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.

Self-Selecting with The Lexile Framework for Reading

Here’s an encouraging story on how Stamford Public Schools in Connecticut are using The Lexile Framework for Reading to allow more choice during student reading time:

The Stamford Public Schools district is using a new model for literacy at the elementary school level. The curriculum is unique to the district. It is based on the America’s Choice model, according to Laura Lynam, the teacher in 256 who also served as a member of the elementary literacy curriculum committee.

In this new system, students have more choices than in previous years. Each student in 256 gets to pick a “just right” book to read during reader’s workshop time. These books are organized into blue bins according to their lexile level; blue-bin books in Lynam’s room run the gamut between the 350 level and 1,000…

There’s plentiful research on both the positive effects of self-selection in allowing students to select their own reading material as well as matching students to texts targeted at their reading level.  Stamford Public Schools are putting that research into practice and it appears to be paying dividends:

Before this year, students would read specific books during assigned reading times rather than plucking one from the bin. This new choice has boosted enthusiasm, Lynam said.

“They’re actively engaged,” she said.

Typically, students read their blue-bin books for about 20 minutes a day.

“If they could, they’d read for 40,” Lynam said with a laugh as she stood near her desk. David Torreswas sitting in Lynam’s seat with a book flat on her desk, reading comfortably. Other kids were strewn about the room, curled beneath the easel or against a pillow, books in hand.

While reading and writing workshops each have hour-long time slots each day, literacy takes up more than 120 minutes of the school day. The kids also fit in small windows of time during which they are allowed the read their second, “just for fun” book, which can be from any lexile level.

Good luck getting the 256 kids to put those books down quietly.

“All right friends, put your books away,” Lynam said after a few minutes of just-right reading in the afternoon as the clock indicated it was time for science.

A massive moan erupted from 20 mouths: “Noooooooooooooooooooooo.”

It’s good to see the Lexile Framework being used to engender such a strong love of reading among young students.

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.