Long-distance coaching helps teachers offer effective K-1 reading interventions

iStock_000015140066SmallLiteracy coaching is typically done face-to-face, with the teacher and literacy specialist bonding over small talk and problem-solving. Not all schools, especially those in remote, poor areas, have access to such on-site expertise.

But a recent study in The Elementary School Journal reports that literacy coaching done remotely with web-conferencing may be just as effective in helping classroom teachers to provide reading interventions to K-1 struggling readers.

Most early reading interventions for struggling readers require the use of specialized teachers/tutors/special educators. In this study of 364 K-1 students from 7 schools in the southwestern United States, classroom teachers provided Targeted Reading Intervention while their remote coaches watched the 15-minute lessons from more than 1,000 miles away.

Teachers received input and feedback while they were working with the student, after the lesson or both. Under TRI, the classroom teacher targets one struggling student, usually for several weeks at a time, to provide diagnostically driven, text-based and word-based reading instruction.

“To our knowledge, this is one of the few studies that has demonstrated that classroom teachers can successfully implement an intervention with struggling readers,” the authors write. “Our study also contributes to the field by showing that TRI can help children who are in high-need, isolated rural areas where children are often poorer and teachers often have less access to traditional professional development.”

Struggling kindergarten and 1st-grade students who received TRI significantly outperformed struggling students from the control schools, especially in a passage comprehension test, the study reports.

In previous research, students receiving early reading interventions have shown little gain in reading comprehension compared with word-level reading skills, most likely because the instructional focus of the interventions was on phonological processes. TRI takes a balanced approach and comprehensive approach to reading interventions, the author writes. However, results for student comprehension should be interpreted cautiously and may reflect the type of assessment tasks used in the study.

Teachers use TRI to teach multiple aspects of reading, including phonemic awareness, phonics knowledge, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. TRI is focused on 3 major activities –rereading for fluency, word work and guided oral reading.

Teachers work individually for 15-20 minutes with focal students while the other students in the class work independently, in literacy centers or receive instruction from a teaching assistant.

Professional development

Teachers in the research study received 4 major kinds of support:

  1. A summer institute for classroom teachers, on-site consultants and school principals
  2. weekly/biweekly literacy coaching sessions via real-time web conferencing to teachers providing lessons to individual students
  3. weekly, real-time, web-conferenced, 30-minute grade-level meetings; individual children’s reading performance and progress were discussed by teachers and coaches
  4. monthly/bimonthly 2-hour, real-time, web-conferenced professional develop ment sessions designed to meet needs expressed by the classroom teachers.

All kindergarten and 1st-grade teachers were supplied with a laptop computer and their classrooms were equipped with a webcam and web-conferencing software, allowing for real-time, secure, two-way audio and video communication between the teachers and literacy coaches.

On-site consultants included a school curriculum coordinator, reading specialists, and a school principal. As much as possible, on-site consultants were present in classrooms to observe and participate in the literacy coaching process.

The 2-hour professional development meetings, which were held every month or every 2 months, focused on additional and advanced TRI strategies and content, as well as any issues raised by classroom teachers on the implementation of TRI. The coaches and participants also discussed new ideas for extending learning during independent work and honing the diagnostic thinking process, the author writes.

All children were administered a battery of standardized tests in the fall and spring, notably 4 subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson Diagnostic Ready Battery, III, Word Attack, Letter/Word Identification, Passage Comprehension and Spelling of Sounds. Children also took the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—Third Edition.

Readers in experimental schools who were not struggling but received TRI also showed improved outcomes on all measures by Spelling Sounds, the researchers report.

The TRI reading model attempts to simplify and capture how early reading develops with a model derived primarily from the consensus findings of the National Reading Panel Report (NICHD, 2000) and Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young children (Snow et al, 1998). It puts the focus of early reading development on comprehension.

“The model arose from a perceived need to support teachers’ overall conceptualization of the reading process, especially its early development,” the author writes.

“The Effectiveness of a Technologically Facilitated Classroom-Based Early Reading Intervention,” by Steven Amendum, The Elementary School Journal, 2011

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