Effects of an Out-of-school Intervention Program
on Reading Ability and Attitude
in Low-achieving First-grade Students
This study, conducted at *****, proposes instituting a before- or after-school program to address the needs of struggling first-grader readers. Biweekly intervention sessions, lasting 30 minutes each, will take place from early September through May. Using individualized instruction targeting deficiencies in individual student skills and a balanced literacy approach, data will be collected to determine the effectiveness of the program and student attitudes about reading. Parent attitudes and participation in their children’s learning will also be explored. Data will then be compared to the average gains made by typical first-grade students.
I anticipate these sessions will have a positive effect on student learning and attitudes, and that participants will make slightly greater gains than typical first graders.
In the fall of 2008, I will begin my third year as a first-grade teacher at ******. According to the 2007 School Report Card (2007), the **** student population includes 335 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. It is a diverse school (51.9% White, 2.1% African American, 34.0% Hispanic, and 11.9% Asian/Pacific Islander). 17.6% of students are from low-income families and 21.2% have limited English skills. The average size of my class over the past two years has been 25 students, with over half (14 last year) speaking a second language (including Italian, Polish, Serbian, Spanish, Tagal, and Urdu) at home. Some parents refuse bilingual or ELL services in favor of a regular classroom placement. Students begin the year at many different literacy levels. The majority of students make excellent progress with the current literacy program (Harcourt Trophies). While most of the students who attend kindergarten in our district have mastered their letter names and successfully integrate their phonemic awareness skills with phonics instruction, there are a few students each year that struggle with these skills and have not mastered our basic kindergarten sight words. Often students who come from other school districts are even further behind. Some parents of these students have admitted to spending little or no time reading with them at home, either because the child is reluctant to work with the parent, lack of time, or because their own literacy skills may be lacking.
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My Philosophy/Past Efforts
I believe it is my responsibility to ensure that every student learns the necessary skills to become a successful reader and to develop a love of reading. I also assume that every student will learn if expectations are high. I believe in using a balanced approach to literacy instruction (Tompkins, 2003), using phonemic awareness, phonics, and literacy instruction which incorporates both reading (shared and independent) and writing. In searching for a way to reach struggling students and help them improve their emerging reading skills, I began a biweekly guided reading group during lunch during the 2006-07 school year for four struggling students. The students were tested using AIMSweb® and made considerable improvement between January when the program was implemented and the end of the year. One student’s reading fluency increased from ten to 33 wpm, an increase of 330% in four months. Although the lunch hour was a convenient time to work with the students, it was difficult to ensure they were focusing on the lesson and finishing their meals at the same time. I have considered the advantages and disadvantages of working with them either before or after school. While an after-school program will afford more structured time to better meet their needs, a before-school program might ensure better attendance (***, personal communication, July 7, 2008). **** has offered both a before-school remediation program with fourth graders and an after-school book club with second graders, noted that students seemed more focused in morning sessions (*****, personal communication, July 14, 2008). Before implementation, I will survey parents to determine which format best suits their schedule.
Role of the Researcher
As an active participant and researcher in this study, I will be working directly with four to six of my lowest-achieving first-grade students. Individual student needs will be targeted through word activities, shared reading, independent reading, guided reading, and writing activities.
Area of Focus
The purpose of this study is to describe the effects of a biweekly out-of-school intervention and guided reading program on reading ability and student attitude about reading in low-achieving first-grade students.
My focus question is: How will implementing an out-of-school intervention and guided reading program affect reading ability and student attitude about reading in low-achieving first-grade students? I plan on implementing this program at the beginning of the 2008-09 school year and continuing it through the end of May. I hope to answer the following questions through this action research project: How will biweekly out-of-school intervention and guided reading sessions affect reading fluency? How will these sessions affect student reading comprehension? What effect will this program have on student attitudes about reading and school in general? What effect will these sessions have on student writing ability? What effect will this program have on parent attitudes about their child’s reading ability and education in general? Will parent involvement in working with their children be affected by their participation in the program?
- AIMSweb® – “a scientifically based, formative assessment system that ‘informs’ the teaching and learning process by providing continuous student performance data and reporting improvement to parents, teachers, and administrators to enable evidence-based evaluation and data-driven instruction” (AIMSweb® Organization Website, n.d.).
