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Let's Stop Pulling Kids From Reading to Give Them Reading

By: W. David Tilly III, Ph.D.Published: August 18, 2008
Topics: Literacy


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Often in my workshops, I tell groups if they are going to remember only one thing from my presentation that will raise reading achievement more than anything else for struggling students, remember this: Let’s stop pulling kids from reading to give them reading. What do I mean? Well, I don’t know if your schools are like the schools I work with most often, but when kids struggle in reading, especially if they ultimately receive special education services, the most frequent "intervention" that is tried is to give them one period a day (usually about 45 minutes) of reading instruction in a small group, somewhere away from the general education setting. Often this instruction is provided at a slower pace, in materials that are not as challenging as the materials being provided in general education. And importantly, this instruction is often provided at the SAME TIME as the general education reading instruction.

What’s wrong with this picture?  Let’s see, if we look at this from a common sense standpoint, do children with developmental reading problems need overall less reading instruction than typically developing kids or do they need more reading instruction?  I live with a 12-year-old daughter.  One of the new statements I hear often in my household is "Duh Dad!"  Of course struggling students need more instruction than typically developing students.  So what’s so bad about pulling them out to get it?  At least 2 things.  First, they are missing what’s going on in the general classroom, and if we ever are going to get them back full time learning in the general education classroom, they need to be taught in those materials.  Second, often times when we pull kids out from general education instruction, they actually get less direct instruction than they would if they stayed in the general curriculum in the first place.

 

The vision of special education in 1975 was not that children with disabilities would receive services.  The vision was that those services would be effective.  The vision was that struggling students would receive super charged instruction, from teachers with more training than the average bear, using effective strategies, with smaller student-teacher ratios.  And that based on this instruction, many students would work their way back into the general instruction.  In short, we need to teach more in less time and catch kids up!

 

To reach this vision, we must STOP PULLING KIDS FROM GENERAL EDUCATION READING INSTRUCTION TO GIVE THEM READING instruction.  Now, I’m not talking about doing goofy things here.  Like, let’s not subject a non-reader to 25 minutes a day of sustained silent reading.  If we do this, I will guarantee, it will not be sustained, it will not be silent and it will not be reading.  Most kids, however far behind they are, can benefit from some components of core instruction.  So when students struggle, let’s examine closely what components from core instruction they can benefit from, let’s continue providing that to them, then let’s provide additional reading instruction matched to the student’s specific instructional needs.

 

The next predictable question that will come up is "What will we pull them out of then, if not reading?"  I will answer this question as the parent of a child with a reading disability:  "I don’t care!"  If she can’t read, she can’t do science.  If she can’t read, she can’t learn social studies.  Heck, if she can’t read, she can’t even do math the way we teach math these days.  We must realize that everything in schools cannot be equally important.  And if we’re going to prioritize one thing at the top of the list, it has got to be reading.

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Amen! Pull-outs superior? Not usually, tho' I don't get the disdain for whole language that I see cropping up in these discussions. Facets of whole language include direct instruction (could be Tier I, II, or III), read alouds, and independent reading that allows students to put learning into practice. Whole language, differentiated, can still benefit most students as part of their core reading curriculum delivered in the classroom. Is this really RTI vs. whole language or RTI vs. ANY inappropriate instruction? I find basals to be nauseating, but that doesn't mean they can't be made to work.


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I agree that it is definitely frustrating to have struggling readers pulled out of general education reading classes. As a resource teacher for a school that just went fully inclusive, I am constantly getting requests from general education teachers, that “my SPED” students are struggling and need to be pulled out of the classroom and receive direct instruction. While, I feel that those struggling readers need focused attention in order to catch-up on their reading skills, pulling them out of a core-reading class isn’t the answer. It is also frustrating to see students in special education


higher level of differentiation than might be possible if the student is simply left in the general education setting. With the combination of high rigor and differentiation, the special educator can replace the general education reading setting with a special education one while still helping students grow academically.


full time learning in the general education classroom, they need to be taught in those materials. Second, often times when we pull kids out from general education instruction, they actually get less direct instruction than they would if they stayed in the general curriculum in the first place.” While these are possible problems, I do not believe they are probable. As a special educator teaching language arts, I know that it is indeed a reality to teach a highly rigorous and standards-based course in such a setting. The main difference is that the educator can provide a higher level of diff


special education reading course. At the same time, I find the original post to be downplaying the possible effectiveness of the alternative reading setting. The post essentially claims this environment to be “instruction in a small group, somewhere away from the general education setting. Often this instruction is provided at a slower pace, in materials that are not as challenging as the materials being provided in general education,” and that this harms students in that “First, they are missing what’s going on in the general classroom, and if we ever are going to get them back full time l


First of all, I agree that it does not make much sense to pull students who need more reading assistance from general education reading classes. After all, least restrictive environmental principles should dictate that students deserve the opportunity to succeed in this setting, with the appropriate services and modifications. Ultimately, we should want to give our students the chance to grow in the general education setting whenever possible. Certainly it makes sense that an elective course should be replaced for additional reading instruction, as opposed to switching a general education r


This proposal assumes that what is happening in the general ed classroom is of value to the kid with learning disabilities. This is not necessarily the case. If the general ed teacher is using "whole language" then the student is much better off being somewhere else. Although it may seem to make common sense, this proposal is too general and may not apply to the situations of individual students, teachers, and schools.


I agree that students have to be able to read before they can do anything else, but I am just wondering how we can have 94% pass reading standardized tests but only 74% pass the math. If their reading is showing improvement, shouldn't the math then go up as well? Aren't we doing them a diservice by taking them out of the other subjects that can be a time for fun and exploration especially if reading is a battle. Students should have a chance to work in other subjects of interest. Reading or not, there are some valuable hands on problem solving activities that pulled students miss out on.


I heard of a school that all students receive reading in their gen ed. room. Those needing reteaching, go to special teachers from 11:00 to 11: 35. This includes any Title I reading teachers, Special Rdg. teachers, Gifted/TAG teacher, and Special Ed. teachers, plus any teachers whose kids are at a 'special' or eating lunch. This was how reading was made a priority at that Iowa school.


I agree that children who are struggling with reading need more practice in reading both in and out of the classrrom. This is the ideal! Unfortunately, in the world of our schools, with demanding schedules and "special" classes, it is almost impossible to meet all these individual needs. Classrrom teachers try their best to be flexible and to schedule 'reading' when all the children are present... but with so many children receiving special services and therapies, it is not an easy chore!!






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