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Dr. Sharon Pitcher Dr. Gilda Martinez Dr. Elizabeth Dicembre With input from Dr. Montana McCormick & Dr. Darlene Fewster. Literacy Needs of Adolescents in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area: A Multiple-Case Study Intended to Inform the Community. Rationale:.

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Dr. Sharon Pitcher

Dr. Gilda Martinez

Dr. Elizabeth Dicembre

With input from

Dr. Montana McCormick & Dr. Darlene Fewster

Literacy Needs of Adolescents in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area: A Multiple-Case Study Intended to Inform the Community


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Rationale:

  • Approximately eight million students in fourth through twelfth grade are reading below grade level in the United States.

  • The National Endowment for the Arts (2007) reports that “little more than a third of high school seniors now read proficiently”.

  • In Maryland, the State Department of Education reports that one-third of their students are reading below grade level.

  • Fifty percent of those students are from Baltimore City, which neighbors our university.


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Rationale:

The recent national report, Crisis in the Cities, demonstrates the seriousness of adolescent literacy problems in our metropolitan area:

  • Forty-seven percent less students graduate from high school in Baltimore City than in the surrounding metropolitan area.

  • This discrepancy is the highest in the nation.


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Research Questions

  • What types of reading instruction are adolescent students receiving?

  • What motivates adolescent students to read?

  • Does the reading instruction match their needs?


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Significance of the Study

Adolescents in Maryland schools today will be the college students and work force of the future. We are beginning to see:

  • The top 10% of students coming from Baltimore City Public Schools struggling in freshmen courses.

  • An increased amount of freshmen needing developmental reading and struggling with writing courses in our university and other colleges in the state, although they have high GPAs in their high schools.


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Significance of the Study to the Baltimore Metropolitan Area

An important mission of Towson University is to:

  • respond to our “state’s socioeconomic and cultural needs and aspirations”

  • “analyze academic trends” and disseminate the results to build bridges between Towson University and educational stakeholders in the Baltimore Metropolitan area.

    Towson 2010 and the University’s Mission Statement (Available on Towson University’s website, www.towson.edu).


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Objective:

This study supports Towson University’s mission by developing snapshots to begin a Metropolitan dialogue on the literacy needs of adolescents.


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Participants:

Seven adolescent students attending the Towson University Reading Clinic in the Spring 2008 session, who were from a variety of school systems in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area, participated in this qualitative multiple-case study.


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Researchers

For this study, we assembled an investigative team with research experience in:

  • Adolescent Literacy

  • English Language Learners

  • Special Education

  • Secondary Education

  • Parent Involvement

  • Curriculum Development

    to look at the data from different perspectives.


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Data Collected:

Students were

  • tested in reading using several assessments

  • interviewed

    Their parentswere

  • interviewed, using questions that paralleled the student interview, to gain a richer description of the students’ reading abilities, motivation, and instruction being provided.


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Reading Assessments:

The following individually administered assessments were used:

  • Qualitative Reading Inventory IV

    (assesses word identification in and out of context, comprehension, and listening capacity.)

  • Lexia Comprehensive Reading Test

    (computer assessment assessing same understandings as the QRI)

  • Metacognitive Assessment

    (assesses how students think about reading)

  • Adolescent Motivation to Read Survey

    (assesses value, instructional approaches and self concept of reading)


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Student and Parent Interviews

Questions for both the students and the parents were similar. The following are some examples from the student interview:

  • What kind of difficulties are you having when you read?

  • Are you taking a reading class in school right now?

  • In what class do you have the most problems reading the assignments?

  • In what classes do you like reading the most?

  • Do you spend much time on the computer?

  • Is reading ever a problem on the computer?


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Data Analysis

  • The assessments, surveys and interviews were coded to study similarities and differences noted among these students and their parents, and compared to reveal like themes that emerged from the individual cases (Flick, 2002).

  • Key words included: motivation, comprehension, instruction, understanding

  • Parent and student interviews were also reviewed to see how they defined reading.


