GRADES 1-12 READING ENHANCEMENT PROJECT

For the Early Reading Pilot Project, we are using a phonics-based curriculum that every participating teacher says is the best they have ever seen. The teachers unanimously agreed that their students were much further ahead in their overall reading skills than ever before.

Frontline Phonics could also be used for first-graders as a primary or supplemental curriculum. If you have a first-grade class that needs a very fast-paced curriculum that builds from the fundamentals up, then refer to the Early Reading Pilot Project. We are very willing to allow first-grade classes to  join either the Early Reading Pilot Project or the Grades 1-12 Pilot Project, depending on which curricula you feel is most appropriate for your students.

The GRADES 1-12 READING ENHANCEMENT PILOT PROJECT, however, is aimed mainly at providing supplemental and remedial curricula -- go-at-year-own-pace, complete-anyplace computerized curricula. We are not saying you should stop using other effective practices, such as individualized or small-group tutoring, but we are confident that the computerized tools we provide will be very cost-effective -- emphasizing a very low cost per child, an easy-to-use approach even within a busy classroom, and a very powerful effect on students' reading skills.

In the GRADES 1-12 PILOT PROJECT, the computerized curricula can be used individually in classrooms, computer labs, at the library, at a friend's home, or in students' own home -- anywhere the students can access a computer. There are also books and videos that can be checked out, but the version that seems to have the greatest impact -- especially for older students -- is the computerized version. Students will learn more, however, if they read each selection in the Reading Master curriculum multiple times. And that is more likely if the students are encouraged to use all versions of the curriculum -- the books, the videos and the computerized version. Within the computerized version itself, there are several modes. Students can have the computer read the selection for them as they watch each word highlighted, or they can read the selection themselves and have the computer help only with the words the student cannot read.

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The Reading Master curriculum, developed in New Zealand, merges Montessori phonics, Doman whole word recognition, and accelerated multi-sensory learning techniques. Reading Master has been used successfully with older students, including adults. At Boistfort (Wash.) Elementary School this year, the special education teacher, Mrs. Vandemeer, found the curriculum to be very well received by her students. She had finally found a curriculum that seems to reach a fifth-grade autistic child who was not responding well to anything else. She felt Reading Master was very valuable in helping all of her special ed students with "holes" in their education. To help with assessing student progress, she developed a list of vocabulary words used in each book. She also correlated the books a little better so non-fiction books and related fiction books in the curriculum that support each other would be read by students consecutively for better development of reading vocabulary.

Boistfort educators were also using Reading Master with younger children. They send 5-6 students at a time to the library, where Nancy Reber oversees their use of Reading Master’s computerized curriculum. The expansion of vocabulary and the intellectual excitement caused by the program has the educators pleased though still puzzled about how to fully utilize the program and assess the results. They see the curriculum as much more than a reading program, however. The curriculum includes lessons on such topics as clouds, zoo animals, birds, astronomy, horses and cats – and in all of these subjects, it refuses to speak down to the children. The books include much information that most adults do not know, although written at a level appropriate for beginning readers, whatever age.

The Reading Master curriculum comes as a package with a book version, videotaped version and computerized version to deliver the same basic curriculum through a variety of media and senses. The curriculum is being used effectively in numerous classrooms, but the company founder considers the individualized approaches, implementing video and interactive CD-ROM, the most effective. By providing these three different formats, the three major learning styles – visual, auditory and kinesthetic – are addressed. The curriculum emphasizes the accelerated learning strategies developed by U.S. educator Glenn Doman to teach 70 minimal sound units (phonograms) and 450 most-used English words.

Ken Harvey, IEI executive director, and a group of Pilot Project teachers interviewed David Foster, Principal of the Hunua Primary School in Auckland, New Zealand, via teleconference. Mr. Foster's school used Reading Master with a group of students ranging in ages from 7 to 9 years of age that were stuck around the 4th percentile in reading for their respective age groups despite having been through at least six months of the State Reading Recovery program, plus one-on-one tutoring for four months after that. Yet despite the resources thrown at the problem, the students remained around the 4th percentile in reading.

In frustration Mr. Foster consulted with Reading Master co-developer Grant Ford. The children were then allowed access to the Reading Master books and 30 minutes per day unsupervised on the Reading Master computerized curriculum. After 4 months, these children surpassed the 86th percentile in their reading age. Because of the multi-sensory, individualized approach, Reading Master has been used successfully with dyslexic, autistic, adult, and ESL students. Mr. Foster, the Hunua School principal, described an autistic child "who caught up two years worth of reading progress in under six months." He added that Reading Master "compliments and reinforces the vital elements of any successful school reading program."

For GRADES 1-12 READING ENHANCEMENT PILOT PROJECT we also recommend two other computerized curricula: the online SkillsTutor curriculum and the CD-ROM-base Picture Dictionaries, developed by Glen Doman's Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential.

