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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Computer program of choice for older non-readers

I wanted to share a computer program that works for getting older students to read. Every year I get a few students who are basic non-readers. They maybe can read at a first grade level. Maybe. And yet they are in 4th, 5th etc.

What do I do with them?

Sometimes they are on an IEP, other times they are in the process of being evaluated. No matter what, while I'm teaching reading, I need to have them engaged in tasks that are going to help them become better readers. After some searching, I've found something that works well.

It is called Headsprout Reading. (www.headsprout.com) When I have a student who is a non-reader or almost a non-reader in 4th grade or above, this is my program of choice. The program is designed for younger students, but with some modification it works well for older students too.

I have been lucky to be able to get a grant, an administrator, or myself (on occasion) to buy the program for the student. What I like is that the program begins at the sound level, and quickly accelerates up to the second grade level over 80 lessons. The lessons are fun, and cartoon like. From the teachers point of view, I get great feedback on how the student is doing each lesson. The program is researched like you wouldn't believe.

I'll admit, the first times I used the program it didn't work too well with older children. They didn't want to read out loud. They felt silly doing a remedial program. One student eventually refused to do the program.

Then one day, one of my boys (a stronger reader who sometimes can be a bit behaviorally challenging) begged me to do the beginning reading program with my non-reader. I honestly said yes just to get a little peace of mind.

What do you know . . . both boys were engaged. I went over a few times to remind my stronger reader that his student needed to "say the words out loud." I now think that you need to pair students up!

If you pair another student with the struggling reader, it turns into a win / win situation. The stronger student gets to be the tutor, can ensure that the struggling student is saying the words out loud and has fun at the same time. This seems to increase the "cool" factor of going the remedial reading program and has eliminated the motivation issues of using a beginning reading program. 

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