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Case Studies

Among the students:

  • Three girls

  • Four boys

    • Two students from Baltimore City

    • Three students from Suburban County school systems

    • One student from a parochial school

    • One student being home schooled


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Case #1: Tamika’s Background

  • 6th grade– attends public school

  • English Language Learner, originally from South Africa

  • She does not receive extra help in reading, other than having been placed in a reading intervention class using Language!

  • Most common method of instruction she encounters in content area classes – read and answer questions


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Case #1: Tamika’s Perspective

  • Enjoys math class best because there is not much reading involved

  • Spends around 5 hours a day on the computer for enjoyment, reading and writing emails, updating her website, and playing games (and has no problems reading on the computer)

    When asked,

    “What kind of difficulties are you having when

    you read?”

    Tamika responded,

    “Understanding what the topic is about.”

    She knew where she needed help.


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Case #1: Tamika’s Parent’s Perspective

  • Explained that Tamika’s greatest difficulty in reading is comprehension:

    “The difficulties my daughter is having

    is the comprehension part. She can read, she

    can spell, but the comprehension

    part for some reason is hard for her.”

    Tamika was not receiving comprehension

    instruction in school.


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Case #1: Tamika’s Parent’s Perspectivecontinued

  • Stated the teachers did not invite them to a parent conference because she was doing “okay”

  • Explained that Tamika is not challenged in her reading intervention Language! class, but was placed in it as a result of a test (they were notified via mail of this placement)


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Case #1: What we found out about Tamika in clinic

  • Strengths – sight word identification, word recognition, before and after reading strategies, is aware of her needs

  • Needs – vocabulary instruction, during reading strategies

  • Reading comprehension is on a 2nd grade level; word recognition is on grade level

  • Writing – uses capital letters appropriately, complete sentences, correct spelling, but does not elaborate on a given topic

  • Brought student to the Reading Clinic because she was not motivated to read; and according to her mother now enjoys reading as a result


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Case #2: Karl’s Background

  • 7th grade – attends home school

  • Student diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder

  • When he was in public school, he had an I.E.P.

  • Enjoys reading on his porch

  • Keeps up with current events using Google


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Case #2: Karl’s Perspective

  • Spends about 3 hours a day on the computer emailing friends, using myspace, reading the news (has no problems reading on the computer)

    When Karl was asked,

    “Is reading ever a problem on the computer?”

    His response was simply,

    “Uh, no.”


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Case #2: Karl’s Parent’s Perspective

  • He is home-schooled to ensure instruction matches his needs

  • His mother uses the Beckham curriculum (which consists of reading and answering questions) and supplements it with reading and researching online

  • Stated self-selected readings and journaling are helpful in reading class

  • Believe Karl needs to improve his writing skills


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Case #2: What we found out about Karl in clinic

  • Strengths – motivation to read self-selected texts

  • Needs – decoding,vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency instruction

  • Word recognition and reading comprehension are on a 2nd grade level

  • Writing – needs instruction in grammar, punctuation, and how to expand ideas

  • Does not use before, during, or after reading strategies

  • Attended the Reading Clinic to improve overall reading skills. He improved in making connections while reading, thinking aloud, and visualization.


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Case #3: Kathy’s Background

Case 3: Kristen

  • Is an eighth grade student in a public school in a suburban school system bordering Baltimore.

  • Was diagnosed with Autism at a young age.

  • Has an IEP and is receiving small group reading instruction.

  • Does not receive reading support in Social Studies or Science.

  • Enjoys playing the piano and basketball, horseback riding and acting in a theater group.

  • Wants to be a librarian when she grows up.


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Case #3: Kathy’s Perspective

Kathy’s Perspective

  • Really liked reading in elementary school because she could read books she liked but middle school is very different.

  • Enjoys making bookmarks as presents using the Internet to find pictures and designs.

  • Uses the Internet to search topics she is interested in and to shop.

  • Uses the computer to write letters to pen pals.

  • Seems to understand more of what she reads on the computer.

  • Has the most problems reading in Science.

  • Likes going to the library the most in school because she can choose books she likes.


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Case #3: Kathy’s Parents’ Perspective

  • Researched autism, sought professional help, and have a strong understanding of her strengths and needs.

  • Believe Kathy needs a very visual /kinesthetic learning approach.

