Recent reviews of research on summer school show that high quality programs can make a difference in student learning (Harrington-Lueker, 2000). Results of the research point to programs that focus on corrective or accelerated learning have a positive consequence on student learning. There is significant evidence that summer school can help bring many struggling students up to grade level and prevents loss of learning with many others (Denton, 2001; Harrington-Lueker, 2000). While additional time is important, what is more important is what teachers accomplish with that time.
High-quality research-based curriculum and instruction
With a 90 minute block of time for reading instruction, teachers need to focus on the five essential elements of reading identified by The National Reading Panel, (2001) as critical to successful reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. It is vital to define each of these important processes of reading using definitions from Reading Rockets out of the office of Special Education (2004 n. pg.).
Phonemic awareness is the ability to discern, contemplate, manipulate and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. An example of how beginning readers show they have phonemic awareness is combining or blending the separate sounds of a word to say the word ("/d / / o / / g / - dog.").
Phonics is a form of instruction to develop the understanding and use of the alphabetic principle, that there is a predictable relationship between phonemes (the sounds in spoken language) and graphemes, the letters that represent those sounds in written language and that this information can be used to read or decode words.
Vocabulary refers to the words a reader knows and understands. Listening vocabulary refers to the words a person knows when hearing them in oral speech. Speaking vocabulary refers to the words we use when we speak. Reading vocabulary refers to the words a person knows and understands when seeing them in print. Writing vocabulary refers to the words we use in writing.
Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, rapidly, and with proper expression and comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding words, they can focus their attention on what the content means.
Text comprehension is the reason for reading: understanding what is read, with readers reading actively (engaging in the complex process of making sense from text) and with purpose (for learning, understanding, or enjoyment). Comprehension involves the understanding of main idea, support details, inference, and predicting.
Phonemic awareness is the foundation skill that students need to master early in their academic career. It is important for student to master phonemic awareness because it improves a student's word reading and it helps students learn to spell. Through the Dibels assessments (Marion County Public Schools Assessment, 2003) students can be identified as having phonemic awareness weakness, it with this information instruction can be planned and delivered for those students who need more remediation in this skill. Third grade students should have mastered this skill within the first two years of school. According to Hall and Moats (1999) it can take four times as much intervention to improve a child's phonemic awareness reading skills if help is delayed until grade 4 than if it is begun in the first year of school.
This is particularly critical in the area of basic skills instruction (vocabulary development, phonemic awareness, and word recognition). Care should be taken not to emphasize skill instruction based on one single viewpoint or approach. Presenting skills through a narrow scheme of instruction might not be responsive to students' myriad needs in upper grades. Although systematic and explicit skill instruction is appropriate when needed, flexibility in approach is needed (Schifini, n. d.). Once students have mastered phonemic awareness, there is no need to continue instruction in this area. Many teachers use music, poetry, and other activities that have rhyme in the content to teach phonemic awareness. Teachers should spend 10-15 minutes daily on phonemic awareness instruction (Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIEA), 2001).
There has been much debate about phonics instruction. However, recent research has given phonics another look and has determined phonic instruction is needed (Hempenstall, 2002).
Students that master phonics will have the decoding process in hand and can focus on building fluency and comprehension. Use direct, systematic explicit phonics instruction as a primary component of a reading program. CIEA states, "Systematic instruction includes a carefully selected set of letter-sound relationships that are organized into a logical sequence, and explicit are programs that provide teachers with specific directions for the teaching of these relationship" (p.19). The issue is not whether to use phonics or whole language in reading instruction. "Rather, the issue is how phonics is used; as a primary component of a reading program, as well as when we use phonics; at the beginning reading level" (Dakin, A., 1999).
Students who master the decoding process enjoy reading more because they can spend more time on fluency and comprehension. Children who quickly develop competent decoding processes find reading easier because they can concentrate on the meaning of the text. They read more in school and, of equal importance, reading becomes a self-chosen activity for them (Stanovich, 1986). Phonics instruction needs to start in kindergarten and in combination with phonemic awareness instruction. Phonics instruction should occur daily and over a period of two years in the primary grades.
As stated on the previous page there are different types of vocabulary and students really need each type. However, the most important type for improvement of the reading process is reading vocabulary. When students lack a vast reading vocabulary, they are unable to build fluency and comprehension. This situation contributes to what are called "Matthew Effects," that is, interactions with the environment that exaggerate individual differences over time, with "rich get richer, poor get poorer" consequences. Good readers read more, become even better readers, and learn more words; poor readers read less, become poorer readers, and learn fewer words (Stahl, 1999). Indeed, the vocabulary problems of students who enter school with poor or limited vocabularies only worsen over time (White, Graves, & Slater, 1990). Students can receive explicit vocabulary instruction through a variety of methods, such as, modeling, reading to students, and using context clues. It is important to use more than the dictionary as the sole source of learning new and unfamiliar words (Texas Reading Imitative, 2002). Student can also learn vocabulary through oral language and listening to adults read to and with them.
Vocabulary instruction should be a daily practice with in the reading blocks as well as integrated into other subject areas.
For students to become fluent readers they must have mastered the above skills. Students who are fluent will not have to spend time to recognize each letter or each word. Fluent readers will spend their time comprehending the meaning from the text. Students become fluent readers by listening to good role models and practice (Foorman, 2002). Fluency can be further enhanced when students participate in repeated reading and guided repeated orally reading. Using those two strategies are more effective than independent reading. Comprehension is enhanced when a student can fluently and smoothly (Breznitz, & Share, 1992; Fuchs & Maxwell, 1988). In a study conducted by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 44% of the students with low comprehension scores had poor fluency (Pinnell, et al. 1995). Fluency instruction occurs several days a week and should continue until the student becomes proficient with few word recognition errors.
Most researchers will refer to comprehension instruction as text comprehension. Text comprehension refers to gaining meaning from text (National Institute of Literacy, 2002). Students will never master the reading process completely, if they do not master comprehension of text. Without comprehension students will not enjoy reading. Good readers will use reading as a means to gain understanding, information, and pure enjoyment of a good story. Comprehension is the whole purpose for reading. Many teachers simply believe students will automatically comprehend if they are fluent readers. Comprehension must be taught and students must learn comprehension strategies (CIERA, 2001) Comprehension can be taught by explicit instruction, modeling, graphic organizers, summarizing, story retelling, and other organizers (National Institute of Literacy, 2002).
No matter what form of instruction is used it must be flexibly and in combination with literature and expository text.
Reading is the gateway skill to all other learning. Students who struggle with reading will feel the "Matthew Effect" the rich get richer in their reading ability and the poor get poorer in their reading ability (White, Graves, & Slater, 1990).
Students must master the reading process as defined by the National Reading Panel, (2002) a complex system of deriving meaning from print that requires all of the following:
the skills and knowledge to understand how phonemes, or speech sounds, are connected to print; the ability to decode unfamiliar words; the ability to read…