When I watch the amazing basketball teams in the March Madness NCAA Tournament, I am reminded of a famous basketball coach’s astute advice. While visiting a local university, Indiana Coach Bobby Knight advised a coaches’ clinic to tailor their teams to the individual strengths and weaknesses of each of their players, not to the team they desire. Who has grit? Who is cool enough to make the winning shot in a tie game? Who needs extra practice in specific skills to be successful? Who needs a little push? Who does not? Who needs more work in defensive skills? Which particular offensive skills need more polish in certain players?
It also reminds me of a time when a very respected sixth grade English teacher asked me to teach one of my struggling readers his spelling list of words each week. Dumbfounded, I realized that this renowned teacher had no idea of the actual reading level of this student (second grade level). I explained that, if I spent my precious 50 minutes/week on these words, he might learn 5 of 20, BUT he would never learn to read, AND he would probably forget the spelling in 2 weeks.
As struggling readers progress through the educational system, gaps occur for many reasons. Who had the flu when the teacher taught silent e? Whose dog died when the teacher introduced main idea? Who needed extra practice, but didn’t get it? Someone must recognize these omissions in fundamental reading skills for struggling readers to succeed. Several times I had this discussion with a textbook representative: What strategy does your textbook have to teach and reteach to mastery, allowing for individual differences? The answers were always that a strand is repeated, and they expect that students will pick it up “eventually.” Hopin’, and prayin’, and hopin’ doesn’t’ cut it! Someone, sometime, has to provide more specific instruction and more specific practice for some students. Most textbooks do NOT have enough specific skill exercises for many students to master it. I say this as a reading specialist who dealt with classroom reading failures for 30 years. How often I asked myself if anyone ever taught anything to mastery!
I realize in this time of drastic cuts to school budgets, there is little hope of reintroducing the effective strategy of pull-out reading specialists. But in my yearning that some teachers and administrators care more about actually teaching ALL kids to read, rather than just “covering the material,” I am providing my Reading Profile FREE in the Reading Spotlight Store. I developed it over the years, and used it effectively for many more, in elementary, middle, and even in high school. Whenever I noticed something important that one of my students was missing, I put that info on a Post-It note, adding it later to the profile. I developed groups within my classroom when several students needed the same instruction and practice. Homework was often geared to specific skill deficiencies. My retirement time has been devoted to systemizing and disseminating the enjoyable and effective practice materials that I developed over 30 years as a reading specialist. It’s my sincere desire that this Reading Profile will aid some teachers in helping their struggling readers effectively, rather than just telling them to “read it again.”
© Reading Spotlight 2019
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