  • Realized that “Kathy’s vocabulary is limited” but she needs to make connections with the words in context rather than “just reading a definition on paper” (Kathy’s mom shared).

  • Are frustrated that the school refuses to let Kristen use the computer in school because they feel it would be distracting to her.


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Case #3: Kathy’s Parents’ Perspective continued

  • Tried to share with the school how well she learns on the computer but the school ignores them.

  • The father shared“…Here’s the window to this child and no one can take advantage of it. At three years old, we sat her down in front of the computer and now she writes her own stories.”


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Case #3: Kathy’s Parents’ Perspective continued

Her father:

  • Serves on an advocacy group for parents of children in Special Education.

  • Discovered that the reading program her school uses is not research-based, focuses on word identification with a weak comprehension component, is predominantly auditory based, and has no computer component. When he shared this with teachers, he got “the deer in the head lights stare”.

  • Shared that they want to partner with Kathy’s school but constantly receive resistance from the school’s faculty. He remarked that “they can’t answer the hard questions”.


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Case #3: What We Learned About Kathy in Clinic

  • Her word recognition level is on Grade 6 but her instructional comprehension level is on Grade 1.

  • Her writing demonstrated understanding of complete sentences, correct punctuation, capitalization and grammar.

  • When her metacognitive understanding of reading strategies were assessed, she could not verbalize any strategies.


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Case #3: What We Learned About Kathy in Cliniccontinued

Her Reading Clinic teacher reported:

  • Kathy responded very positively in Clinic when strategies were taught using pictures, writing and story maps.

  • Teaching her explicitly to make connections when reading with visual organizers was very successful.

  • Expanding her vocabulary was an important part in improving her comprehension.


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Case #4: Leon’s Background

  • 7th grade student in a K-8 School

  • Lives in Baltimore City

  • Has never been retained or received extra academic help in school and has been placed in gifted/talented classes

  • Does attend a voluntary coaching class after school

  • He likes to play football and basketball

  • His mother is a Baltimore City school teacher

  • His father once played for a professional football team and Leon would like to do the same


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Case #4: Leon’s Perspective

  • Likes to read when he has a choice of what he reads

  • Likes to play games on the computer but has had some problems reading directions

  • Does not like to read aloud because he had trouble stuttering when he was younger, but this is often done in his classes


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Case #4: Leon’s Perspective Continued

  • Has the most problem reading in science class

  • Understood that he has a comprehension problem. He shared that “Before I started the Towson Clinic, I really didn’t understand what I read. Yes, I feel like I can understand a lot more than I did before. Yes.”


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Case #4: Leon’s Parent’s Perspective

His mother:

  • Felt her son had a problem with comprehension but he always scored “Advanced” on the Maryland State Assessment

  • Was concerned that the school does not do “a lot of in-depth studies and research” and that her son is not learning “higher order thinking” skills

  • Is concerned that her son is in overcrowded classes with “new teachers who come and go”


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Case #4: Leon’s Parent’s Perspective continued

  • Knows that her son needs a more hands-on approach like he is getting in Clinic where he is using visual organizers and able to “synthesize and evaluate all levels of thinking”

  • His school does not provide tips on how parents can help their children and has not explained what type of curriculum they are using


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Case #4: Leon’s Parent’s Perspective continued

  • Shared that she wanted her son to go to a well-known private school in the city next year, but they wanted him to repeat 7th grade, which surprised her

  • Her son was very excited about coming to the Clinic; he does his work for Clinic without being reminded and “is finally starting to put things together”


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Case #4: What We Learned About Leon in Clinic

  • Reading comprehension level was three grades below his grade level on two different assessments

  • The only strategies he was able to verbalize were sounding out and predicting

  • Although his word identification was higher than comprehension, it was still two grade levels below his grade level


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Case #4: What We Learned About Leon in Clinic continued

  • He read higher orally than silently but is very self-conscious reading aloud because of his early stuttering

  • His self-concept as a reader was higher than his value of reading when he started Clinic


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Case #4: What We Learned About Leon in Cliniccontinued

  • Responded best in Clinic when his interests were considered in selecting reading materials

