Reading Fluency Interventions

Now that we have covered intervention ideas for basic reading skills such as phonological awareness and phonics, we are going to move onto the next area of reading: reading fluency.

Reading Fluency

Reading fluency refers to the ability to read text accurately and at an appropriate rate. Fluent readers are able to read orally with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. Reading fluency is important because it allows students to more easily derive meaning from text.

Reading Fluency Interventions

When choosing a reading fluency strategy, it is important to remember that the goal is for students to become better able to read with appropriate rate, accuracy, and expression. This means that we want to choose texts that students are able to decode, but not read fluently. We also want to ensure that students are getting immediate feedback about their skills throughout the intervention period. Students will need frequent practice with fluency. Several reading fluency interventions include: repeated reading, paired reading, and listening while reading.

Repeated Reading

During repeated reading, a student reads a short passage aloud to the teacher. If the student is unable to read a word correctly, the teacher provides the word, and the student repeats it. The student reread the passage at least three times until they are able to read it fluently.

Paired Reading

In paired reading, the teacher pairs the student with someone with similar or higher reading fluency skills. The students then read aloud to each other, taking turns reading by sentence, paragraph, or page as appropriate.

Listening While Reading

With this approach, a student works with a teacher. The student follows along while the teacher reads the passage aloud. The student then reads the passage aloud to the teacher who provides corrective feedback as needed.

The University of Oregon provides helpful information about reading fluency theory and practice. The Florida Center for Reading Research also shares research-based fluency resources. Understanding, Assessing, and Intervening on Reading Problems by Dr. Laurice Joseph is another quality resource that provides helpful information on reading fluency strategies to educators.

Next week, we will discuss the final area that students can qualify for special education under in reading: reading comprehension. Please join us as we cover how to address reading vocabulary and reading comprehension needs.

The Wilson Reading System

Now that we have discussed what structured literacy is, this week we are going to focus on a specific program, the Wilson Reading System. This program is commonly used in northeast Ohio, and it is the program our school psychology practice uses.

The Wilson Reading System

The Wilson Reading System is an intensive reading intervention that is based on Orton-Gillingham principles. It can be used with individuals who are in the 2nd grade or higher who have significant basic reading skill deficits and are not making appropriate progress with reading decoding and/or spelling skills. This often includes students who have been identified as having a specific learning disability in reading and those diagnosed with dyslexia. This program uses a systematic approach to directly teach students the structure of the English language, including syllable types, morphology, sight words, vocabulary, and reading and listening comprehension skills. As students work their way through a highly structured program, they become better able to fluently decode and spell words. It is recommended that students receive hour-long tutoring sessions at least twice a week.

To teach the structure of the English language to students who are not making adequate progress with their current reading intervention, need more intensive literacy instruction, and/or have a language-based learning disability (like dyslexia), every lesson includes instruction in:

  • Phonemic Awareness

  • Decoding and Word Study

  • Sight Word Recognition

  • Spelling

  • Fluency

  • Vocabulary

  • Oral Expressive Language Development

  • Comprehension

Level I Wilson Reading System Certification

Wilson certification is a very rigorous process. Tutors with Level I Certification have successfully completed training for the first half of the Wilson Reading System program (Steps 1-6). Training includes attending workshops, in-person and on-line classes, and a practicum. Through all of this theoretical and practical training, instructors learn about phonology, orthography, morphology, reading fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension in great detail. Wilson refers to professionals who have completed this level of certification as Wilson Dyslexia Practitioners.

Level II Wilson Reading System Certification

Those who have completed the Level I Certification may choose to continue their education by getting Level II certified. Educators with Level II Certification successfully complete workshops, on-line courses, a practicum with an individual student working on steps 7-12, and a practicum with a group of students. This training provides a greater understanding of the Wilson Reading System. Wilson refers to professionals who have completed this level of certification as Wilson Dyslexia Therapists.

How to Choose a Provider

When looking for a provider, it is important to work with someone who has been certified in the Wilson Reading System to ensure that they are following the program as intended (with fidelity). They should also have availability to meet with your student for hour-long sessions at least twice per week. While some individuals may have some familiarity with the program, the certification process is very rigorous, so you can be sure that the professional you are working with has both the theoretical understanding and practical experience to provide Wilson Reading System intervention effectively.

Join us next week as we move from basic reading skills to reading fluency interventions.