- Analytical Reading Inventory (ARI) – “The ARI is an individually-administered assessment conducted during a one-on-one reading conference. It is administered periodically to students in grades 4-8. Results are used to determine a student’s instructional reading level, guide teachers in planning classroom instruction, identify appropriate supports and interventions, and document progress over time.” (“Student Testing,” n.d.)
- Differentiate – “To use differentiated instruction – an approach to teaching essential content in ways that address the varied learning needs of students with the goal of maximizing the possibilities of each learner” (ASCD Website, n.d.).
- Fluency – “Reading smoothly, quickly, and with expression” (Tompkins, 2003, p. 397).
- Grapheme – “A written representation of a sound using one or more letters”(Tompkins, 2003, p. 398).
- Phoneme – “A sound; it is represented in print with slashes (e.g., /s/ and /th/)”(Tompkins, 2003, p. 399).
- Phonemic awareness – “The ability to manipulate the sounds in words orally”(Tompkins, 2003, p. 399).
- Phonics – “Instruction about phoneme-grapheme correspondences and spelling rules” (Tompkins, 2003, p. 399).
- Running Records – While observing individual children as they read aloud, “teachers calculate the percentage of words the child reads correctly and then analyzes the miscues or errors” (Tompkins, 2003, p. 386).
Effects of an Out-of-school Intervention Program on Reading Ability and Attitude
in Low-achieving First-grade Students
Students today enter school at very different developmental and readiness levels. First grade is a year of exciting growth, presenting new challenges for developing children – from the all-day format to learning how to read. While many students adapt to the all-day schedule and flourish in the first-grade classroom, some are not able to keep up, slowly falling further and further behind their classmates. Teachers often struggle to differentiate instruction to meet
the diverse needs of their students. They also look for ways to ensure that every student is functioning at or above grade level, particularly since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was enacted in January, 2001 (Huncosky, 2004). Because time is limited during the school day and class sizes are often large, many teachers turn to after-school hours to remediate instruction for their struggling students (Brown, 2008; Davis-Allen, 2008; Huncosky; Little & Hines, 2006;
Saddler & Staulters, 2008). Their studies show varied results in gains among the lowest-achieving students.
What is a struggling student? Davis-Allen (2008) uses the term “at-risk,” describing these students as “strangers to the behaviors and values of the middle-class (as cited in Davis-Allen, 2008). Students were asked to participate in her study because of prior substandard academic achievement (Davis-Allen). To meet Huncosky’s (2004) criteria, students were functioning below grade level in reading or failing to turn in homework. Reading Recovery uses an assortment of tests given at the onset of first grade to target the lowest-achieving students for their 12-20 week program (MacKenzie, 2001). In simpler terms, struggling students are those who, academically, are not performing at grade level.
As I begin my third year teaching first grade at Wesley School in Addison, Illinois, and as I reflect on ways to improve learning for all my students, I have found that the majority of my students have been well-prepared for first grade, with a strong background in phonemic awareness and a firm grasp of phonics. They already understand the grapheme-phoneme connection and are ready to begin putting letters and sounds together to make words. Even those who may be a little behind their classmates developmentally catch up quickly and are usually reading at grade level by the middle of the year. Unfortunately, each year I have had three or four students that slowly lose ground, either because they lack a solid background in literacy, have difficulty attending to the daily lessons, or have potential learning disabilities which have not yet been diagnosed. As the work gets progressively more difficult, these students struggle with the district’s literacy curriculum. The second grade teachers report that these low-achieving students sometimes continue to struggle throughout second grade (C. Walters, personal communication, July 14, 2008). This led me to wonder if we were to target the lowest students right from the beginning of the year, would this lead to better outcomes for them in first grade and beyond? According to C. Wartman (personal communication, July 7, 2008), principal at Wesley School, we often take a wait-and-see approach in first grade. As stated earlier, many low students are successful with the curriculum as we differentiate to their needs in the typical classroom; thus, the wait-and-see approach works for them. But for those few who quickly fall behind, the wait-and-see approach is not acceptable. My goal through my action research project is to find a way to reach these students before they fall too far behind their peers.
These past two years I have had the assistance of a reading aide for 2-1/2 hours per week. At the beginning of the 2006-07 year, she led extra guided reading sessions with all of my students through a push-in model. It quickly became clear that four students needed extra remediation; therefore, she began pulling them out three times a week. This offered several disadvantages, the most significant being they missed valuable classroom instruction and may have felt disconnected from their classmates. How, then, might I find a way to fill in the gaps in their education without taking them out of the classroom for remediation? My first thought was to institute an out-of-school program.
