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Reading in Summer School
For some students, summer break is far too long a time away from academic pursuits. Struggling students, as well as those that simply need to keep their minds active, need summer school activities to maintain or increase their skills.
Summer school is the perfect time to address weak skills. The smaller class size, more relaxed schedule, and increased flexibility can allow teachers to watch for reading problems and assess students in ways that are difficult to carry out during the regular school year. It's important to become familiar with the signs of reading problems, screen students who are at risk, and assess students who show signs of having trouble with text. This information can be a major resource for the student's regular teacher in the fall.
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Signs of Possible Reading Problems
Children of all ages can have reading problems. Any time a child cannot read fluently and with comprehension at the level expected for the classroom, he or she might be having difficulty with reading. Students experiencing reading problems are often masters of hiding their situation, however. It is possible to get completely through high school and sometimes through college without letting anyone know there is a reading problem. Teachers need to be alert for signs and symptoms of reading difficulties.
Reluctance to read can be indicative of reading problems. Oral reading at the previous grade level (or below) that is halting, slow, hesitant, or full of self-corrections may be a clue that the child is having reading problems. Many who have reading problems attempt to mask their situation by avoiding reading tasks, sometimes in very subtle ways, such as eavesdropping while others read directions or asking for clarification on passages they haven't read. Poor readers are also more likely to exhibit behavior problems. If the class time is disrupted, there is less chance that the struggling reader will be called on an embarrassed.
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Screening for Troubled Readers
There are several ways to screen students to find out if problems are indeed related to reading difficulties. Perhaps the simplest method is to conduct the "Five-Finger Test." In private, ask the student to read a page from the middle of a book at the reading level expected for his or her grade placement. The page should be mostly text, with few if any pictures or other graphics. As the student reads out loud, keep count of words that are misread or those that cause hesitation. If there are more than five over the entire page, the student may be having a reading problem and should be evaluated in more formal ways.
Another quick and easy way to screen students for reading difficulties is to use a graded word list, such as the San Diego Quick Reading Assessment. Have the student read (again in private) from the list, beginning several grade levels below the current grade placement. If more than one word is missed on a grade level then the student may be having some reading difficulty, and should be evaluated further.
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Summer school, with its smaller class size and increased flexibility, can be the perfect time to evaluate the reading skills of struggling readers. There are reading evaluations that can be conducted in private, such as informal reading inventories, those that can be done with a group, such as silent reading inventories, and evaluations that can be done using computers, such as self-adjusting tests. Any one or a combination of these methods can give vital information about a student's actual reading skill and can be invaluable for designing prescriptive remediation. Many districts use the Dibles Assessment for early literacy.