Structured Literacy Programs: Instructional Elements

Last week, we discussed the teaching principles of structured literacy. This week, we will discuss the instructional elements that are taught to students participating in structured literacy programs.

Phonology

Phonology is the study of the structure of spoken words. One of the key elements of phonology is phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to distinguish between sounds in words, segment sounds in words, blend sounds in words together, and manipulate sounds in words such as sound deletion. These are foundational skills to strong reading and spelling skills.

Sound-Symbol Association

Once a student is able to manipulate sounds in spoken words, the next step is to master the ability to map sounds (phonemes) to written letters (graphemes) known as the alphabetic principle. In structured literacy programs, students are taught to match letters to sounds which is essential in reading and match sounds to letters which is essential in spelling.

Syllables

Structured literacy programs teach students the six syllable types in the English language. Knowledge of the syllable types allows the student to know the appropriate vowel sound for reading and spelling. Not only are the six syllable types taught, rules of how to divide words into their syllables are also taught to facilitate reading and spelling of multisyllabic words.

Morphology

Morphemes are the smallest unit of meaning in the English language. Prefixes, suffixes, and Latin and Greek base words are all studied for reading, spelling, and meaning. Knowledge of morphology facilitates reading, spelling, and knowledge of the meaning of complex words.

Syntax

Syntax is the set of rules that dictate the function of words in a sentence and the appropriate sequence of those words. This includes the rules of grammar, sentence structure, and the mechanics of written language.

Semantics

Semantics is related to the meaning of language. From the beginning of a structured literacy program, instruction in the comprehension of written language is incorporated.

Both the teaching principles and instructional elements of structured literacy programs are based on the Orton-Gillingham Approach. Some of the most popular programs based on the Orton-Gillingham Approach are the Wilson Reading System, Barton Reading Program, and Lindamood-Bell Program. In Northeast Ohio, one of the most commonly utilized structured literacy programs is the Wilson Reading System. At Achievement Advantage, our tutors use the Wilson Reading System for our intervention services.

Join us next week as we give an overview of the skills that the Wilson Reading System explicitly teaches, how the program works, and qualifications you should look for in an instructor.

Structured Literacy Programs: Teaching Principles

Last week, we talked about interventions that address phonological awareness and phonics needs. While these types of interventions are helpful to many students, the majority of students with a specific learning disability in basic reading and students with dyslexia need a very specific form of intervention to remediate deficits in the areas of word identification and decoding/encoding. This comes in the form of structured literacy. Although there are many structured literacy programs that research has proven to be effective, they all share the same teaching principles which are discussed below.

Systematic and Cumulative Direct Instruction

Structured literacy uses a systematic approach to explicitly teach students how to decode words using a specific scope of material that is covered in a specific sequence to ensure that concepts build on each other in a meaningful way. A systematic approach ensures that the concepts are taught following the logical order of language with the easiest and most basic concepts being taught first before progressing to more difficult concepts. Cumulative instruction means that each portion of the program reviews and builds on the concepts taught previously. With this type of intervention, a child practices a wide range of reading skills that build on each other over time, helping students read more effectively. This means that students work on skills like phonological awareness, sound to symbol association, syllables, and morphology. Each skill is broken down and each component is directly taught to the student with frequent repetition and opportunities to practice the skill to the point of mastery.

Diagnostic Teaching

Diagnostic teaching means that both the informal and formal data that is collected during instruction is utilized to drive subsequent lessons for the students. Both observation and more formalized assessment measures are used to determine which skills the student has mastered to the point of automaticity and which skills should be targeted for further instruction.

Immediate Feedback

Feedback is another important component of structured literacy programs. Because students are working individually with an instructor or in a small group, they are provided immediate feedback throughout the program. This allows the instructor to ensure that students are correctly applying skills and that errors are immediately corrected.

Multisensory Approach

Structured literacy programs use a multi-sensory approach to help students grasp reading skills. This means that the students use of all their senses (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile) to reinforce the systematic sequence of skills that they are learning. Some examples of this are writing letters or words in the air, in sand, or in shaving cream.

The teaching principles outlined above are key elements to what makes structured literacy effective. Next week, we will discuss the instructional elements that are integral to structured literacy programs.

Interventions for Basic Reading Skills

In our last post, we discussed the components of an evaluation to determine the presence of a reading disability. This week, we will cover how to match appropriate instructional strategies to the results of an evaluation.

