Perspectives on Learning Disabilities: Biological, Cognitive, Contextual

By Robert J. Sternberg; Louise Spear-Swerling | Go to book overview
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8
Developing Reading Fluency in Learning-Disabled Students

S. Jay Samuels

In this chapter I focus on the identification and remediation of a difficulty commonly encountered by learning-disabled students as they learn to read. The difficulty to which I refer is the lack of reading fluency--or automaticity. Without automaticity students find that although it is possible to comprehend a text, doing so requires so much effort that reading becomes a most unpleasant experience. Although lack of automaticity is experienced by most students with a learning disability, it is a problem that can be overcome. In this chapter I present specific techniques that teachers can easily use to determine if students are decoding text automatically and also suggest a variety of techniques for developing this skill.

For present purposes, we can think of a learning disability as a disorder that hampers learning in a specific domain such as reading. According to Eggen and Kauchak ( 1997, p. 164), learning-disabled students are characterized by their lack of reading fluency.

The following scenario, which accurately describes the lack of fluency experienced by learning-disabled students, was reported by an inner-city St. Paul teacher who had taken a cognitive psychology course with me that included material on automaticity theory. This teacher was trying to understand why one of her third-grade students had such a low score on the reading portion of the Metropolitan Achievement Test, a test that her school district uses to assess districtwide academic achievement. The test was given early in fall about a month after the students had returned from vacation. During classroom discussions, the student who had scored poorly on the reading test showed himself to be an eager participant, and what he had to say during discussions indicated that he had considerable general knowledge. He seemed highly motivated to do well and attended school regularly.

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