Very little research is available on out-of-school programs for first graders. Perhaps this is because it is already a great adjustment for them to be in school all day, and it may be difficult for them to add an extra half hour or more to their already demanding schedule (C. Wartman, personal communication, July 7, 2008). Parents may not be available, particularly those who work, to drop their children off early or pick them up after the school bus has already departed (C. Wartman). A study by Huncosky (2004) addressed at-risk students in first through third grades through a ten-week, biweekly, after-school reading and math program (Huncosky). Students were selected for this program either because they were below grade level in reading achievement or because they failed to complete homework (Huncosky). One teacher who worked with students in this program commented, “It is not a program to narrow the huge gap. It’s a program to help kids who are ready to be helped” (Huncosky, p. 14). Other teachers believed that the students accepted in the program should be able to work well on their own and in small groups (Huncosky). Most low-achieving first graders, because they are not yet able to work independently, do not meet these criteria. Huncosky (2004) did not include a pre- or post-assessment, instead relying on teacher questionnaires to evaluate the effects of the program. The literacy activities used varied from teacher to teacher, and she does not state whether or not efforts were made to address the needs of individual students (Huncosky). The focus of the study was on student attitudes about reading, rather than on assessing their performance (Huncosky). Qualitative data (teacher questionnaire addressing reading gains) of the survey showed mixed responses as to improvement in reading ability in these students. With a teacher-to-student ratio of 8:1 and inconsistent teaching approaches, this format would not work well with struggling first-grade students. This study indicates a need for structure and consistency in instruction, lessons which address specific skills in which individual students are deficient, and small teacher-to-student ratios in order to meet the needs of low-achieving first-grade students.
I reviewed literature on two programs that include one-on-one instruction with elementary students. The first program, Reading Partners, used trained tutors (master’s degree students) who implemented consistent interventions with at-risk fourth grade readers in an inner-city elementary school. The tutors were trained to:
“(a) review past material; (b) introduce or extend a strategy; (c) read a new selection;
(d) engage in related writing; and (e) provide a related, supplemental activity to extend or enrich the learning” (Saddler et al., 2008, p. 204).
Sessions were held twice a week and were 60 minutes long. An Analytical Reading Inventory (ARI) (cited by Saddler et al., 2008, p. 205) and interest inventories were used to assess student reading and comprehension ability and to form bonds between the tutors and tutees (Saddler et al.). The average participant gained at least one grade level in reading, along with other intangible benefits, such as a more positive attitude and interest in reading (Saddler
Another very successful program that addresses struggling first graders is Reading Recovery. According to their website, “Reading Recovery is a highly effective short-term intervention of one-to-one tutoring for low-achieving first graders” (“Reading Recovery,” n.d.). The program targets the four lowest first-grade readers for daily half-hour one-on-one sessions with teachers trained in the Reading Recovery program format (“Reading Recovery”). Once a student is reading at grade level (after an average of 12-20 weeks), he/she graduates from the program and becomes part of a literacy booster group (MacKenzie, 2001). The Reading Recovery organization reports that 75% of struggling readers are reading at grade level after completion of the program, while the remaining 25% are recommended for further evaluation and remediation (“Reading Recovery”).
Both the Reading Partner and Reading Recovery programs reinforce the positive academic benefits of one-on-one and small group lessons to assist low-achieving students to make and maintain gains in their literacy development. It also demonstrates the need for continued small-group reinforcement once students are working at grade level.
Students with High Reading Potential
Next, I turned to literature to find out what other types of programs are being offered and which are the most successful. Little and Hines (2006) studied the effects of a 12-week, biweekly, after-school reading program on students in third through sixth grade. The study targeted students with “high reading potential” (Little et al., 2006, p. 11), offering book talks, read-alouds, and supported independent reading, followed by choices of literacy activities. As part of the 90-minute sessions, students were encouraged to read books independently that would be challenging and of interest to them (Little et al.). The goals of the program were to build reading fluency and to make reading more pleasurable (Little et al.). Although the study showed varied results, students in third and fifth grade made above average weekly gains in reading fluency compared to a national sample (Little et al.). One sixth grade student with a “negative attitude” (Little et al., p. 29) had a 40-point decline between pre- and post-test scores, which adversely affected the average scores of the 15 sixth-grade students in the study (Little et al.). This study demonstrated the benefits of teacher read-alouds, self-selected independent reading, and varied literacy activities. It also indicated a positive correlation between students in an after-school program who read books at their instructional level and weekly reading fluency gains.
