Artfully Teaching the Science of Reading
eBook - ePub

Artfully Teaching the Science of Reading

Chase Young, David Paige, Timothy V. Rasinski

  1. 184 pagine
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Artfully Teaching the Science of Reading

Chase Young, David Paige, Timothy V. Rasinski

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This inviting book is a bridge between two major strands of reading instruction that are often held in opposition: the science of reading and artful approaches to teaching reading. Although the current climate of literacy instruction positions these approaches as diametrically opposed, the authors Young, Paige, and Rasinski describe how teachers can use the science of reading to engage students in artful, engaging, and authentic instruction. The authors reveal how effective teaching is a dynamic process that requires agency and creativity and show how teachers make artful shifts based on the needs of students in specific contexts. Chapters include a range of examples and explanations of how artful teaching is integrated into reading instruction and how it can increase students' motivation and positive attitudes toward reading. The concise and practical chapters cover key topics, including phonemic awareness, reading fluency, vocabulary, assessment, home and family reading, and more.

This essential road map for all pre-service and in-service reading teachers restores the importance of teacher agency, supports the critical understanding of reading research, and allows teachers to use their knowledge, experience, and creative approaches in the classroom. This is the definitive guide to teaching reading as both an art and a science.

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1 Teaching ReadingA Science, but Also an Art

DOI: 10.4324/9781003218609-1
“I learned from my college courses in reading that fluency was a critical need for developing readers,” says second grade teacher Sheely Kincaid, “and one of the best ways to improve fluency was to have students do what was called repeated reading or read one text several times. However, the way it was explained in class was that the purpose for the repeat readings was to have students read faster every time. That seemed kind of off for me. I’m trying to turn students into good readers, not necessarily fast readers.” So Sheely decided to take a different approach to repeated readings. Every Monday, she would assign a new poem to pairs of students. “Then, throughout the week, we would ‘rehearse’ our poems – I would model the reading, read with students, and give them feedback and encouragement. We only spent maybe 10 to 15 minutes per day practicing our poems.” Then, every Friday, students would perform their poems for classmates and other guests.
It was a great way to end the week. Students felt like stars and had a natural motivation to rehearse their assigned texts. And, the rehearsal wasn’t focused on reading fast, but reading with good expression that helps to convey the meaning of the poem. Here’s the best part: I can’t believe how students have improved. By midyear, every one of my students had met the winter benchmark for oral reading fluency (words correct per minute). Not once did I ask my students to practice reading fast!
Sheely’s story is a great example of what we mean by scientific and artful teaching of reading. Reading fluency has been validated by scientific research to be a critical competency for success in reading, and repeated reading has been found to be, again through scientific research, a viable and effective approach to improving fluency (and, in doing so, also improving overall reading proficiency). But rather than employ the common and somewhat artificial goal of increasing reading speed (as reading speed is one of several fluency measures), Sheely chose to consider a more authentic form of repeated reading – rehearsal in anticipation of a performance. Her results have been quite positive – students improve in the scientific measures of fluency, but also demonstrate a good deal of motivation and joy in reading for authentic purposes.
Let’s face it: student achievement in reading has been relatively stalled for the past three decades. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has reported that reading achievement has been flat for over 30 years for both fourth grade and eighth grade students, the two grade levels assessed, in the United States. Moreover, the same NAEP report indicates that a substantial number of fourth and eighth graders read at a level considered below “proficient.” This is not only a crisis in literacy development, but also threatens student learning and achievement in the disciplinary or content areas. Since much learning occurs through reading in the disciplinary areas, lack of proficiency in reading will logically limit student learning in those areas as well.
In response to this stagnation in reading achievement, there has been a growing recognition and embracement of science in understanding reading and the teaching of reading. In 2000, the National Reading Panel, a group of literacy scientists, conducted a comprehensive review of research on reading and reading instruction. The panel identified key competencies in reading, supported by scientific research, that should be taught for students to achieve proficiency in reading. These competencies, which most literacy teachers know, are phonemic awareness, phonics or word decoding, vocabulary or word meaning, reading fluency, and comprehension.
President George W. Bush’s Reading First initiative, a plan to boost reading achievement among elementary grade students, was largely based on the findings of the National Reading Panel. Schools that bought into Reading First agreed to make the five elements of the panel nonnegotiable elements of their reading curriculum in kindergarten through third grade. The hope of Reading First was for every child to be reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Unfortunately, the hopes of Reading First were not realized. After multiple years of implementation, Reading First schools were compared with non-Reading First schools. No significant difference in reading achievement was detected among schools.
Rather than suggesting a reevaluation of how reading is taught in schools, the lack of significant results for Reading First resulted in doubling down on the need for science to guide or dictate how reading should be taught. The more recent Common Core State Standards, for example, identified specific competencies and sub-competencies that should be taught and that students should master in order to achieve reading proficiency. For accountability, teachers were then required, in many cases, to identify the specific standards that were being addressed in their teaching plans.
Brain scan studies examined portions of the brain that were activated during reading and detected differences between proficient and less proficient readers, especially students identified as dyslexic. The results of these studies most often suggested and pointed to the critical need for direct and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics. Indeed, in a recent series of articles written for the general public, educational journalist Emily Hanford suggested that lack of direct and systematic instruction, particularly in phonics, is the chief reason why so many students struggle in reading.
Despite these efforts, reading achievement, particularly among elementary students, has barely budged over the past three decades. The question we ask that guides this book is “Why?”