Doman's Picture Dictionary CD-ROMs make it fun and easy for developing readers to build their spoken and reading vocabulary. Students are shown a series of single words and associated images. Each of Doman's 10 volumes contains 150 colorful images with large-print vocabulary words printed in English, Japanese, French, Spanish or Italian -- with each pronounced by a native speaker with appropriate accent. Students can begin the program with any volume of the set and then move on to any other volume, so one set of 10 can service at least 10 students at a time.  ESL students should review a CD in their native language, then in English.

The set of 10 CD-ROMs cover 1,500 vocabulary words on a wide range of subjects. The topics themselves indicate how students can simultaneously build a conceptual framework for intellectual growth by reviewing these CDs. Subjects include works of great artists, dogs, cats, shells, tools, interesting places around the world, musical instruments, mammals, birds, butterflies, moons, planets, flowers, countries, flags, statues, fruit, archeological ruins, fossils, house plants, minerals, muscles, skeleton parts, fish, gymnastics, sports, natural phenomena, jewelry, herbs, vegetables, ships, whales, parts of the brain, nature, dinosaurs, tableware, nuts, computers, time, clothes, transportation, insects, composers, reptiles, chemical elements, colors, mathematical symbols, and constellations.

We believe a brief encounter with these 1,500 concepts will not only build a student's reading and spoken vocabulary, but will also help a student grow in his ability to comprehend additional ideas and concepts. For bilingual students, it will enhance their vocabulary in both languages to review the CD first in their native language and then in English.

SKILLSTUTOR is an online K-12 curriculum covering essentially all basic concepts related to the 3Rs, plus many other topics. Lessons on Reading, for example, include many non-fiction selections that will enhance students' understanding of social studies, geography and science.

While SkillsTutor claims to be K-12, few if any lessons could be completed independently without some fundamental reading skills. The student's reading can be aided by clicking on any lesson page, at which point a voice -- in English or in Spanish, as preferred -- will explain what the student is expected to do. The written portion of each web page is in English, but the spoken explanation in English or Spanish is enough to get students at a second- or third-grade reading level through their assigned lessons.

This curriculum has excellent online classes to help students build their vocabulary, understand root origins of words, increase their reading comprehension, and develop their skills in spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. We recommend Reading Master and Doman's Picture Dictionaries be emphasized with students with first- and second-grade reading skills to build their reading vocabulary and comprehension. These two curricula can be helpful for more advanced students, as well, especially ESL students and other students who may have "holes" in their language and intellectual development. For students beyond a second-grade reading level, we recommend gradually increasing emphasis on the SkillsTutor curriculum.

SkillsTutor can be accessed from any online computer. It uses current technology that most online computers have already installed. If not, it helps students download and install the appropriate software. Reading Master and the Picture Dictionaries are CD-ROM based, so they can be checked out and used by any computer with a CD-ROM.

The keys to helping your students enhance their reading skills with this Pilot Project are to:

(1) PROVIDE BASIC TRAINING: How to use these three curricula is pretty much intuitive, but you will want to make sure students get off on the right foot. We will train you, and you can quickly train your students. You should review their progress regularly to see how they are doing and to try to detect technical or academic problems that may be retarding their growth. We will set you up on a video-conferencing system that you, your students or their parents can use to "attend" monthly trainings on how to make best use of these curricula.

(2) Motivate the students. School staff and the students' parents are an important part of this process of motivating students, but computers have an innate ability by themselves to capture the interest of many students -- frequently struggling students more than the most advanced students. Frequently struggling students lack access to computers at home, but with a little help from a teacher or parent, they realize that computers are a great equalizer to help them overcome their academic weaknesses. A fourth curriculum from the MDI Learning Center is also provided to enhance motivation. Video-streamed self-improvement courses include classes on Computer Literacy, Excel Spreadsheet and Time Management.

(3) PROVIDE STUDENTS WITH ACCESS. By their nature, computerized curricula can provide students with advanced individualized instruction from anywhere they can access a computer. A key to success is to help the students gain access as often as possible -- in the classroom, in a computer lab, in the school library, in a public library, at a variety of social agencies -- even many churches, and at a friend or relative's home, if not their own. The students who need help are often too shy or too proud to ask for it, so their teacher will have to MAKE SURE students have access. Some schools are now buying laptops to check out to students who lack computer access as a way to bridge the digital divide. Some social agencies are repairing old computers and giving them to needy families to help accomplish that same goal. Other agencies are setting up community learning labs that are open at night for those who lack computers and educational software at home. This system can help students continue their remedial efforts during the summer, during Christmas break or while their families are away from your community, perhaps migrating to another state or country for work.

(4) ASSESS STUDENT PROGRESS: The SkillsTutor curriculum has built-in assessment and reporting tools. You can check on students' progress at any time. For lessons, you can set the "pass" level wherever you want it -- 70%, 80%, 90%, you name it. ReadingMaster and the Picture Dictionaries do not have formal assessment tools. Progress on those curricula, along with SkillsTutor, can be assessed with any standardized assessment tools. The SkillsTutor curriculum also has a general assessment test built into it that other students working with Reading Master, Doman or other curricula could take, as well.