A team approach to reading readiness: A preliminary report

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  • LINCOLN, MASSACHUSETTS 7I

    A TEAM APPROACH TO READING READINESS: A PRELIMINARY REPORT

    Prepared by : MRS. JULIA COLE Co-ordinator o[ Reading Instruction

    Hartwell School, Lincoln, Mass.*

    Organization of the School The identification and training of children, who because of reading,

    writing and spelling difficulties are unable to reach their academic poten- tial, has long been the concern of the staff of the Lincoln Public Schools. The Hartwell SchooI is a non-graded, primary school organized on a team teaching plan. In addition to classroom teachers, the staff includes a principal, specialists in art, music, mathematics, physical education, read- ing and science. A teacher-librarian and a school library make significant contributions to the school program. Three teacher aides relieve teachers of non-teaching tasks. The services of a speech therapist, school nurse, psychiatric social worker and psychologist are available to pupils and personnel.

    Children are grouped homogeneously for instruction in reading and arithmetic. Other subjects are taught to hetrogeneous groups. Therefore, each pupil is observed and evaluated by several teachers in various situa- tions. The school is small enough so that communication is infor- mal. Released time for teachers and consultants to meet and plan together is provided in the schedule.

    Staff Interest in the Problem Through summer work shops and inservice courses, all of the staff has

    been made aware of the characteristics and problems of children who have some impairment of their perceptual or motor behavior. Teachers on the basis of a manual developed by the staff have made observations and kept informal check lists to note such significant symptoms as poor motor de- velopment, confusions with respect to time and space, poor visual and auditory discrimination or hyperactive behavior. (1)

    The Need for More Effective Screening Early identification of children destined to fail in reading because of

    perceptual deficits, is essential. Such failure often results in an impaired self image, emotional damage and subsequent lack of learning drive (5) (6). Despite the use of reading readiness tests, intelligence tests and the judgment of an informed staff, it is difficult to recognize some cases of language disability. In such a situation some more reliable means of screening kindergarten children for future reading failure is necessary.

    * One of the ports-of-call in Dr. Zdenek Matejcek's trip, the occasion of the photo- graph which accompanies his paper, in this issue. (Information as of that date.)

  • 72 BULLETIN OF THE ORTON SOCIETY"

    The Predictive Index Katrina de Hirsch and her co-anthors in their preliminary study Pre-

    dicting Reading Failure have endeavored to develop such criteria. In their study, they raise the following questions: can an identifiable pattern of perceptual deficits at kindergarten age predict future difficulties with reading, writing and spelling; and what will be the effect of remedial help provided early in the child's school career, before frustration and failure damage the self concept and diminish learning drive? (5) (6)

    The "predictive index" presented in the de Hirsch study consists of ten tests selected by the authors because they most effectively predict at kindergarten level, the reading and spelling achievement at the end of second grade (5).

    Goals of the First Testing Program In December 1966, when it was decided to administer the de Hirsch

    tests the goals were: 1. To identify children with language defects so that specific training

    in a transition group (5) could be provided. 2. To use test scores as an aid to future instructional grouping. 3. To incorporate more objective information, derived from test scores

    into the January reports to parents.

    The Sample Lincoln is a high socio-economic community, with most of its resi-

    dents engaged in the professions, sciences or business. The 112 children who constituted the kindergarten population during the school year 1966- 67 were involved in the study. Of this number, 102 children were Lincoln residents, the additional ten children were bused to Lincoln from Boston, under the auspices of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Oppor- tunity (METCO). M.E.T.C.O. is a federally supported program which provides for busing urban children, almost all of whom are Negro, into suburban schools. There were 54 boys and 58 girls in the kindergarten group. As of January 1, 1967 their ages ranged from 6.2 to 5.1 with a median age of 5.6.

    Testing Procedure All of these tests were administered individually during a six week

    period from early December 1966 to mid January 1967. A minimum of two sittings for each child was necessary. Because of the limitations of time and the availability of the children, six of the ten tests included in the "predictive index" from the de Hirsch study were selected as practical to administer in the public school setting.

    Description of Tests These were:

    1. Pencil Use. In this test the child's use and control of the pencil is ob- served. All pupils received full credit according to test criteria.

  • LINCOLN, MASSACHUSETrS 73

    2. Bender Visuo-Motor Gestalt Test. In this test the child is asked to copy six of the nine designs. This is a highly integrated task and is considered an excellent predictor of success in the highly integrated task of reading (9).

