How good and poor readers behave in the classroom

A recent comparison study of the classroom behavior of good and poor readers has found new observable differences between the two groups.

In contrast to previous research, which indicates that poor readers exhibit maladaptive behavior more frequently, poor readers in this study were not necessarily more disruptive or less compliant that good readers. They were, however, judged to be less engaged in learning activities than good readers.

Barbara B. Wasson, Paul L. Beare and John B. Wasson, researchers at Moorehead State University in Minnesota, studied the three best and the three poorest readers in several classrooms at six different grade levels. Their purpose was to determine if children with poor reading skills did, in fact, differ significantly in observable behaviors. To ensure objectivity, the researchers retained observers who were not told which students were good or poor readers. Observers were trained to note and record the following student behaviors:

1. Starting a task (the number of seconds it took a child to begin working on an assignment).

2. Being prepared (having all the necessary materials).

3. Volunteering (offering to answer questions or contributing to class discussion).

4. Moving out of their designated place or seat.

5. Destroying property or making unacceptable physical contact with other students.

6. Being off task (daydreaming, doodling, etc.)

7. Making inappropriate noise.

Engagement most important issue

Results of this study showed that poor readers differed significantly from good readers only in the amount of time they were off task and in the amount of volunteering they did in class. Poor readers were significantly less attentive and participated less in discussions and question answering. Wasson et al. concluded that while poor readers tend to be less involved in learning activities, they did not exhibit more maladaptive behavior than good readers.

Recommendations for teachers working with poor readers include:

1. Making a special effort to draw poor readers out and to focus them on instructional tasks, prompting or cueing students when they are inattentive and guiding them back to their work.

2. Providing emotional and instructional support by being personally involved with these students in order to increase their willingness to try.

3. Being careful not to embarrass poor readers over incorrect responses or by assigning text materials that are too difficult for them to read.

4. Encouraging active participation and honest assessment of successes by providing experiences that teach students that their efforts can make a difference.

“Classroom Behavior of Good and Poor Readers” Journal of Educational Research Volume 83, No. 3 (1990), p. 162-165.

Published in ERN September/October 1990 Volume 3 Number 4


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