The National Reading Panel determined that there are five main skill areas that are necessary for reading: Phonemic/Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. Interventions should be developed to align with these main areas and the strengths and weaknesses identified within a student’s evaluation. The most foundational skills should be remediated first or in conjunction with other skill areas because students need to form a strong foundation before we can expect them to complete more complex reading skills.

The five areas identified by the National Reading Panel fall within the different eligibility categories for specific learning disabilities on the Evaluation Team Report (ETR). The ETR indicates that a student with a reading disorder may fall within the following special education categories: Basic Reading Skills, Reading Fluency, and Reading Comprehension.

This week we will focus on instructional strategies that will address the Basic Reading Skills category.

Phonological Awareness Intervention

Phonological Awareness is the most foundational skill related to reading, but it often gets overlooked. It refers to an individual’s awareness of the sound structure of oral language. Depending on the individual’s age and needs, intervention might include rhyming, sound matching, sound blending, and sound segmenting activities.

Phonics Intervention

Phonics is the next skill related to basic reading. It refers to correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters. Phonics intervention might include teaching letter to sound correspondence, high frequency sight words, syllable patterns, etc.

There are several resources that provide fun, engaging research-based activities to address these areas. For example, the Florida Center for Reading Research provides free printable activities based on grade level. Additionally, the University of Oregon also provides information about underlying reading theory and instructional strategies. Understanding, Assessing, and Intervening on Reading Problems by Dr. Laurice Joseph also provides helpful information about strategies that educators can use to address basic reading needs.

Providing these types of intervention in a small-group within a classroom setting can help remediate basic reading skills deficits, especially for those students who may have a mild reading disorder or simply need to fill in some skill gaps. However, many students with more significant reading concerns need a more intensive intervention program.

Next week, we will discuss structured literacy programs, which take a multisensory approach to systematically teach reading skills that students. These types of intensive intervention programs often work well for students with dyslexia and other basic reading skills deficits.

Evaluation for Specific Learning Disorders in Reading

Since we have covered basic information about Specific Learning Disability in Reading and Dyslexia, now we can talk about key components in diagnosing these disorders. There is no one assessment battery to diagnose dyslexia. When choosing your examiner, make sure to go with someone who specializes in learning disabilities. While there is no one test that can diagnose a learning disorder in reading, there are several specific assessment areas that should be examined, and an experienced examiner will be able to choose quality tools to gain information about those areas. The following areas should be considered in all evaluations if you or your child has difficulties with reading.

Phonemic/Phonological Awareness

Phonemic/Phonological Awareness refers to an individual’s awareness of the sound structure of oral language. This skill is measured by examining the client’s ability to manipulate sound. For example, assessments may require clients to identify sounds in words, rhyme, delete sounds from words, etc. While this may seem like a basic skill, it is foundational to reading, and many people who have deficits in phonological awareness have subsequent reading difficulties.

Rapid Automatic Naming

Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN) measures how fast a student can scan an array of visual symbols and encode a phonological response. This is usually measured by clients naming letters, numbers, colors, or other symbols as quickly as possible. This type of task measures the efficient retrieval of phonological information and executing a sequence of operations quickly and repeatedly, which is required when decoding unfamiliar words.

Alphabetic Knowledge

It is also import to assess a client’s sound-symbol correspondence skills. This can be accomplished by measuring the ability to associate sounds (phonemes) with specific letters (graphemes).

Word Identification

Word reading automaticity and decoding accuracy are both important components of word identification. Not only is it important that a client can identify real words, but it is important that they can decode nonsense words as well. Assessing nonsense word reading can be a more accurate measure of decoding words since it is unlikely that the client would have had opportunity to memorize these words. In addition to being able to read phonetically decodable words, an assessment for a specific learning disorder in reading should also evaluate a client’s ability to identify irregular words (sight words).

Reading Fluency

Reading fluency is a measure of how quickly and accurately a client can read. Timed tests are given to see how many words an individual can read within a specific time. Often assessments use word lists, sentences, and/or paragraphs to measure reading fluency.

Reading Vocabulary

Reading vocabulary measures a client’s ability to know what individually read words mean. This is an important task that contributes to overall reading understanding.

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is a person’s ability to understand what they have read. Appropriate reading comprehension assessments will look at how students are able to read a variety of text types and answer both literal and inferential questions about the text.

Listening Comprehension

Gathering information about a client’s listening comprehension skills is important so we can compare scores from listening comprehension and reading comprehension subtests. If reading comprehension is weak while listening comprehension average, it gives us a clue that reading comprehension is likely the issue as opposed to broader comprehension concerns.