21st Century Community Learning Center Initiative
Brown (2008) studied a 21st Century Community Learning Center Initiative (CCLC) after-school program over three years, following the progress of 20 at-risk students from second through fourth grade in rural Georgia. She discusses the many benefits of a structured after-school program, such as improved attendance rates, attitude, homework completion, social skills, and student aspirations (as cited in Brown, 2008). Brown used yearly Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) reading scores to assess student progress. The students’ scores improved between second and third grade (+1.85 points), but decreased between third and fourth (-23.85 points) for an overall decrease of 22 points. Report card grades in reading also decreased 2.9 points between second and fourth grades. While this may, on the surface, seem discouraging, these students outperformed the average student at the school, whose CRCT scores decreased 34 points over this same period. With no control group, we cannot ascertain how these students compare to similar at-risk students who did not participate in the after-school program. Because program participants outperformed the average student, I believe the program was successful
for these students, and it demonstrates the benefits of out-of-school remediation for at-risk
After-school Programs and NCLB
In 2003, the U.S. Congress, seeing a need for quality after-school programs to ensure that every child is successful, set aside $993.5 million for after-school programs as part of the NCLB Act (as cited in Brown, 2008; Davis-Allen, 2008). Recent literature shows mixed reviews of the effectiveness of these programs. One reason for this may be that many of the studies do not have a control group; thus, it becomes difficult to determine whether after-school programs are truly effective. Many students, despite enrollment in after-school programs, are still achieving below grade level, but without these programs, they may possibly have fallen even further behind. Because the students have made greater gains than the norm in most of these studies, I believe they demonstrate that extra remediation sessions, particularly those that target specific deficiencies in individual students and include one-on-one and small group remediation, are effective in achieving success for struggling students.
The review of existing literature has led to some important components I will include to remediate instruction to my struggling first-grade students. To ensure optimum attendance, I will first survey parents to find a before- or after-school time that will fit their weekly schedule. Through pre-assessment and teacher observations, instruction will be targeted to individual student needs. At the beginning of the year, we will work on phonemic awareness, phonics, and sight words to address deficiencies in student reading readiness. Future sessions will follow a consistent schedule, including word work in targeted areas, teacher read-alouds, independent reading, guided reading, and writing. Guided reading at student instructional levels will be conducted in small groups of four or fewer students. Time will be spent each session working one-on-one with students or having the students read one-on-one with me, in order to assess their individual needs. This one-on-one time will also be used to assess student progress through running records, AIMSweb® testing, and/or reading inventories. In order to incorporate these strategies, the biweekly sessions will be limited to four students with each period lasting 30 minutes. If necessary, a third weekly session may be added to meet the needs of these emerging readers. I will track their progress and make adjustments to the curriculum depending on
Parent involvement is a major component in student learning outcomes, particularly in struggling students where an “extra boost makes all the difference in the world” (H. Byers, personal communication, July 14, 2008). To encourage their participation, I will use parent surveys and home reading logs to determine and track parent involvement in working with
1. My reading aide will administer AIMS Web tests biweekly to assess student progress in fluency. This will serve as an objective assessment (quantitative data) of whether my intervention program is successful and will be one method of tracking student progress.
2. I will also assess using running records once or twice a month. Since I will administer these assessments myself, they will give me a good indication of what areas to target in our before-school sessions. I will use the results (quantitative data) to track student progress and adjust instruction.
3. During one-on-one and small group guided reading time, I will use a checklist (and take notes) to determine if students are able to read with expression. This will be a third indicator (quantitative and qualitative data) of reading progress to document in my study.
4. I will collect data on individual student reading comprehension using three methods:
4a. The weekly end-of-story tests (quantitative) will be an immediate indicator of whether students are able to read using recently-taught skills and comprehend what they are reading. The ability to write an answer the open-ended question at the end of the test will also be used to assess student progress (qualitative data).
4b. Once students develop basic reading skills, I will assess each student using a reading inventory – either the John’s Basic Reading Inventory (BRI) or a Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI) to target areas that need remediation. This will be used on an as-needed basis, depending on student progress. It will also be used to track the success of the remediation program (quantitative and qualitative data).
