comprehension and enjoyment.
Comparative Analysis of the Three Reading Methods
Many educators feel that phonics is the key for teaching early reading skills to children. They maintain that young students should learn the sounds for each letter and the rules that accompany many so they may become independent readers where they sound out unfamiliar words. While teaching phonics is still an important concept, one must also understand that the whole language approach is an exciting and interesting method designed to include all subjects when teaching reading. Students learn about science, social studies, and math while participating in their language arts lesson. There are also many supporters of the Balanced Program that combine teaching phonics in the whole language classroom environment.