Thursday, May 21, 2009

Read 180 Revealed

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Hello Colleagues,

Scholastic’s Read 180 curriculum is a reading intervention program to help students at the Tier 2 level, as described by the Response to Intervention (RtI) model. It is designed to support secondary students who are two or more years behind grade-level reading. (Scholastic also offers System 44, a program for Tier 3 students.) To follow the Read 180 model as prescribed, teachers are assigned no more than 20 students per class, which lasts for an 80-minute block.

During that time period students participate in whole group instruction for 20 minutes, and then divide into 3 groups that start at different stations or centers. One group may be sent to the computers to practice reading fluency, listening, comprehension, and word work. For example, students may choose to develop comprehension skills by watching a short video that introduces the text and builds background knowledge. Next, he will read a related passage at a rate that challenges but does not frustrate him. Finally, he’ll answer some comprehension questions.

While at the computers, students may also practice fluency by quietly reading the passage aloud. A microphone records the read-aloud, and then the program plays it back so the student can hear how smoothly she read the paragraphs, the intonation of her voice, and the speed at which she reads. Spelling is another option, and the program pronounces the word, states it in a sentence, reviews how to spell the word if she misspells it, and the student tries again.

Another group will go to a designated area in the room to read books at their independent reading level. With the exception of one student, all chose non-fiction from the library of leveled books on the day I observed Lisa Morey's class at West Jordan Middle School.

"Hey, do like this book?" I asked one girl who sat with her friends on a comfy couch.

"Yeah, it's pretty good," she answered.

"Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?"

"Fiction, but this is pretty interesting," she added.

"What about this class? Do you like it?" I changed the subject. Her "yeah" held a smile in it, and when I asked why, she told me it helped her be a better reader.

Another young woman seemed to be engrossed in King of the Hill. Surprised to see this animated sit-com in book form, I asked her if it was anything like the series. "You know, a little naughty?" Perplexed at my question, she turned to her friend who translated my question into Spanish. She laughed, shook her head and said no.

Lisa's Read 180 classes include many English Language Learners, and the teacher is very pleased at the progress her students are making. The student who translated for me started school knowing very little English, and now she's helping a new student who just moved here from Mexico.

The third station is small-group instruction with the teacher. I watched, listened and participated as Lisa read an from from Bad Boy: A Memoir by Walter Dean Meyers, found in the Read 180 anthology. She asked the 6 students in the group to review what had happened earlier in their reading and then started to read, stopping on occasion to allow the students to say the next word in the sentence in unison. The easy instructional strategy helps Lisa know who's following along and who isn't. (It didn't take long before she warned one embarrassed girl to quit texting and put her cell phone away!)

Throughout the session, Lisa modeled "think-alongs" as well as going back into the text to answer questions. She also invited students to demonstrate their understanding through comprehension questions and context clue analysis.

When interviewing Lisa after class, she enthusiastically endorsed this program that she skeptically took on two years ago. Because of her extensive education and experience in reading research and teaching, she remarked, "I was out to prove Scholastic wrong." But she's happily eating her words.

"This program has saved these students lives," she emphatically added. There is not a support program for many students who "miss something along the way" in learning to read. Maybe 5 students of the 40 she teaches in 2 different blocks have not progressed as much as they could have. "But that's because they really didn't care, and so they didn't try." Lisa is especially thrilled at the progress of her ELL students. While the books are not written in Spanish, the computer program features a Spanish tutorial that is especially beneficial to them.

With 2 years under her belt, she knows what she will and won't do next year. Here's a peek:

I will ~

  • continue to change up groups every 3 weeks instead of every week.

  • continue to change their starting stations once a week.

  • assign "during reading" and "post-reading" learning activity sheets to monitor silent reading.

  • require students to finish reading a book a week.

  • continue to celebrate our class goal to read 1,000,000 words with a trip to McDonalds where we will read and discuss the nutrition labels.

  • work to keep this class for 8th-grade tier 2 striving readers.

I won't ~

  • combine 7th and 8th grades; 7th graders really need to be with their peers their first year in middle school.