  • Did well when comprehension strategy instruction included hands-on activities such as visual organizers and writing notes while reading

  • Over the course of ten weeks of instruction of one hour per week he improved his reading approximately three grade levels


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Case #5: Sam’s Background

Enrolled in grade 6 in a public school in Baltimore City

No chronic illnesses, vision or hearing problems

Loves sports, especially basketball

Father describes him as a gifted athlete

Makes good grades in school

Received support from a one-on-one reading specialist two days a week in grade 5


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Case #5: Sam’s Perspective

Does not read for pleasure

States that sometimes he does not understand what he reads

Believed reading was easier when he was 6 years old and he had pictures to help him

Described his reading class as consisting of a drill, “talking about something, reading a book, and finally doing tests on the book”


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Case #5: Sam’s Perspective continued

Indicated that the reading strategies he uses are reading aloud, rereading, and taking notes

Likes reading class best when they get to talk about what they read

When asked, “When do you like reading the most?”

Sam responded, “ When I like the book and it’s about what I like . . . like basketball.”


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Case #5: Sam’s Parent’s Perspective

Expressed concern about Sam’s reading based upon observations made at home when he is reading to complete his homework

Believe Sam has a limited vocabulary and difficulty understanding what he reads

Stated that Sam has always tested on grade level


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Case #5: Sam’s Parent’s Perspective continued

Stated that Sam does not understand the value in working at something

Stated that Sam does not spend much time on the computer

Stated that Sam has “difficulty with comprehension wherever – whether in print or on the computer, in retelling important story events in order


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Case #5: What we found out about Sam in clinic

Reading comprehension at 5th grade level

Strengths – phonics and decoding, knowledge and use of before reading strategies, motivated to succeed, positive attitude toward to school and clinic

Needs – during and after reading strategies, vocabulary development


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Case #6: Stacy’s Background

  • Enrolled in the sixth grade in a private school in Baltimore County, Maryland

  • Lives with biological parents and two siblings

  • Is an avid reader

  • Enjoys trips to bookstores and the public library

  • Is involved in many extra-curricular activities

    • Basketball and softball

    • Girl Scouts


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Case #6: Stacy’s Perspective

  • Stacy reports that

    • She reads chapter books in class and a choice is offered to students

    • She “likes working on the computer in reading class”

    • She likes reading in one content area, math

    • In class, she reports

      • “no one really reads with me”

      • “It’s not like a one-on-one thing”

      • “I like to read books”


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Case #6: Stacy’s Parent’s Perspective

  • Areas of difficulty for Stacy

    • “comprehension and motivation”

    • “can read but has trouble with comprehension”


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Case #6: Stacy’s Parent’s Perspective continued

  • Comments showed a concern that there is a disconnect between the reading instruction that Stacy receives and her reading needs

  • “Stacy has a positive self-concept about her reading”


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Case #6: What we found out about Stacy in clinic

  • Word identification is on grade level and reading comprehension is on a 2nd grade level

  • She has a very high self-concept as a reader (however, she did not realize that she was not understanding what she was reading)

  • Needs

    • “during” and “after” reading strategies

    • Retelling story details

    • Identifying the main idea

    • Decoding multisyllabic words


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Case #7: Andrew’s Background

Fourteen-year old male in the 8th grade

Second time in Towson Reading Clinic

Enrolled in public school in a suburban school district

Will attend a science magnet school program

Never diagnosed with medical issues that might influence reading or academics


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Case #7: Andrew’s Background

Continued

  • Student athlete (football and basketball)

  • Makes good grades in school, but often

  • loses motivation towards the end of the

  • school year

  • Has worked with a reading specialist from

  • grades 1 through 6

  • Works with a private reading tutor every

  • Saturday


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Case #7: Andrew’s Perspective

Loves to discuss sports, read about sports, and find athletic-themed clothing styles online

Has difficulty remembering what he reads, particularly in language arts class

Noisy classrooms make it harder for him to read

In language arts class: “The teacher picks the stories and books, sometimes has class discussion, but mostly students answer questions about reading”


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Case #7: Andrew’s Perspective continued

Frustrated with teachers: They need to “start teaching and explaining things!”

