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Post-secondary developmental readers

Posted By: Martha Byrd on June 16, 2003
 
I work with developmental readers at a community college. After seeing students reading from a second grade ninth month level to a tenth grade level, I began to question my own ideas about what I was teaching. If you look at the current textbooks available for these students, each one is a mirror image of the other- main idea, supporting details, fact and opinion, etc. These concepts are all well and good, but for a variety of reasons, students did not grasp these concepts in the previous twelve years. Why was I to think that in one semester of college I was going to suddenly see them become experts at selecting a main idea- and why did they need to? No connections were being made between the reading class and other classes.

So, I spent some time really focusing on the students and the thought processes that each one was experiencing. I encouraged them to bring their work from other classes to me when they were having difficulty. I was able to begin to determine where they were having difficulty- not where as in which class, but where as in where in the thought process were they faltering. I reached some conclusions which are as of it not research based and statistically proven. As time permits, I plan to test my ideas. Here are the four areas where I see my students really lacking.

1- Following Directions: They can read the words in a page of directions, yet they have trouble processing 'this is what I need to do first, then second, and so on.'

2- Logical Thinking: They cannot read something and process it in a logical manner.

3- Problem Solving: Because of their lack of logical thinking and their inability to organize, they become frustrated with even the simplest problem solving tasks.

4- Organizing: Writing assignments on a calendar and keeping up with a variety of things from different classes easily overwhelms them.

Each of these four are common sense items, and I can picture someone reading them saying, 'These are way too simple to solve the problem.' Yet, students come back to me and tell me that the best thing they learned from my class was how to keep a notebook- in a logical, organized fashion. After all, what is comprehension if not reading words and then organizing them logically in your mind?

Because of what I stated earlier about reading textbooks, I have spent time writing my own materials. I give students a notebook's worth of papers at the beginning of the semester, and we spend the semester going through the activities that I have written. A big part of this is reading and following directions independently- at least independently is the goal.

Anyone wishing to comment on my ideas can contact me at kurlylou@aol.com

Martha Lou Byrd
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 Teaching high school aged non and low readers to read by R. Warren Donelan on April 15, 2003
 
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