More Innovation in the Classroom

Here’s yet another example of a school using an innovative approach to improve student reading scores:

After noticing an uptick in ELL and other students with below average reading scores at his school, Skip Johnson, principal at El Crystal Elementary in San Bruno, CA, created a forward-thinking reading program pairing iPods and print books that has helped to successfully boost reading comprehension scores among non proficient readers.

The idea for letting struggling readers follow print and iPod audiobooks simultaneously was first sparked when Johnson was browsing the iTunes store trying to spend a $50 iTunes giftcard–a generous gift from a teacher. “I happened to notice audiobooks for sale and I went, ‘Hmm, there are a lot of books here that kids want to read,” he said.

Whether he knows it or not, Johnson’s program capitalizes on multiple avenues of research: the importance of reading outside the classroom, the power of self-selection and allowing students to pick what they read, the significance of utilizing technology as an always-on solution, the impact of audio learning, and, of course, the importance of targeting students at their own reading level:

With help from his colleagues, Johnson curated hundreds of audiobooks on a sliding scale arranged by lexile level. Students check out books from the library and take them home to read, following along with the audio loaded on school-owned iPods. When students finish, they take a Scholastic Reading Counts quiz to test their comprehension. After passing, they can progress to another book on the playlist, often at a higher level of difficulty.

Johnson obviously realizes the importance of targeting readers as a way to improve their reading ability.  And utilizing technology to provide audio-scaffolding ensures that each student receives an individualized approach to their reading growth.  Kudos to teachers like Johnson for blending multiple lines of research into a concrete, practical classroom strategy for improving student reading ability – one that appears to be working very well.

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