The Effect of Tracking and Stereotyping by Teachers – Part VII

Gilliam, Gerla, and Wright (2004) also searched out strategies to help Hispanic students succeed in school. They recognized the importance of a parent’s involvement on a student’s literacy development. They conducted a study that investigated how to involve low income parents who had not been successful in school themselves in the literacy experiences of their children. Many parents want to help their children be more successful than they were, but do not know how. Classes for parents of kindergarten students were conducted to help them help their child succeed in reading.

The Texas Literacy Council showed that 40% of the minority families in the state were illiterate. It also “noted that many parents wanted to help their children, but they simply were not knowledgeable enough to provide the necessary assistance” (Gilliam et al., 2004, p. 227). These researchers decided to take on a project to help show minority parents what they could do to help their children’s literacy development through a series of classes.

The study (Gilliam et al., 2004) was conducted in an elementary school in a Southwestern city. The school was located in one of the most low income areas of the city. It served a high number of low SES and minority students. The participants were the parents of 20 kindergarten students. Eighty percent of the parents were Hispanic, 15% were African American, and five percent were Caucasian. Each parent was paid ten dollars for each session they came to and $25 at the end of the series if they had come to all the meetings. Childcare was provided by university students during all sessions for not only the kindergarten children of participants, but also their siblings.

To understand more about who the people who would want to participate in these classes were, a survey was given (Gilliam et. al., 2004). It showed that 100% of the families thought reading was important, and 65% said they read to their child daily.

Upon further interviews, the researchers found that some of the information given on these surveys was exaggerated. Perhaps parents did value reading and so exaggerated the amount they read together as a family because they did not want to look bad.

There were 10 sessions of the program, all held in the school library (Gilliam et al., 2004). The first night the school librarian showed how to check out books and the resources available, and after that session and all the rest of them, parents stayed after with their children and checked out books. The bookmobile from the public library also came and parents received library cards and bookmobile schedules. Other sessions included “storytelling in the home…choosing when, how, and what to read to children…using puppets in reading and storytelling…making and using literacy games… [and] reading and writing poetry”( Gilliam et al., 2004, p. 231).

In interviews conducted after the classes were complete (during the 10th session), 100% of parents said that their children asked to be read to much more often after the end of the sessions than before (Gilliam et al., 2004). Half of the families described turning off the television in order to read as a family, and all reported they were being purposeful to make time to read together as a family. The researchers contribute this success to their program, but also the students could have been exposed to literacy at school and may have wanted to read more anyway, an outside factor that was not acknowledged in the results. The researchers also report that parents stated they felt better about their parenting, but do not give a percentage.  In fact there are three results where no number or percentage is given as to the amount of parents who agreed with the statement. The other two were that kindergarten students and even some younger siblings were pretending to read to the parents, a result of familiarity with text and the concept of what reading is, and parents feeling there was more bonding occurring between them and their child.

The fact that no percentages are reported for these aspects makes me think that perhaps there was not a high number who did agree, or else it would have been reported. This is deceitful and takes away from the credibility of the study.

The findings are dependable in some ways, but they do not relate the information to the children’s performance in school so we cannot measure if it had a difference there, which makes it difficult to apply to the query of this paper.  All we can see is that families were bonding, not that it helped the children in school. Credibility was also an issue, in that the researchers dismissed the findings of the preliminary survey as exaggerated, and neglected to report numbers of subjects agreeing with a statement on three different occasions. If they told readers how the survey was exaggerated, or how they knew it had been, that would have been more credible. And if researchers had reported percentages of the results, positive or negative, on each of their findings, they would be more convincing. There were definitely problems with the reporting, and a lack of proof that the program worked to enhance school performance.

Lane, Menzies, Munton, Von Duering, and English (2005) looked at the effect of literacy intervention on a student’s social skills, in class and with peers. One student was followed for the case study. The subject was a male kindergartener who was 5 years old. He was classified as at risk by the school in both literacy and behavior. He was able to identify letters at mid year, but his word attack skills were low.

The intervention provided was small group work with two other kindergarteners (Lane et al., 2005). The literacy specialist for the school worked with them three to four times a week for 30 minutes each week for nine weeks. The curriculum used was the Phonics Chapter Books Program. It included independent readings and explicit phonics instruction, as well as work in phonemic awareness, phoneme grapheme correspondence, sight words, reading, and dictation.

Data was collected by research assistants from the college who were trained by researchers (Lane et al., 2005). Phonological awareness was tested by onset fluency, where students must identify the first sound in a word. The ability to name letters was also tested. The student had to name randomly ordered letters, both in upper and lower cases. These skills were assessed DIBELS subtests.

The college students also assessed the subject’s inappropriate behaviors in class and in social situations (Lane et al., 2005). It was found to decrease drastically in both settings. The study showed increases in phonemic awareness correlated with a decrease in disruptive behavior. The subject also rated it as a positive experience, and said he wished the classes would not have ended when they did.

The researchers (Lane et al., 2005) recognize their own limitations in the fact that the use of only one participant detracts form external validity. Also, the skills were only tested and there was no data collected on how he applied these skills in his regular classroom. We might more fully understand the development of this young boy if we understood how he was able to participate in the regular literacy instruction after the intervention. It is hard to say that with only one student if the results are reliable, and would be repeatable with another student who had the same issues. Perhaps for this boy his misbehavior was a reaction to feeling incompetent. Other students may act up for different reasons, and so intervention linguistically would not affect their behavior patterns.

Pollard-Durodola, Cedillo, and Denton (2004) studied the strategies that are used to teach phonemic awareness and early word reading in Spanish. Since English has a deep orthography (where the rules for pronunciation of letters vary) and Spanish has a shallow orthography, where most letters are pronounced the same in any situation (Pollard-Durodola et al., 2004). Thus, findings from English language studies may not be generalizable to Spanish speaking students. This study set out to find out how phonemic, syllabic, or whole word recognition strategies were used in Spanish speaking classrooms to teach beginning reading.

Research has shown that Spanish vowel sounds are more consistently pronounced than English, and are more of a focus of early instruction (Pollard-Durodola et al., 2004). There is also a stronger focus on the syllable as the unit of sound, versus the phoneme as the common focus in English reading instruction. There is also more focus on onset and rime in English reading instruction than in Spanish.

Pollard-Durodola et al. (2004) conducted a case study of two bilingual kindergarten teachers who taught their students in Spanish. The focus was on what reading strategies were used, how they changed over the year as students became more proficient, and how instruction differed for low, medium, and high ability readers.

Teachers were videotaped and the tapes were analyzed. Field notes were also taken, as well as interviews with the teachers conducted. Students were assessed using the Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery Revised Spanish Form word attack subtest at the end of the year.

Subjects were from the classes of these two teachers (Pollard-Durodola et al., 2004). Teachers had classes just over 20 students, but self identified three high lever readers, three low level students, and four average students to participate in the study, making a total of 20 students to participate in the analysis. The school was in a Southwestern city. Just under 76% of students in the district were low SES, marked by the receipt of free lunches. No information is given on the SES of students in the study.

Each class included whole group literacy instruction and small groups that were leveled by ability (Pollard-Durodola et al., 2004). From the videotapes, different types of instruction were identified and grouped. Drawing attention to specific phonemes, attempting to recognize the word as a whole, focus on onset and rime, drawing attention to a syllable, and a nonspecific strategy where the teacher simply said no or asked the student to try again were the strategies identified. Inter-rater reliability for categorization of strategies ranged from 74% to 83% between the two teachers.

At the beginning of the year, there tended to be a stronger emphasis on sounding out phonetically, as well as syllabication and word attack (Pollard-Durodola et al., 2004). As the year progressed, there was less emphasis on phonemes and more on whole words. There was also a stronger emphasis on whole words with advanced readers. One teacher used the segmentation of words only 30% of the time with advanced students, and 76% of the time with low level students at the beginning of the year. The second teacher used sounding out 25% of the time with advanced readers, 43 % of the time with middle level readers, and 18% of the time with low level students. This differs from teacher one, low level students in this class used sight word identification 53% of the time, much more often than the first class. Toward the end of the year, there was less emphasis on sounding out, the teacher said try again or told the students the word more often than at the beginning of the year, perhaps trying to promote whole word recognition to a greater extent. The second teacher used word level identification 70% of the time at mid year, and 84% of the time at the end of the year. Both classrooms moved from use of phoneme and syllable sounds to an emphasis on whole word recognition over the course of the year. They both used smaller units of sound to sound out words in lower level groups than in higher level groups, where the word was the focus rather than its parts.

In interviews, teachers did not self identify this tendency to use whole word recognition strategies to the extent they actually implemented it in their teaching (Pollard- Durodola et al., 2004). There was a list of words the district wanted all students to know, and one teacher identified with trying to teach these words, but the other did not recognize the use of this strategy and talked about sounding words out with phonemes and syllables. They recognized the use of phonemic units for struggling readers to help break down words into their phonological parts.  It was found that both classes of students were above average on the word attack assessment at the end of the year.

The results included the fact that even sight word recognition may depend on knowledge of the alphabet, to quickly identify sounds in a word (Pollard-Durodola et al., 2004). The emphasis on this part of reading development may not need to be as strong in a language where rules are more general. The emphasis on phonemic units rather than whole words for the less proficient readers may indicate their need for more focus on the alphabetic principle than more advanced readers. The study showed that teachers often encouraged students to read at the word level, but when mistakes were made, resorted to syllabic and phonemic units to correct mistakes.

A critique of Pollard-Durodola et al.’s study (2004) may be that it did not include any information on the English portions of the program. It indicated that both teachers were bilingual. Perhaps there was not instruction in English at all, but indicating that the teachers were bilingual and the schools were in the United States, one might assume that there were portions in English.

In summary, Carlisle and Beeman (2000) showed that students who were taught in their native language were just as strong in English reading and writing, and stronger in reading and writing in their native language, than students who were taught in English. Pollard-Durodola et al. (2004) showed that, in classrooms that use Spanish as the language of instruction, there is a tendency to use more whole word recognition strategies than breaking a word down into phonemes.

Denton, et al. (2004) showed that when students were tutored with read well, it improved only context free reading and did not help students with comprehension.

Chappe et al. (2002) also discovered that students of all language backgrounds could find success in decoding with explicit, systematic phonics instruction, though comprehension was not addressed. Barone (2003) found that less students ended the year below grade level in second grade when their study had been a whole language approach, rather than more ending below grade level in first grade and kindergarten when the focus was on phonics.

De la Colina et al. (2001) showed that students who were highly motivated to read improved more than students who weren’t motivated, regardless of ability level. When Gilliam et al. (2004) conducted classes to involve parents in reading with their children, 100% of families reported reading more together.

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