Student-Centered Reading—An Individualized Approach
In this program reading is taught both individually and in small groups, and it is the teacher who decides which is the best individual approach for each student. Teaching individualized reading can be as varied as the creative insights of the teacher and the diverse needs of the student. Self-selection is part of the process; students can choose from a wide range of reading materials. When he/she wishes, a student may read a variety of books and stories, concentrating if he/she chooses on mysteries, poetry, novels, history, science, or sports. From the beginning, the student is encouraged to browse, to pursue individual interests, to read for pleasure and for information. This is the “saturation” approach to reading. “Saturation” surrounds the student with newspapers, magazines and paperbound books, textbooks, literary novels, plays, poems, pamphlets, catalogs, legal documents, and religious books (see Appendix I). The only restraints placed on the student are that he/she must read something during a given period of time, be responsible for completing a reading report form, attend a student-teacher reading conference, and be prepared to share the book with a small group of fellow students.
An important part of this reading approach is keeping a record of the student’s progress. The teacher does this through general observation of behavior, through talks with parents, through a constant review of the reading report forms, a weekly review of the written record he keeps for each student, and, most importantly, through frequent sessions with the student (see Appendix II). During an individual reading conference the teacher and student discuss a variety of things. The teacher may be especially interested in the student’s growth in comprehension, or with the student’s attitude toward reading. What the teacher does in the conference depends upon what he knows about the student—his/her present level of progress and how he/she can be helped to grow in skills and attitude. For example, through a series of conferences, the student is helped to sound out words, to be aware of blends, to see configurations, to engage in various techniques for decoding the printed word. It is in the conference that the teacher has the greatest opportunity to give each student the necessary few moments that only he and the student can share. Often, this brief but crucial individual contact provides the student with the very impetus needed for future individual growth.
In this program group experiences are varied. Students will be grouped heterogeneously for the purpose of sharing books that were read the previous week. The membership of these groups will change throughout the year. Students will be encouraged to form groups according to reading interests, either for information or general enjoyment. This could be done with or without the aid of the teacher. Upon reviewing the individual records of the conferences, the teacher will group students according to identifiable needs and abilities and will help them with specific skills. Once the skills are grasped by the students, the group will be dismissed and the process will be repeated.
Again, variety and individualization are the keys to this reading program. This reading program, like the language arts program presented here, takes advantage of eclecticism. It is the teacher’s responsibility to know different approaches and methods and materials and to apply this knowledge to the individual student. An awareness of the different techniques that have been developed will better qualify the teacher to select an approach that will offer a student his/her greatest chance of success.
The general view taken in this program of “non-readers” or “poor readers” is that these students’ problems result either from an inadequate decoding instruction or from personal characteristics such as faulty perception, poor motivation, or emotional disturbance that are general learning problems not confined only to reading and, therefore, not treatable solely as reading problems.
This program takes the position that a key feature of remedial work is an emphasis on decoding, usually involving explicit instruction in phonetics. To serve those students who are experiencing extreme difficulty with reading, this program will utilize the approach to reading developed by Caleb Gattegno, called
Words in Color
. It is important to note that phonics itself is no panacea: a mastery of decoding does not guarantee that a student will want to read, will pay attention to a text, or will learn new ideas. General learning problems of motivation, conceptual development, and emotional health must be remedied by a variety of means that are suggested in this program. Plentiful oral speech and dramatic expression, involvement in selecting books, playing logical games, and the general emphasis on meaningful reception and production of language are all parts of this program. The individualized reading approach developed may be most important for the poorly motivated or less successful reader. Freedom from fear, individual coaching, and help from classmates are all remedial aspects of this approach. As the reader continues through this program, it is important to remember that every writing assignment is a reading assignment and all the techniques suggested are to be integrated into a total language arts program.
An Individualized Approach
This approach takes the position that an early, intensive instruction in sound-letter correspondences should establish a strong spelling base. The main issue is that, aside from knowledge of prefixes and suffixes, there is very little that can be taught that should not already have been taught in the initial presentation of the sound-letter relation. For those students who have severe spelling deficiencies, Caleb Gattegno’s materials,
Words in Color
, will be used to provide these students with that base. However, the primary aim of this program is to develop the student’s self-correction and self-diagnosis. Students take responsibility for spelling, but the teacher sets up processes that make this possible.
a. The teacher occasionally classifies the kinds of errors a student is making and thus teaches him/her to diagnose them on his/her own. Some errors can be corrected by referring to the phonic regularities or by mentioning some rarer spelling pattern not covered by phonic rules. Some errors stem from faulty pronunciation, and some can be corrected only by memorizing the word. The main point is that students do not always make the same mistakes.
b. From the very beginning, students point out errors to each other in the writing groups when they exchange papers. Proofreading in groups teaches each individual to proofread alone. This will be explained more fully during the presentation of the writing aspect of this program.
c. Each student will have his/her own pocket dictionary. This program calls for abundant writing and the dictionary becomes a major help in learning to spell, because the student is constantly trying to spell out what he/she has to say. Along with the pocket dictionary, each student will have a personalized dictionary. This dictionary will be made by the student. The student will be encouraged to write words he/she needs and wants to know. The teacher will inspect this dictionary during the reading conference and writing conference. The teacher will feel free to write those words for the student that he/she can’t manage. In effect, this dictionary will serve as a diagnostic tool. The dictionary will represent a cumulative record of the kinds of spelling problems the student has. Through observing the dictionary the teacher should be able to determine a spelling pattern and recommend the necessary activities for eliminating the particular problem.