Evaluating Teacher Modeling as a Strategy to Increase Student Reading Behavior

Article excerpt

Abstract. The purpose of this research was to implement and evaluate a classroom strategy to increase student engagement in sustained silent reading (SSR), a form of school-based recreational reading. Teacher modeling was selected as the primary intervention. A within-subjects ABAB withdrawal design was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention. Baseline data indicated moderate and variable percentages of student SSR. Rapid and marked changes in silent reading behavior were observed during intervention phases. Results suggest that teacher modeling of SSR is an effective functional intervention that can be used to increase student engagement. Implications and limitations are discussed with emphasis on establishing procedures to support successful classroom SSR programs.

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Reading is the most fundamental and culturally imperative manipulation of the alphabetic system and an essential component in the development and future success of American children (Adams, 1990; Kaminski & Good, 1998). Using the alphabetic system is a fundamental component of literacy, a comprehensive term inclusive of reading and its related processes (Adams, 1990; Kamhi & Catts, 1998). Teachers in American schools support the fundamental mission of education by helping children develop as skilled readers and literate citizens. However, teaching reading extends beyond instructing mastery of the alphabetic principle and word-level comprehension (Adams, 1990; Pressley, 1998; Thompson & Nicholson, 1999), especially in intermediate grades. Skilled reading development involves significantly more than receiving decoding instruction; learning to read proficiently combines skill mastery with engagement in literate practices such as recreational reading (Adams, 1990; Pressley, 1998; Widdowson, Moore, & Dixon, 1999). To this end, Johnston, Afflerbach, and Weiss (1993) indicate that teachers' primary instructional goals are to foster enjoyment, enthusiasm, and a deep appreciation for reading in their students. In addition, many state curriculum frameworks include recreational silent reading as a language arts component. If frequent engagement in reading is a desirable social and educational outcome, how is it encouraged and taught?

School leaders, including administrators, teachers, and classroom assistants, influence the behavior of children in a number of ways. An effective and direct method for influencing the behavior of children is demonstrating, or modeling, desired behavior. Social Learning Theory (SLT; Bandura, 1977) suggests that valued, "high-status" models can positively affect the perceived importance of an activity and can evoke a desirable behavioral response more readily by providing the observer with ongoing visual feedback. Among other roles, teachers are essential facilitators of desirable behavior in a classroom context and are thus in the position to be valued models (Gambrell, 1996; Grubach, 1986).

Teacher modeling is a common element identified across academic reading programs (Gambrell, 1996; Grubaugh, 1986). Sustained silent reading (SSR) is an important component of reading and language arts curricula where teachers encourage student interest and engagement in recreational reading (Gambrell, 1996; Grubaugh, 1986; Pluck, Ghafari, Glynn, & McNaughton, 1984; Wheldall & Entwistle, 1988; Widdowson, Dixon, & Moore, 1996; Widdowson et al., 1999). Moreover, SSR is used in schools as a way to "foster a recreational reading habit" (Widdowson et al., 1999; p. 216). Consistent with SLT, studies examining SSR have evaluated how teacher modeling is used to strengthen the value and desirability of silent reading. Additional components of SSR programs are (a) student selection of interesting materials, (b) brief teacher self-directed introductory prompts, and (c) discussions following the SSR period.

In many classrooms, however, teachers use SSR in ways that fail to consistently model desired behavior (Gambrell, 1996; Wheldall & Entwistle, 1988; Widdowson et al. …