When he cannot remember what he reads or does not understand, he goes back and re-reads

Has the most problems with comprehension in language arts (yet mother indicated problems in science)

Considers himself an “OK” reader, prefers to have choice in reading selections, and enjoys reading on computer


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Case #7: Andrew’s Parent’s Perspective

Frustrated with the schools and seeks out alternative instruction for Andrew

Enrolled Andrew in a magnet high school but concerned that Andrew will struggle

“That’s what worries me. I don’t want to set him up for failure and that’s why I’ve been trying to give him all types of help. I’ve been looking for programs for the summer. Everything will be academic for the summer because I have to give him what he is not getting in school.”


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Case #7: Andrew’s Parent’s Perspective continued

Feels that most of Andrew’s academic problems stem from lack of motivation

Stated that Andrew’s grades were slipping in science and attributed this to not being able to comprehend the science texts

Stated that history and math textbooks are the only texts brought home

Frustrated that the teachers do not communicate with her more


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Case #7: Andrew’s Parent’s Perspective continued

“Everything else is handouts. The tutor questioned it last year and she actually spoke to one of the teachers and was told that the school has no funding…because they are frustrated with the school and the principals, they are just teaching basics. And, these kids are not learning anything. They are not learning. The school has not passed the MSA testing for 3 years.”


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Case #7: Andrew’s Parent’s Perspective continued

“They are just not doing anything and it is sad. They don’t call me. They don’t tell me anything. I don’t care if you have 50 kids in your class. 10 out of 50 may be doing good. Let me follow up. I don’t think they have phone numbers because they never have called me.”


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Case #7: What we found out about Andrew in clinic

Reading comprehension at 6th grade level

Strengths – word recognition

Needs – vocabulary, comprehension strategies while he is reading, monitoring comprehension, writing development


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Students’ View of Reading

Reading in class consists of:

  • Reading and telling what the story was about

    • “…like fill out a paper …say it was like adventure…we read books and do a biography on them.”

  • Answering questions about the reading

    • “The teacher picks what we read and we mostly answer questions about it.”

  • Taking turns reading out loud

    • “Sometimes we have group reading. We just read books, read out loud.”

  • Occasionally we have discussions


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Students’ View of Reading continued

What makes reading hard or easy:

Noise in the classroom (quiet helps)

  • “When I’m by myself and it’s quiet. When it’s noisy, like in class, it’s harder to read.”

    Pictures help

  • “Uh, history….well, it’s because lots of pictures.”

  • “Um, when I look at the pictures. It makes it more easy to understand what I’m reading.”

    The words (both recognizing them and knowing the vocabulary)

  • “Like if something is stated hard and like the words are complicated – it’s more hard for me to understand it. If the words are easy and simple, I can understand it more clearly.”


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Students’ View of Reading continued

What teachers do to help students understand:

More discussion

  • “…help me think out loud.”

    Help with vocabulary

  • “When the teacher goes over it, explains things, and helps with words you don’t understand.”

    Give students choice

    Help students relate the reading to their own lives

  • “she made the lessons more fun…it was just like regular work, but she compared like with people we want to get with, that made it fun.”

    Individual attention

  • “Yes, that there was a person there to review with you.”

  • “…the teacher…pays attention to every student.”


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Students’ View of Reading continued

Reading in content areas – comments were varied:

  • “Math. Like if we’re on a certain topic like if we were doing fractions or something like that and there’s like 10 pages about it and there’s a test you can take in the book for review.”

  • “Math. Cuz, it’s little reading and math you just use numbers and not a lot of reading.”

  • “I have to say science because our science class was so big, and I have to talk louder. Like basically scream.”


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Parents’ View of Reading

  • All of the parents explained their children’s reading problems were about comprehending what they read

  • Parents all commented in some way about their children’s difficulty understanding what they were reading in content areas

  • One father shared that his son had “Difficulty understanding the text. He reads the words. He does better at reading the words than understanding the words.”


