Cross Age Tutoring: Alternatives to the Reading Resource Room for Struggling Adolescent Readers

Article excerpt

Peer tutoring has been suggested as an appropriate educational intervention for young readers. The students in this study were middle school students identified as struggling readers. Students at one school peer tutored in first and second grade classrooms. Students in the control school attended a remedial reading class. Outcomes suggest that peer tutoring was beneficial for the students who did the tutoring. The data suggests this is due to: 1) an authentic reason for literacy; 2) regular feedback and modeling; and 3) integration of writing into the curriculum.

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The question of appropriate educational interventions for adolescent youth who struggle to read continues to challenge education professionals. In many school districts, adolescent readers who struggle with text are required to attend remedial reading classes or are placed in special education programs (McLeskey, Henry, & Axelrod, 1999). Concerns about these remedial and/ or segregated placements have been raised (Vaughn, Moody, & Schum, 1998). Some argue that these separate educational interventions do not result in significant educational gains and believe that a more inclusive and student-centered approach is warranted (Kennedy & Fisher, 2001; Klingner &Vaughn, 1999).

Evidence from successful middle school reading efforts suggest that students need to read texts at their instructional level, be provided opportunities to engage in dialogue about texts, and to write about their responses and reactions to the text (e.g., Fearn & Farnan, 2001). Peer tutoring is one way that middle school teachers can accomplish these instructional goals (Thorpe & Wood, 2000). Peer tutoring, specifically cross age tutoring, provides students with opportunities to read texts written for much younger students, but to do so for a specific purpose. Cross age tutoring also provides students with an opportunity to plan instruction for others. Cohen (1986) noted that planning instruction for others facilitates retention and comprehension.

The process of cross age tutoring involves an older student, under a teacher's guidance, who helps one or more younger students learn or practice a skill or concept. In other words, cross age tutoring provides learners with an authentic reason for practicing and thus improving their reading performance (Giesecke, 1993; Haluska & Gillen, 1995). In addition, there is evidence that cross age tutoring promotes positive reading attitudes and habits (Caserta-Henry, 1996; Newell, 1996).

While there is evidence that cross age tutoring is successful, the present study compared the outcomes of a cross age tutoring program with a traditional remedial reading class at a nearby middle school. The remainder of this article focuses on the implementation and evaluation of cross age tutoring for less proficient adolescent readers who tutored students in first and second grade.

Settings

Three schools were purposely selected for participation in this study. Both middle schools that were selected had implemented a required reading class for students who were assessed to be "significantly below average" according to the state achievement tests. At each of the middle schools, 1 reading class was selected for participation. The 22 students from class at James Dunn Middle School were provided the opportunity to cross age tutor at a nearby elementary school. The 23 students from the class at Paul Mason were not. The elementary school in which the cross age tutoring was implemented served as a feeder school for both of the middle schools. These three schools were in the same geographic area and served a similar student population. Each of these schools was representative of other inner city schools in San Diego in terms of ethnic diversity, number of languages spoken, and socioeconomic status. Both of the middle school classes were provided with the same books (see Table 1 for works cited). …