2006 Conference General Sessions

Go to previous article
Go to next article
Return to 2006 Table of Contents



Roxanne Butterfield
Slater Software, Inc.
351 Badger Lane
Guffey CO 80820
Day Phone: 719 479-2255
Fax: 719 479-2254
Email: roxanne@slatersoftware.com

What are the first steps to helping students learn to read and write? Learn easy-to-implement strategies and guidelines for teaching with pictures and text.

Where to start?  How to begin?  Teachers want to help their students learn to read and write, but some children do not come to the learning environment engaged, enthusiastic, ready.  This beginning level presentation will provide starting points, strategies, and guidelines for reaching the students with disabilities who are not reading or refuse to apply themselves to reading and writing activities.

For the student who believes he cannot read, or for the student who has a disability which has made reading very difficult, certain guidelines are recommended.  When teachers follow the strategies discussed below, their students will be successful readers for the first time, begin to see themselves as readers, and gain information and enjoyment from  reading.

First, the student chooses a book of personal interest.  Choices from a variety of genres have been adapted (pictures paired with the text) so that the pictures are a clue to the print.  The choice of reading materials is not important, but the books must be at the student’s independent reading level, discuss concrete concepts, and contain simple vocabulary.

Second, the teacher reads with the child providing a high-level of support.  These supports are choral reading, reading with enthusiasm, and frequently checking for understanding.  By the time the book is finished, the student is reading the pictures/words which are concrete and feels like he has really read the story.

Third, specific skill instruction is suspended.  The reading time is spent reading.  Once the student no longer dreads or fears print, the teacher can present lessons which further the child’s understanding of phonics, sight words, suffixes, and so on.

Fourth, writing is part of the literacy lessons right from the beginning.  The traditional view of literacy believes that writing follows reading, but the emergent view believes all forms of language (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) develop simultaneously.  As one area increases, all other areas improve.  Initially writing is modeled by the teacher; later, the student writes a short statement about the story read that day.  

Fifth, reading opportunities are available throughout a child’s day.  Adapted materials are in all classes, curriculum lessons, and learning environments.

Sixth, students who present the greatest challenges in learning literacy because of motivation or their disability will profit from adapted materials which relate directly to their lives.  Functional activities--such as cooking, learning a job sequence, reading the TV guide, or learning about a favorite performer from the internet--can be supported with text.  Teaching reading and writing through their interests leads to progress in literacy.

The presenter has followed these steps many times with students.  Each time the students improved their literacy skills.  When teacher supports, high expectations, and consistent and repeated opportunities to learn and practice are combined into lessons, students gain self-confidence and become literate.

This presentation will end with a prize drawing.  Books, adapted stories, and materials which can be used in a classroom will be given to five lucky winners.

Brown, Kathleen J., “What kind of text--For whom and when,” The Reading Teacher, 53:4, Dec 1999-Jan 2000.

Falk-Ross, Francine C. Classroom-Based Language and Literacy Intervention, Allyn and Bacon, 2002.
Fitzgerald, Jill, “What is this thing called ‘balance’?” The Reading Teacher, 53:2, Oct, 1999.
Jehlen, Alain, Saving the Joy, NEA Today, Feb, 2004.
Wright, Jim, www.interventioncentral.org.

Go to previous article
Go to next article
Return to 2006 Table of Contents

Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright