The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 2 - Page 14


We recognize that some proponents of workshop teaching may be reluctant to include a direct systematic synthetic phonics program within their structure. Indeed, we share a concern with a tendency for literacy programs that are informed by the simple view of reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986) to promote scripted skill-and-drill decoding instruction while failing to adequately address strategic ways of comprehending text (Paris, 2005), the sounding out of words or the social influences on comprehension (Hoffman, 2017; Pearson, 2008; Pressley et al., 2009). We believe that teachers within a workshop structure have an opportunity to implement a sound systematic phonics program which combines aspects of synthetic and analytic phonics.

We will now move into our advice to teachers on things to try within their literacy program.

Increase Motivation and Engagement

Helping young children to become motivated and engaged readers is critical to the development of a love for reading that lasts into later years of the child’s life (Baker, Dreher, & Guthrie, 2000). Characteristics of motivated young readers include curiosity, the enjoyment of reading for its own sake, a sense of purpose and meaning for why they are reading, and confidence in their abilities to successfully understand what they read (Guthrie et al., 2007).

The benefits of wide reading of self-selected books have long been recognized (Harris and Sipay, 1976, 1990). The NRP (2000) reported that it did not find research that showed that wide reading had a significant effect, a finding that was critiqued at the time for methods used in the analysis (Coles, 2000; Cunningham, 2001; Garan, 2002). Counter to the NRP report, a general consensus has developed in the research literature that links motivation and comprehension to wide reading from among diverse materials that includes varied genres, big books with pictures and rich stories to explore, children’s magazines, and digital media (Allington & McGill-Franzen, 2017; Gambrell, 2011).

Beers and Propst (2017) compiled a compelling list of research indicating the benefits of wide reading in self-selected materials (p. 134). Among the benefits of wide reading is an increase in the number of recognized sight words. In addition to the benefits of motivation, self-selected books are usually in areas of high interest to the student. This means students bring a much more developed schema to the reading. In sum, a key to improving student motivation is for the teacher to seek ways to include student choice as part of their literacy program.

Use Leveled Texts to Differentiate Instruction

We strongly recommend the use of leveled text with the guided reading component of workshop. However, when doing so teachers should remember that the main reason for using such leveled text is to place the student in materials at or near their current instructional level, which optimally means placing them in their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD, Vygotsky, 1978). In conjunction with the leveled text, we recommend teachers provide instructional scaffolding that focuses on closing the gap between what the child can do independently and what the child get do at the instructional level (Kozulin, 2003).

The aim is to create the likelihood of a large number of teachable moments, some planned, some spontaneous. Leveled texts should be only a small part of what students read. The majority of what they read should be in self-selected trade books.

From time to time teachers can use a “staggered start” method of organizing the student read alouds of the text. This should be done in smaller guided reading groups (2-4). It is usually done using beginning level texts (Fountas & Pinnell Levels 1-5). Each student is asked to read the full text aloud very quietly and to start the story at a different time. When they complete reading they are told they should read it again and again. In this way the teacher can come around to listen to each student read. Every student reads the full passage aloud. The teacher circulates among the students. The teacher is given multiple opportunities to prompt each student near point of error. The teacher can think aloud to model the strategies used by skilled readers (Davies, 1983). Alternating between reading and think aloud helps children to internalize