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Parents’ View of Reading Continued

  • Some of the parents were also concerned their children needed vocabulary development to comprehend texts

  • Most of the parents realized that motivation to read played a part in how their children comprehended

  • When their children read books of choice or on the computer, they did not seem to struggle as much


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Parent’s View of Reading Comprehension Strategies

  • Kathy’s mother realized that when she read with her daughter that she has to “relate something we are reading to a real life situation”

  • A father shared that his son “has to see the value of the process”

  • Another parent shared that her son was not being challenged to think critically


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Results - Students

Overall students:

were aware they had difficulty with reading comprehension

enjoyed reading when they self-selected it

could read without any problems on the computer

rarely used the computer (if at all) while in school

enjoyed games on the computer and in school

were not motivated by their reading instruction at school

could articulate reading strategies at the end of the clinic experience

struggled most with reading in social studies and/or science


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Results - Parents

Overall parents stated:

there was limited home-school communication

reading programs were not explained

their child did not struggle to read on the computer

their child enjoyed reading on the computer

the reading instruction at school did not meet their child’s needs


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Recommendations for Instruction

  • Teach reading to adolescents by focusing on their needs rather than solely following programs

  • Focus on comprehension strategies until they become internalized

  • Apply comprehension instruction in the content areas as well as in language arts

  • Provide time for self-selected reading

  • Use the computer to enhance instruction


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Recommendations for Parent Involvement

  • Inform parents about the reading instructional plans for their children

  • Listen to parent voices when making instructional decisions for students

  • Create a partnership with parents through ongoing communication


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Limitations of the Study

  • We cannot generalize to other students beyond these seven students

  • Data were collected towards the end of a semester-long reading clinic, so students were well-versed in reading strategy terminology

  • Parents of these students may not be representative of other parents because these parents actively sought their child’s participation in the Towson University Reading Clinic


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Disseminating What We Learned

These case studies:

  • Are snapshots that share what these adolescents and their parents know, believe or understand

  • Can begin a very important dialogue in our state

  • Could be used as a bridge between our university and surrounding school systems to create future partnerships on how to change adolescent literacy instruction in schools


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Disseminating What We LearnedContinued

We plan to:

  • Design a brochure to share the stories of these students with school systems in Maryland

  • Share the stories at state conferences

  • Offer to present this information to secondary school administrators and faculty in school systems in the Baltimore metropolitan area

  • Begin a dialogue on what adolescents need in as many venues in our metropolitan area as possible


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We Aim to…

Encourage administrators to:

  • Move away from one-size-fits-all programs

  • Align instruction to match the needs of the students

  • Create literacy experiences that will make differences in the lives and academic success rates of adolescent students

  • View parents as collaborative partners


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Continuing the Research

  • After presenting our study at local conferences, we will ask the participants to fill out a survey on their perception of the state of adolescent literacy in their school systems. Attendees at these conferences often include teachers, reading specialists and administrators.

  • Compile the results of the surveys and also share it with educational stakeholders to continue the dialogue.


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To obtain this presentation, visit:

http://pages.towson.edu/gmartine/

If you want more information about this study, contact Sharon Pitcher at:

[email protected]


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References

Alvermann, D. E. (2003). Seeing themselves as capable and engaged readers: Adolescents and re/mediated instruction. Naperville, IL: Learning Point.

Biancarosa, G. & Snow, C. E. (2004). Reading next—A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Cassidy, J. & Cassidy, D. (2008). What's hot, what's not for 2008. Reading Today, 25(4), 10-11.

Conley, M. W., & Hinchman, K. A. (2004). No child left behind: What it means for U. S. adolescents and what we can do about it. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 48, 42-50.

Holmberg, B. & Pitcher, S.M. (2008). [Motivation of developmental reading students in Maryland colleges.] Unpublished raw data.

National Endowment of the Arts (2007). To read or not to read: A question of national consequence. Washington, DC: National Endowment of the Arts. Retrieved February 19, 2008 from http://www.nea.gov/research/ToRead.pdf

National Governor’s Association (2005). Reading to achieve: A governor’s guide to adolescent literacy. Washington, DC:NGA Center for Best Practices. Retrieved February 19, 2008 from

http://www.nga.org/Files/pdf/0510GOVGUIDELITERACY.PDF

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