The Problem with a Science-Only Approach

Our own observations have led us to see how reading instruction that is solely or primarily driven by science can lead to some odd, if unintentional, manifestations. Science-informed phonics instruction argues the need for students to analyze the orthographic (spelling) structure of words. This has resulted in some phonics curricula in which children spend an inordinate amount of time reading nonsense words that feature various orthographic forms in isolation. Where in real life do people read nonsense words in isolation? In another example, scientific research has discovered that reading speed (number of words read correctly in a text per minute) is a good measure of automatic word recognition (fluency) and is highly predictive of reading comprehension and overall reading achievement among elementary students. This finding has resulted in instructional practice in which students are encouraged to practice reading as fast as possible in order to achieve or exceed the scientifically identified norm for reading fluency at their grade level. It isn’t often that we as adults purposely engage in speed reading.
Science has also informed the development of tests for assessing students’ comprehension and reading achievement. In instances too many to count, this has translated into students being given direct instruction and practice on how to take such tests and specifically on strategies for answering test questions that follow test passages that make up these reading assessments. None of these activities, as well as many others, even approximate real, authentic reading that we might find in life outside the classroom. When this type of instruction begins to take over an ever-larger portion of the previous minutes assigned for classroom reading instruction, many elementary grade students develop a flawed or skewed sense of reading, do not see a real purpose for reading or find satisfaction from reading, and are likely to increasingly disengage in reading. Reading instruction needs to be more than science only.

Science Yes, but Also a Need for Art

We contend, through this book, that what is missing from a “science-only” approach to reading instruction is an equal emphasis on what we term “artfulness” in teaching reading. An artful and scientific approach to reading instruction not only focuses on the need for developing proficiency in the various scientifically identified reading competencies and high achievement in overall reading proficiency, but also aims to develop in students a positive attitude toward reading and an inclination toward lifelong engagement with reading. Even scientists who have studied reading note the importance of artfulness necessary for reading instruction. Science of reading scholar Mark Seidenberg acknowledged in a New York Times article (Goldstein, 2020) that “the science that you need to know (reading acquisition) is good. The science on how to teach (reading) effectively is not.” The quote often attributed to Mark Twain captures the risk of approaches to reading instruction that are scientific but do not emphasize the art of instruction: “The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”
Indeed, what good is it to learn to read if in the process one does not also develop a recognition of the importance and utility of reading in one’s life?
Education policy expert Benjamin Riley notes that scientific insights should inform the practice of reading, but teachers should still have the space for making pedagogical decisions about how reading instruction actually occurs. It is in this space where teachers are permitted to be artful. The most effective teachers of reading are ones who embrace both a scientific and artful disposition toward their reading instruction. It is this dual disposition that makes the best reading instruction so challenging. If you want to be a truly effective teacher, you must be an artist as well as a scientist. This is not an easy task. Too great an emphasis of one over another will lead to instruction that is stilted and less effective. It is finding the balance between art and science that is the goal of this book.

What Is Artful Reading Instruction?

Simply saying that reading instruction needs to be artful as well as scientific may sound like an appropriate goal, but what does it actually mean? In Reading Research Quarterly, a premier reading research journal, Paige et al. (2021) define the art of teaching as “being embodied in the teacher’s decision making that involves selection, differentiation and delivery of engaging and efficacious reading instruction” (p. 1–2). The art of teaching reading does not deny the importance of science but recognizes teacher agency – the critical notion that what teachers do beyond the scientifically informed instruction matters.
We propose three critical features that help to define artfulness in any instruction, particularly reading instruction. Artful instruction needs to be authentic, aesthetic, and creative (Figure 1.1).
By reading instruction being authentic we mean that it should reflect what occurs in real life beyond the walls of the classroom or school. Perhaps a good way of considering the notion of authenticity is to think of reading instruction activities and methods that may not be very authentic. Having students spend a significant amount of time reading nonsense words would not be considered very authentic. Similarly, engaging in daily timed readings in which students are encouraged to read fast is not something you are likely to encounter in real life. On the other hand, playing word games, engaging in deep discussions of texts, and reading a variety of text types are activities that you would experience in real life. Authenticity allows students to view and experience how the instruction they receive in school translates into real-life uses of literacy.
Figure 1.1 The model for artful instruction.
The word aesthetic is derived from the Greek word that means “feelings.” Reading instruction that is aesthetic not only educates the mind, but also touches the heart. Years ago, Louis Rosenblatt wrote about reading that is efferent and reading that is aesthetic. The purpose of efferent reading is to understand and retain concepts, meanings, and facts presented in the text. In other words, efferent reading deals primarily with processing and accumulating information and knowledge. When you read a text (or have another experience in which information is intended to be conveyed) to learn about the events occurring in the world, or how to prepare a culinary dish, or how to repair your car, you are experiencing that text efferently.
In aesthetic reading, on the other hand, the focus for the reader is on the feelings, sensations, and emotions evoked during the reader’s transaction with the text...

Indice dei contenuti

Stili delle citazioni per Artfully Teaching the Science of Reading

APA 6 Citation

Young, C., Paige, D., & Rasinski, T. (2022). Artfully Teaching the Science of Reading (1st ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2022)

Chicago Citation

Young, Chase, David Paige, and Timothy Rasinski. (2022) 2022. Artfully Teaching the Science of Reading. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis.

Harvard Citation

Young, C., Paige, D. and Rasinski, T. (2022) Artfully Teaching the Science of Reading. 1st edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Young, Chase, David Paige, and Timothy Rasinski. Artfully Teaching the Science of Reading. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis, 2022. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.