4c. The third comprehension assessment will be in the form of unfamiliar reading passages, followed by a series of questions. These will most likely be introduced during the second half of the year, and will provide quantitative data to assess student comprehension by recording the number of correct answers.
5. I will also use several surveys to assess student and parent attitudes. These surveys will include closed- and open-ended questions and will be given at the beginning and end of the year to determine if participation in the program has changed student/parentattitudes, interest, and motivation to read.
6. I will use teacher observations (in the form of a Likert scale) to assess student attitudes, interest, and motivation in reading.
6. Another survey will be used to assess parent involvement in literacy activities with their children. By using pre- and post-survey data, I will discover if parent involvement is affected by student participation in my remediation program.
Call for Action
2007 School Report Card (2007). Retrieved July 7, 2008 from http://www.asd4.org/docs/srcards/Wesley.pdf.
AIMSweb® Website (n.d.). Retrieved July 16, 2008 from http://www.aimsweb.com.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development ASCD Website (n.d.)
Retrieved July 16, 2008 from http://www.ascd.org/portal/site/ascd/menuitem.3adeebc6736780dddeb3ffdb62108a0c/.
Brown, G. D. (2008). An analysis of an after-school program in a small, rural elementary school in Georgia. (Ph.D., Capella University, Minneapolis, MN). Retrieved July 5, 2008, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text database. (Publication No. AAT 3297914).
Davis-Allen, Y. R. (2008). Impacts of an after-school program on student achievement for at-risk children. (D.Ed., Capella University, Minneapolis, MN). Retrieved July 7, 2008, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text database. (Publication No. AAT 3289497).
Huncosky, K. (2004). Closing the achievement gap at Huegel Elementary School: What can
I do? Madison, WI: Huegel Elementary School.
Little, C. A., & Hines, A. H. (2006). Time to read: Advancing reading achievement after school. Journal of Advanced Academics, 18(1; 1), 8-33. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ753969) Retrieved July 5, 2008, from ERIC database.
MacKenzie, K. K. (2001). Using literacy booster groups to maintain and extend Reading Recovery success in the primary grades. Reading Teacher, 55(3), 222.
Reading Recovery: Basic Facts (n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2008, from http://www.readingrecovery.org/reading_recovery/facts/index.asp.
Saddler, B., & Staulters, M. (2008). Beyond tutoring: After-school literacy instruction. Intervention in School & Clinic, 43(4; 4), 203-209.
Student Testing on San Diego Unified School District Website (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2008, from http://www.sandi.net/indices/testscores.html.
Tompkins, G. E. (2003). Literacy for the 21st century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Beginning of Year Parent Survey – Page 1
Beginning of Year Parent Survey – Page 2
End of Year Parent Survey
Beginning of Year Student Questionnaire
End of Year Student Questionnaire – Page 1
End of Year Student Questionnaire – Page 2
1.Do you think a before- or after-school format is better suited for first grade remediation?
2.How do you think an after-school literacy and guided reading program might affect struggling first grade students?
3.How would you decide which students should be included in an after-school program?
4.How many first graders should be included? Should there be a limit?
5.What strategies would you recommend to help these students?
6. If is always helpful to have reinforcement at home. What methods can be used to encourage parents to read with their children?
7.How do you think parent involvement affects student outcomes?
8.How do you think student involvement in an after-school program would affect parent involvement in reading to their children?
9. How do you think technology can be used in remediation programs?
10.How effective do you think “reading buddies” are to help first graders improve reading skills?
11.How long do you think each session should last?
- What do you think the optimal size of each guided reading group should be?
- What literacy skills are lacking in second grade students at the beginning of the year?
- How might the leveled books that will be available this fall be used in an after-school program?
- Are there any leveled books available to be sent home with the students?
- Very little literature exists on after-school programs for first graders. Why do you think that might be?
17.Are there any recommendations you might have for this program?
|Research Questions||Data Source|
|1. How would two extra literacy/Guided Reading sessions a week affect reading fluency in struggling readers?||AIMSweb®
Pre- and Post-Tests
|2. How would these sessions affect student reading comprehension?||End-of-Story Tests||Comprehension Passage Quizzes||Reading Inventory|
|3. What effect would this program have on student writing ability?||Writing
|4. What effect would this program have on student attitudes about reading and school in general?||Pre-Survey||
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