Saturday, January 2, 2010

BEST Practices: Re-examining Sustained Silent Reading

Dear Colleagues,

During a recent workshop, a participant who teaches special education asked the class about the value of Sustained Silent Reading in the classroom. He had recently learned that there is insufficient research to warrant its implementation. Our colleague's observation is correct, and Dr. Ray Reutzel of Utah State University and the International Reading Association (IRA) board addressed that topic last November at UCIRA.

(If you can't wait, click HERE to review the PowerPoint of Dr. R's keynote address, BUT if you want a PREVIEW before you REVIEW, read on!)

While Dr. Reutzel's research in this arena focuses on elementary students, his remarks were to k-12 teachers, and he addressed secondary concerns and needs which include the following:
  • Lack of sufficient research about the effectiveness of Sustained Silent Reading
  • National Reading Panel's determination that evidence which does exist demonstrates "insignificant or mixed effect for SSR on students' reading achievement/growth"
  • Lack of student motivation/engagement during SSR
  • Lack of accountability for students' reading during SSR
  • Problems associated with students' reading selections in conjunction with their reading abilities/levels
Sometimes I am concerned that we secondary teachers only pay attention to research conducted in the secondary world. Instead, we should review relevant elementary studies and ask if we don't encounter the same issues in middle and high schools. If we do, then perhaps we should examine that research and the recommendations, regardless of grade levels studied.

While studying Dr. Reutzel's PowerPoint that summarizes his research and recommendations, secondary teachers might determine which findings apply to their students and how they might incorporate the recommendations into the curriculum to fit the needs of older students.

For example, Dr. Reutzel introduces Scaffolded Sustain Silent Reading (ScSSR) which includes several structured steps that a secondary teacher could implement in the secondary classroom. One critical component of ScSSR is Individual Monitoring Conferences (IMC). Rather than reading WITH students, teachers conduct short meetings to discover important information ranging from fluency to comprehension levels.

Some teachers may feel they cannot implement the recommendations with exactness, but may want to adapt or adjust suggestions. While such changes will not support the research, teachers can conduct action research to determine whether or not the ScSSR, as they implemented the program, is more effective than traditional SSR.

The main point is that SSR is a practice lacking effectiveness for MANY students. While teachers try a variety of plans to improve the results, it is important that we start with ideas that emerge from research.

After reviewing Dr. Reutzel's PowerPoint, I would appreciate your feedback. I also hope that you will find ways to scaffold the sustained silent reading that occurs in your classroom, based on the best research currently available. : D

BEST wishes!


    caribookscoops said...

    Renae - Loved this post. Just spent the last 20 minutes going over your blog. It has been too long. We need to do lunch. We have some catching up to do.

    Leslie said...


    Since I do SSR with my kids every day, I thought this was interesting. Most of the suggestions on the ppt were for elementary and I'd love to see more ideas for ScSR with a secondary focus... I don't know if it's SSR or all the other classroom activities, but in my experience, students DEFINITELY increase motivation to read, naturally select reading material at their reading levels, and improve their lexile scores throughout the year... HMMMM...