Lest any reader of this blog thinks this is the panacea they have been looking for, please realize there is no such thing. Of course, there are many critics of Read 180 as there are with any program that smacks of scripting or replacing the teacher. One school in our district tried the program several years ago, but it has fallen by the wayside. Whether that happened because of limited success or teacher turn-over is not certain, but another school besides WJMS has also successfully implemented Read 180. The common denominator in both successful instances is the teacher.

"I just LOVE this program," Lisa repeated. And the students love her. When I interviewed them, they all endorsed the experience, but they also said they really liked Ms. Morey. She makes this program work, and various teachers from the district who have observed her classes second their opinions!

Bye for now,



Midvale Reading Teacher said...

We dropped the program because of expense. Our computers could no long support the program, and we would have had to buy 5 more--along with the program upgrade. Also, your school has to be willing to reduce class sizes to 15-18 students for a two period block. Sounds like a good program, though, if you can work it out.

link2literacy said...

Read 180 is a very expensive program, and I also understand that the newer version is much better than it was when your school initially bought it. It's a huge commitment on the part of administrators,teachers, counselors, and students. Thanks so much for your comment!

cari said...

I also observed Lisa, on Monday and I second what Renae said. Lisa is amazing! I think the program in the right setting, with the right teacher can do wonders. I am glad it is working so well there.

I used to be at Midvale and the one they are using at WJMS is very different then what Midvale used to have. I liked what I saw in the Enterprise edition, but like the teacher at Midvale said, you need the computers, the money and the time.

I do think like Renae said it's not a panacea. There are many programs that may work as well, but the biggest key is teacher and teacher support.

Anonymous said...

I used Read 180 with ninth grade students. Granite had a wide range of abilities. I saw marked improvement in my lower level students and good improvement in my average students. Some teachers are not a fan of teaching the same thing three times in one class period, but I found that I was able to give better intruction to a group of 12 students. I was able to check comprehension better, and I knew the other two thirds of my class were not just sitting around; they were actively engaged in things that were improving their reading skills.

While I wouldn't recommend the program for honors or regular students, I would recommend the program for all A level literature classes as well as Sophomore level classes. A huge portion of our UBSCT CRT and ACT testing relies on student reading comprehension. Some of our students struggle with basic reading comprehension skills; this is lowering their test scores. I realize we aren't "teaching to tests" but it would be nice to see an increase in those test scores.

I would especially recommend the program for the middle schools. I've taught every grade except 8th, and I wish I had had this sort of a program for my 7th grade students. It would have done wonders for their comprehension skills.

For 10th grade, I would supplement the program with reading analysis for rhetorical and literary devices to aid in their writing. So many times what we perceive as "writing issues" are actually reading issues in that our students are failing to pick up on clues and cues given by the author through the rhetorical devices. This failure to analyze (at least for my students at the beginning of the year) means that while they may be adept at "form and structure," placing their thesis statement and topic sentences in the right place, their writing lacks substance. We somehow need to get to that critical analysis stage where analysis and synthesis are occuring as they read. The reason some of them are not giving thorough explanation of the literature is they honestly do not see what we are expecting them to while they are reading.

As a side note,

Read 180 also does really well when used in conjunction with the SRI. We used both programs to measure student progress and tested SRI more frequently than twice per year to see if students were improving. Part of the issue seems to be a lack of developed higher level vocabulary.

I know I'm getting way off track here, but I'm in the middle of developing a year-long set of vocabulary units for our 10th and 11th grade students. The goal of these units is to combine vocabulary from our literature, vocabulary from standard grade level units, state core roots, and state core commonly confused words into a set of units that follows along with our curriculum.

Rather than have a jolting switch from literature to vocabulary, it would blend well, having all reading samples either from our literature or about our literature. These frequent references should help to improve student reading comprehension as they learn the vocabulary, increasing retention. The issue currently is that students are memorizing to pass a test and are not recalling any of the information later. In essence, we are wasting our time.

Anyhow, thank you so much for your time. I love discussing curriculum.

Holly Allen
Alta High School