    3. Wepman Auditory Discrimination Test. In this test the child is asked to indicate whether twenty paired words presented sound the same or different (i.e. led-lad are different). Auditory sound blending is posi- tively correlated to oral reading. (3)

    4. Categories. In this test, the child is asked to give the class name for three groups of words, (i.e. red, green, blue, all are colors). The ability to determine the characteristics that a number of objects have in com- mon is the beginning of ability to generalize. (5)

    5. Horst Reversals Test. In this particular section of the test the child is required to match two and three letter combinations presented in cor- rect and reversed orders. Ability to match letters is positively corre- lated with future reading achievement. (7)

    6. Gates Word Matching Test. This test contains twelve of the eighteen exercises in the Word-Matching sub test of the Gates Reading Readi- ness battery. The child is asked to indicate which two words of four in the box are exactly alike. This test measures perceptual competence as did the Bender-Gestalt and Horst Reversals Test. (5)

    Staff Decision to Expand Screening After a review and discussion of this program of testing with the staff,

    it was decided to assess other indications of reading readiness. (8) A scale was developed to measure information derived from the teachers' observa- tions and checklists. Many of these evaluations are necessarily subjective; however, they do represent the collective judgment of a knowledgeable and experienced staff. Each factor was rated on a scale of three or two points. The lower scores being most indicative of probable language deficits. Description of Expanded Screening Procedures 7. Chronological Age. The ages of the children were scored on a three

    point scale, with the oldest group marked three. (5)

    8. Family History. This was marked on a scale of two points. A child who had an older sibling or siblings with a known language disability was marked one. All others were marked two. The findings in this category are questionable since the language histories of first children and families new in town were not always known.

    9. Gross Motor Control. This was marked on a scale of three points on a basis of a check list kept by the physical education teacher. A child's ability to skip, hop and perform on the walking board and balance board was scaled from three to one. (8)

    10. Fine Motor Control. This was marked on a scale of three points. The child's ability to write his name and tie his shoes, as well as his competence in the use of the pencil, crayons and scissors in classroom activities was scaled from three to one.

  • 74 BULLETIN OF THE ORTON SOCIETY

    11. Laterality. This was marked on a scale of two points. Children who used a preferred hand for all activities were marked two. All others were marked one. Consistency of hand choice was rated by the physi- cal education teacher on the basis of bean bag tossing and ball throw- ing. Hand preference was observed by the classroom teacher in peg board tests and classroom activities. (4)

    Body Image This was marked on a scale of three points, children were rated by

    the physical education teacher on the basis of ability to touch body parts on command, to place body parts in a specified position, to copy body pofition of another person, and to perform bilateral arm and leg move- ments rhythmically and in unison. (4) (8)

    Speech Speech was rated on a three point scale. The children's speech had

    been screened by the speech therapist. Children receiving treatment be- cause of articulation disorders were marked one. Tl~ose who gave evidence of immature speech as exhibited by sound substitutions or sound errors were marked two. Children whose speech was clear were marked three. (5)

    Oral Language The level of oral language was rated on a scale of three points. This

    was judged by the level of vocabulary and length and complexity of sen- tences used by the child as observed by the teachers. (5)

    Ego Strength Teachers evaluated this quality on a scale of three. The criteria were

    developed with the help of the guidance department and involved the teachers' assessment of the young child's progress toward independence, exercising of judgment and ability to evaluate new situations.

    Work Attitude These qualities were rated by the teachers on a three point scale. They

    were defined by the guidance department as self-confidence in attacking a new task and the ability to carry it through.

    Reading Readiness Test Administered For the purpose of future research, the Metropolitan Reading Readi-

    ness Test, Form A was administered to the 112 children in the sample. This test was given to classroom groups. The results of the readiness test will be used to attempt to determine the value of the tests from the "pre- dictive index" over a reading readiness test as a predictor of reading suc- cess for a kindergarten population.

    Analysis of the Study The calculations involved in the statistical analysis of the various

    test scores are numerous; therefore, without the use of a computer, the task would have been a prohibitive one.

  • LINCOLN, MASSACHUSETTS 75

    For each child, the score for each of the 15 factors was made statis- tically comparable. A weighting factor was then applied to the normalized score for each factor and a composite score was obtained by adding the results. In order to test the reliability of several factors as predictors of future reading success, several alternative weightings were assigned to each factor. For example, in one program, work attitude was assigned a weight- ing of nine, in another a weighting of zero. In all, eight different schemes for determining the weighting factors were tried, resulting in eight differ- ent orderings of the children's scores. The different schemes were selected in order to vary the impact of the individual score in each category on the pupils' composite score. The total score of each child on the Metropolitan Readiness Test was normalized and recorded for future statistical analysis.

    The Transition Class After identification, it is our belief that children with language diffi-

    culty must be provided with an educational program that will enable them to reach their potential. (5) Some children with perceptual deficits are not ready for beginning reading instruction at the end of the kinder- garten year. Such children function best in a small transition class which gives them the time and training they need before they are exposed to the more highly integrated tasks required in formal learning. (5)

    A Stanford-Binet test was administered to all children, in this subject- group who had scored in the lowest quarter of the battery of tests. From among the children who scored in the lowest quarter, twelve children were chosen for the transition class.

    The group consisted of: 6 boys 6 girls 2 boys - - oldest third of the sample 1 boy 4 girls - - middle age group of the sample 3 boys 2 girls - - youngest third of the sample I. Q. Range 106-117 Mean 112

    The I.Q. Scores ranged from 106 to 117 with the exception of one child who scored 89. This last score is considered questionable because of this child's extreme timidity and because her performance in class would seem to belie this score. No child was chosen for the group who was judged to have a serious emotional problem, borderline intelligence or a gross physical defect. However, one girl in the group is receiving speech therapy for a mild articulation disorder.

