Academic journal article International Journal of Whole Schooling

A Meaning-Based Plan for Addressing RTI for Struggling Readers

Academic journal article International Journal of Whole Schooling

A Meaning-Based Plan for Addressing RTI for Struggling Readers

Article excerpt


Schools continue to wrestle with how to best meet the requirements of Response to Intervention (RTI) as outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (2004). This article describes a way of addressing RTI for struggling reader that is pragmatic, economical, effective, and supported by a substantial body of research from a variety of perspectives and fields. This is different from most of the RTI plans for reading I have reviewed. Thus, I hope to provide a more complete understanding of RTI as it relates to reading and demonstrate a plan for implementation that is in accordance with both a wide body of research and the original IDEA description. The first part of this article outlines each of the three tiers and includes a variety of research-based strategies and recommendations, each of which are set within a meaning-based context. In the discussion that follows the theoretical assumptions upon which this meaning-based approach is designed are identified. Also, differentiation between programs, methods, and intervention plans are described and their potential for helping students achieve their full literacy potential is examined.

Origins of This Meaning-Based Approach to Reading Interventions

The meaning-based approach for struggling readers described in this article has its basis in the non-profit literacy tutoring center that I developed and ran. Here, I worked with struggling readers who were failing in the public schools. Analyses of these students' Individual Educational Programs (IEPs) showed a common theme: Regardless of their individual needs, struggling readers were given a one-size-fits-all, skills-based program focusing primarily on letter-sound relationships. Reviewing each students' IEP history showed that these programs did not work. Yet, each successive year, similar goals and services were identified with the same results. In other words, students were continually given more of what was not working.

At my literacy centers, we developed a meaning-based approach that (a) was set within the context of a full spectrum of literacy research; (b) developed students' phonological, semantic, and syntactic cueing systems; (c) focused on word identification, fluency, and comprehension; and (d) got students reading good books at their independent level or below to the greatest extent possible. Volunteer tutors were trained to implement weekly lessons. As a result, gains were made related to word identification, fluency, and comprehension. Parents and tutors also reported gains in self-esteem and self-efficacy.

This meaning-based approach was then taking to a special education resource room in an elementary school setting. Here, I worked with students with intellectual disabilities as well as students with moderate to severe reading disabilities. Paraprofessionals were trained to implement daily lessons. At the end of the year, gains were made in word identification and fluency scores; there was an increase in meaningful miscues and self-correction (metacognition) during reading; and there were improvements in students' writing mechanics, complexity of sentences, and willingness to write.

Finally, this meaning-based approach has been field tested and is currently in use in two Wisconsin elementary schools as part of their RTI program for reading. The teacher data here supports its effectiveness, its ease of implementation, and students' positive reactions to a meaning-based approach.

Understanding Interventions and RTI

A distinction needs to be made first between an intervention and a curriculum. A curriculum is a systematic plan for instruction that delineates what knowledge and skills are taught, in what general order, and in what context. A intervention is a focused instructional program or plan that supplements an existing reading curriculum for a short period of time. An effective reading intervention will enhance students' current reading levels such that it is no longer needed. …

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