Executive Functioning

Executive functioning skills are directly related to an individual’s ability to regulate their behavior in order to achieve a goal or complete a task. Working memory, inhibition, and attention all play a part in our ability to read well and should be evaluated if there are concerns related to any of these areas.

An appropriate evaluation will provide insight into an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Once you are able to identify a student’s area of need, you can plan how to address it. Next time, we will discuss how to match what is found in an evaluation to appropriate intervention services.

Misconceptions About Dyslexia

In our last blog, we shared an overview about what dyslexia is. This week, we will talk about what dyslexia is not. There are many myths and misconceptions about dyslexia and reading disabilities in our society. If we are able to identify those myths and educate others about them, we will move towards being able to provide better services to our students with dyslexia. In our school psychology practice, we commonly hear the following misconceptions about students with dyslexia.

Visual Issues

We often hear people express that students with dyslexia have a visual processing issue that causes reading difficulties. However, we now know that dyslexia is a language-based disability. This means that things related to language processing, such as phonological awareness and sound-symbol skills, are impacted by this disability.

Letter and Word Reversals

Related to vision, many people also believe that dyslexia causes people to reverse letters and/or numbers. While some individuals do reverse their letters, it is only a small percentage. The primary issue is not that an individual with dyslexia sees or writes letters and words backwards, it is that they have language-based difficulties.

Cognitive Deficits

Another myth is that dyslexia means that individuals have cognitive deficits. In fact, many bright, even gifted, students can have dyslexia. Cognitive skills are usually not negatively impacted by dyslexia. Instead, specific skills related to language processing negatively impact reading and spelling skills.

Can’t Learn to Read

Another major misconception is that people with dyslexia can’t learn how to read. It is important to know that with proper intervention services, accommodations, and assistive technology, many students are able to make great strides in learning how to read.

In our following blog, we will address various components that go into conducting a thorough assessments for specific reading disorders.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a term used to describe a Specific Learning Disorder in Reading that expresses itself in a specific way. Dyslexia has been defined by the International Dyslexia Association as:

“a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Unlike oral communication, reading and writing are not natural processes. Over time, humans have created symbols that correspond with sounds as a way to communicate through writing. A variety of areas of the brain are affected by dyslexia, and we can see brain-based differences between those with and without dyslexia. As we see in the definition above, dyslexia is neurobiological in origin, which essentially means that individuals with dyslexia have brains that function in a way that causes difficulty with these skills.

Dyslexia occurs in people from all backgrounds and is not indicative of cognitive deficits. In fact, many bright students are diagnosed with dyslexia. However, certain skills such as phonological awareness, identifying letter sounds, decoding words, and spelling are often impacted.

Dyslexia is a fairly common diagnosis. According the International Dyslexia Association, around 6-7% of school-aged students qualify for special education services under the category of specific learning disability. Of those students who qualify with a learning disability, 85% have primary disabilities in reading and language processing. Of course, people experience differences in severity of dyslexia, and not everyone who has dyslexia qualifies for special education. The International Dyslexia Association has estimated that up to 15-20% of people in the United States exhibits some symptoms of dyslexia.

Our understanding of dyslexia and other reading disorders is constantly evolving as more research is being done in the area. While we have come a long way in our understanding of dyslexia, there are still many common misconceptions about it. Next week, we will address common misconceptions we hear about dyslexia in our school psychology practice.

Specific Learning Disability in Reading

If you and your child’s educational team suspect that they have a reading disability, the team will conduct an Evaluation Team Report (ETR) to determine if the student meets the definition of a student with a disability, as outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). In this step, the team will also have to decide which disability category is most appropriate based on the results of the ETR. Should the data support that your child has a reading disability, they would qualify under the category of Specific Learning Disability.

Specific Learning Disability has been defined by the Ohio Department of Education as:

“a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.”

The Specific Learning Disability category is further broken into more detailed parts based on which exact skills the evaluation shows as an area of need. In the case of reading, your child may qualify under basic reading skills, reading fluency, and/or reading comprehension.

When we look back at our last blog about the five main areas of reading, we can see that they all fit within the ETR categories.