    An experienced primary teacher, with a special interest in children with perceptual difficulties and with the tolerance and sympathy necessary for dealing with these children, was assigned to the transition group. This teacher employs those techniques which give training in visual~ auditory

  • 76 BULLETIN OF THE ORTON SOCIETY

    and kinesthetic perception (2) (4). Activities are short and varied; learn- ing is programmed in small segments and repetition is frequent(2). The classroom situation is structured to protect these distractible children against over-stimulation. (4)

    Staff Remediation Procedures Although the transition class operates in a seIf-contained classroom,

    the staff has continued to display as much interest in providing activities for remediation as they did when screening these children. For example the math specialist has introduced a material-centered program in which the use of blocks, rods and other devices supports a correct answer or dis- proves a wrong one. The science teacher has assembled kits of manipula- tive materials which permit learning by discovery. Children are always encouraged to describe their discoveries in precise language. In art, too, these children prefer manipulative materials; and they have completed such difficult projects as making papier mtzehd animals when the lessons were presented in easy steps. During several short periods a week, the physical education teacher provides exercises for motor and auditory training. These periods also furnish an opportunity for gross motor out- lets between quieter activities. The music specialist gives practice in audi- tory perception by having children repeat tapped out patterns, complete rhythmic phrases and maintain independent instrument parts in ensemble playing. The librarian introduces the children to books by showing amusing or instructive pictures, telling folk tales, reading brief and exciting stories and demonstrating how to follow directions from a book; - - i.e. How to braid hair. The reading consultant has suggested techniques appropriate for beginning reading and writing. The social worker's class- room observation, followed by teacher conferences, serves to increase the teachers' understanding of each child's development. The principal lends interest and support to the total program.

    Conclusions Of course the findings of this study cannot be fully evaluated until

    the spring of 1968-69, when the children in the sample will have received two years of reading instruction. At that time the scores on all the battery of tests will be compared with reading and spelling scores on the Metro- politan Achievement Tests. However, a follow-up during the current school year, from September 1967 to December 1967, seems to indicate that the test scores have been an effective means of grouping for academic instruction. There seems to be sound correlation between the performance of the children and the test predictions. That is, those children identified as future successful readers and those identified as likely to have reading problems continue to give every indication that the predictions are valid.

    Because of the interest of the staff in the study and their involvement in using the research instrument, teachers feel that they now have a better knowledge of each child's assets and deficits.

  • NEW CANAAN, CONNECTICUT 77

    A part of the on-going study includes administration of the entire "predictive index" to the total 1967-1968 kindergarten population, also. I t is with continued enthusiasm that the staff of the Hartwell School directs its efforts toward protecting children from the harmful effects of failure.

    1. Bryant, N. D., Monograph, Learning Disabilities in Reading. 2. Bryant, N. D., Monograph, Some Principles of Remedial Instruction for Dyslexia. 3. Chall, Jeanne et al., Auditory Blending Ability: A Factor in Success in Beginning

    Reading The Reading Teacher. 17 (November 1963) : p. 113-118. 4. Cruickshank, William et al, A Teaching Method far Brain Injured and Hyper-

    active Children. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1961. 5. de Hirsch, K., Jansky, J., and Langford, W., Predicting Reading Failure. New

    York: Harper and Row, 1966. 6. Gilham, Isabel, Self-concept and Reading The Reading Teacher. 21:3 (Dec.),

    1967. 7. Karlen, Robert, Research Results and Classroom Practice The Reading Teacher.

    21:3 (Dec. 1967), p. 217. 8. Kephart, N. C., The Slow Learner in the Classroom. Columbus, Ohio: C. E.

    Merrill, 1960. 9. Koppitz, Elizabeth N. et al A Note on Screening School Beginners with the

    Bender Gestalt test Journal of Educational Psychology. 52 (April, 1961) : p. 80-81.

    THE "PERSONALIZED CURRICULUM PROGRAM" OF THE NEW CANAAN, CONNECTICUT H IGH SCHOOL

    A FOLLOW-UP (See Bulletin XVI I , pp. 82-85)

    Memorandum from Harold Kenney, Principal of the High School: As I review the very encouraging results our school has achieved

    during the past three years, I can rate few programs more highly than our P. C. P.

    Prior to the initiation of this program our efforts to close the educa- tional and cultural gap for young people with obvious handicaps were spasmodic and observable gains were unimpressive.

    Because of the dedication, skill, and hard work by Mrs. Childs, Mrs. Stott, Mr. St. Clair, and other wonderful people on our staff, we no longer need to apologize for the school's attempts to help deprived pupils.

    The "discovery" technique* being used has resulted in bringing ex- citement to the learning process for boys and girls who had almost given up the idea that secondary education was relevant to them. They display heightened interest and evidence of high morale.

    We are delighted to find that several of these pupils are now taking regular academic programs in their Junior year and doing well - - heart- warming evidence that progress is being made. The administration is most appreciative.

    * Sometimes called "the inductive method" of having the students derive principles, generalizations and rules from the linguistic evidence, maximizing observation and reasoning, minimizing reliance on rote learning, except as one "learns formulae as useful short-cuts."--Ed.

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