October 10, 2006

What Your First Grader Should Know About Reading

My son just completed his first grade reading program -- Reading Mastery I/II Fast Cycle. The program is an accelerated reading program for average and above-average students. It condenses the first two years of reading instruction into a single year comprising 170 lessons.

The curriculum is designed for classroom use and is scripted. Since I was only teaching one student, I ignored much of the program that dealt with controlling and teaching small groups of kids. He also picked up the subject matter quickly , making few errors, so I was able cut out much of the scaffolding that's built into the program. For example, each lesson contains a story to be read, after the story is read, you are supposed to re-read the story and ask comprehension questions. I just asked the questions as we read since he sufficient cognitive capacity to attend to the mening of what he was reading while decoding the text for the first time. Typically, his decoding errors were less than 5% (5 errors per 100 words.) and all I usually had to do to remedy the errors was to point out that he made an error and he would focus a little closer and usually decode correctly. Teaching is easy with a good curriculum and a good student.

Here's what he learned:
  • 53 sounds
  • 932 regular words
  • 193 irregular words

By the end of the program his fluency was at least 90 words/minute with 97% accuracy.

Here is a paragraph from the last story he read and on which his fluency was tested:
Jean had found out fifteen rules. The last rule she found out told about making the wizard disappear. She needed only one more rule. So she sat down and began to think. Suddenly, she jumped up. She said, "I've got it. Every time I needed help, the wizard appeared. I think that's the rule. I'll find out." She stood up and yelled, "I need help."
In addition he learned how to make simple deductions. Her's a sample question from his last mastery test:

Here's another deduction question:
All lerms have green hair.
Oscar is a lerm.
So what do we know about Oscar?
  • His hair has lerms.
  • He has green hair.
  • His hair is gray.
One more rule-based deduction question:

Here's a rule: Every short boy has red hair. Which person has red hair?
  • A short girl named Jan.
  • A short boy named Sid.
  • A tall boy named Tim.
Here's an example of the type of reading questions he was able to answer based on the following paragraph from a longer passage:

There once was a boy who had to watch a flock of sheep. But the boy didn't like his job. One day, he said to himself, "I am tired of watching sheep. I think I'll run into town and play a good joke on the people. I will tell them that a big wolf has come to eat the sheep."

How did the boy feel about his job?
  • He liked it a lot
  • He didn't like it.
  • He was scared of it.
Why did the boy run into town and yell "Wolf, wolf"?
  • He wanted to play a joke
  • A wolf was eating the sheep
  • He wanted to see his father.
All in all, I'd say it was a smooth process. Few tears. And, it took less than an hour a day.

So where would this put him on a standardized reading test? I don't know for sure; however, I do know that one inner city school using the same curriculum had CTBS scores at the 99% percentile once the implementation had stabilized.

It boggles the mind how many kids struggle to reach even this level of proficiency by the third grade. Although judging by what passes for reading instruction in his regular first grade classroom, it's easy to see why.


parentalcation said...

What program are you using specifically? Our 3rd grader struggles in reading.

Our 1st grader might benefit as well.

KDeRosa said...

Reading Mastery Fast Cycle 1995 edition (I/II). I also have Reading Mastery III through IV, also the 1995 edition. There is also a Reading Mastery Plus edition which combines a language program as well.

They should be available on Ebay. Make sure you get the teacher presentation book.

Another option would be to get the new Funnix program and put your computer to work.

allen said...

I used the word lists out of the back of "Why Johnny Can't Read" and for adult illiterates it worked a treat.

Don't take that to be an implied criticism of the more modern phonics systems Ken's suggested. It's just that it's worth understanding that at the core, phonics is pretty simple and a moderately literate adult with a normal attention span can successfully teach illiterates to read using very simple tools.