Reading Skills Matched to ETR Reading Disability Categories

Reading Skills Matched to ETR Reading Disability Categories

Basic Reading Skills

Both phonemic/phonological awareness and phonics can be considered basic reading skills. If your child has qualified under basic reading skills, this means that they have difficulty understanding and manipulating sounds in our oral language and/or have difficulty recognizing sound-symbols and common letter patterns when reading. This leads to issues with learning basic reading skills, such as accurately identifying words.

Reading Fluency

If your child has qualified for special education services in the area of reading fluency, this means that they have difficulty reading quickly and accurately with appropriate expression.

Reading Comprehension

Both reading vocabulary and comprehension skills falls under the reading comprehension category. If your child qualifies for special education in this area, it means that they have difficulty deriving meaning from text.

Next week, we will continue our discussion about reading disabilities by discussing dyslexia and its unique characteristics.

Important Areas of Reading Instruction

In 2000, the National Reading Panel, consisting of members of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHC), published a major study, which indicated there are five main areas that should be focused on to teach children how to read efficiently: Phonemic/Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Text Comprehension.

Five Main Skills for Reading: Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension

Five Main Skills for Reading: Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension

Phonological Awareness

Phonemic/Phonological awareness refers to the capacity to identify and manipulate phonemes (the smallest unit of sound) in oral language.

Phonics

Phonics refers to correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters in an alphabetic writing system. This included recognizing letter-sound correspondences as well as common spelling patterns.

Reading Fluency

Fluency refers to the ability to read quickly and accurately with appropriate expression.

Reading Vocabulary

Reading vocabulary refers to understanding the meaning of read words.

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension refers to deriving meaning from written text.

All of these skills build upon each other. For example, we need to have an understanding of the building blocks of oral language before we move on to learning phonics. If we can’t apply alphabetic principals automatically, we likely will not be able to read fluently. We need to be able to read words fluently to be able to identify them and understand the vocabulary. And if we don’t understand the words we read, it will be very difficult to derive meaning from a text. While these skills increase in complexity, students often work on various skills at the same time.

In our upcoming posts, we will explore how these five areas relate to reading disabilities, psychoeducational assessments, and instructional strategies that can help students who need additional support in reading.

Reading at the College Level

Once you have organized yourself (link), your materials (link), and found your optimal study environment (link), the next step is to actually study. In a post-secondary institution, independently reading the assigned content is the first step to preparing yourself for in-class learning and studying for exams.

We highly recommend reading the chapter or assigned reading before attending the lecture that will cover the same topic. Proper scheduling using your syllabus is an important step to make sure that you are able to do this. When you read the material prior to the lecture, it allows you the gain exposure to the information more than once. This is especially important because you must be exposed to information multiple times before it transfers to from your short-term to your long-term memory. If you read the chapter before your lecture, you will have at least three exposures to the material: before the lecture, during the lecture, and during your study time after the lecture. It also allows you the opportunity to solidify new concepts prior to the lecture and develop specific questions to ask during the lecture. Accessing the information prior to the lecture also allows you to process the information with respect to your disability. An example of this would be if you have a reading disability, you are able to listen to an audio recording of the chapter.

When reading advanced level texts, it can be more difficult to read the content, understand the vocabulary, and comprehend the meaning. In order to encourage comprehension, is important to preview the text prior to beginning to read it. When previewing the text, you should read the title and the author’s name and think about the source. Next, skim the Table of Contents to see how the chapter relates to other chapters within the book. Begin by reading the abstract, introduction, and summary or conclusion. Then, read the headings and subheadings while looking at the graphic aids and photographs which will help you to determine the majority of information that will be covered in the chapter. Prior to begin reading, decide which portion is the most important or will be covered by the next lecture and prioritize that part of the chapter.

Below is a list of helpful questions to guide you during the previewing process:

  • Why are you reading this text (i.e. class discussion, background information, exam, or a paper)?

  • How long is this reading?

  • What do graphic aids/photographs tell you?

  • Are there any new terms or concepts?

  • What do I already know about this subject?

  • What you need to know about the text?

  • Turn headings and subheadings into questions and try to find the answers when reading.

Then, decide how much you are going to read, read that portion, and take a quick mental break. Before moving on to the next section, it is essential that you are able to answer the questions that you generated prior to reading. If you are unable to answer the questions, then you should reread the section until you have a thorough understanding. If a particular topic proves difficult for you, it is also appropriate to ask your previewing questions during the lecture.

Taking notes while reading can increase comprehension and improve your retention of information. Next week, we will discuss the importance of note taking and methods for taking effective notes.