Month: November 2015

More Old School Concepts: The Stages Continued

In my previous blog post, I talked about one of my favorite “old school” concepts still valuable, but not discussed enough – The Stages of Reading development. All children pass through these stages, but some progress more smoothly than others. Children who are considered “dyslexic” or reading disabled Stage have difficulty moving from one stage to another.

Knowing what stage your child is in provides you with a roadmap as to what should be your instructional emphasis at any given point. For example, if I said to my educational coordinator that a child was in early Stage I, she would know immediately that the emphasis with the child would be on teaching very early, basic decoding. Conversely, if a child was in Stage III, my coordinator would know that the child had essentially mastered his/her decoding skills and the emphasis would be on comprehension and broader-based reading.

The following is a thumbnail, overview of the stages:

• A Stage 0 child has not yet progressed into actual word or text reading. This stage typically overlaps with pre-school through the end of kindergarten. For a child to be good to go out of Stage 0, they need to know their letter names cold (not just the alphabet song) and to know the sounds of each letter. For a child to leave Stage 0, it is probably good for the child to know a handful of high frequency (sight) words such as cat, stop, come, book.

• Stage I, the “Cat in the Hat” stage, is the beginning of “real reading.” Learning to expand sight word knowledge and to target decoding skills is the emphasis in this stage. Stage I is like learning to ride a bike and is wobbly just like initial bike riding. There will be little fluency in this stage. Be patient here and expose your child to simple word patterns. Do not overwhelm the child with too much text. Your child is pretty ready to leave this stage when he/she knows most of his sight words automatically and decode one syllable words that have one short vowel such as fend, crunch, fast, stick.

• Stage II normally spans from the beginning of second grade to the middle of third grade. When a child is in Stage II the assumption is the child has mastered fundamental decoding skills but needs to consolidate these skills to develop fluency. This stage of development is an exciting one, especially if the child is in this stage at the expected time. The primary focus in this stage is reading – lots of it – both out loud and silently using small chapter books that are fairly easy (but not too easy) for the child to read independently. You will know your child is leaving Stage II when he/she knows all high frequency words automatically and can read text smoothly that is less controlled.

One point – don’t rush the stages. It is far better to have your child stay with the activities of a given stage longer than to rush them into the next stage before they have mastered the one that they are in currently.

In future posts I will do a deeper dive into these stages and review the remaining stages.

Adapted: “School Struggles,” Richard Selznick, Ph.D. (2012 Sentient Publications)

Old School Concept: Know the Stages of Reading Development

There are three “old school” concepts in education and psychology that I think still apply, which I hope to discuss over the next few weeks. Probably a day does not go by in my professional practice where I am applying these concepts with the kids I have been asked to consult and evaluate. Sadly, these concepts have fallen into the dustbin of educational practice and seem to be largely forgotten. While RTI and Common Core are front and center, perhaps these forgotten concepts need revisiting.

The first of the old school concepts is The Stages of Reading Development, which comes to us from the late, great researcher, Dr. Jeanne Chall. Chall’s research taught us that all children pass through expected stages of reading development, but some children get stuck in a stage and their progress is delayed.

Young children with a learning disability such as dyslexia, for example, often have difficulty moving out of the first stage, which typically corresponds to the reading skills of a first grader.

I see this all the time with the kids I consult with and evaluate. Take James a nine year old fourth grader. On an informal reading inventory James was barely adequate on a first grade passage on an informal inventory. Total frustration was met at the second grade level. In short, even though James was in fourth grade, he was still in the first stage of reading development.

There are essentially five stages of reading development. Knowing exactly what stage of development is in provides you with a road map for what you need to do next with your child. Armed with the information as to what stage of development your child is in you are in a better position to know what the goals are moving forward.

(In later blogs I will elaborate on all of the stages.)

Adapted, School Struggles , Richard Selznick, Ph.D. (2012, Sentient Publications)

Instructional Ranges: Essential Information

I had the pleasure of recently meeting with the faculty of the Center School, in Abington, Pennsylvania. A school specializing in children with learning disabilities, we reviewed a number of evaluations that had been conducted on children prior to their admission to the school.

The staff was looking for practical strategies that can be derived from these evaluations. The psychological/psychoeducational reports ranged from 20 to 30 plus pages in length. Even with all of the data, one of the things missing in all of the reports reviewed was the absence of specifying clear instructional ranges for the children.

Instructional ranges fall into three levels that overlap with each other to some degree. The Independent Level is the “piece of cake” level, where the reading material is easy to manage and understand. The Instructional Level is the point where the child can largely manage the material independently, but may need a bit of support. Perhaps some words are difficult to decode or some of the vocabulary hard to understand. The Frustration Level is exactly what it says – the material is too hard. Material at the frustration level should be avoided.

Having children receive frustration level material is a major contributor to kids shutting down and looking to avoid school and homework.

Takeaway Points

1) If your private psychologist has not specified instructional ranges, go back to him/her and clarify these levels. They are essential pieces of information in program planning for your child.

2) If your child is receiving worksheets or other material that is in his/her frustration level, it is important to raise the issue with the teacher. Hopefully, you will get a willing audience from the teacher who will then make adjustments. (I know, easier said than done, but it’s a start.)


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