Academic journal article Journal of College Reading and Learning

Reading Fluency and Comprehension Instruction for Pre-Service Teacher Candidates

Academic journal article Journal of College Reading and Learning

Reading Fluency and Comprehension Instruction for Pre-Service Teacher Candidates

Article excerpt


Lying outside the field's traditional focus on students placed in developmental reading courses is a group of college students who experience reading comprehension difficulty despite having completed the majority of their course-based requirements for an undergraduate degree. Referred to as "resilient readers" by some (Jackson & Doellinger, 2002; Welcome, Chiarello, Halderman, & Leonard, 2009) because of their ability to compensate for reading difficulties by using effective strategies (Walczyk, 1995), the focus on these students and their struggles in reading is not frequent in the field. In order to address the paucity of discussion of support structures for resilient readers, I share, in this article, preliminary findings from my work with four reading teacher candidates who, although successfully completing the requirements of their major, repeatedly failed the reading portion of a Praxis-type teacher certification test. The goal of this manuscript is to provide a framework for tutoring and support for resilient readers based on a combination of implications from previous research and my own practical experience.


Every teacher candidate at the university in Pennsylvania where I previously taught must meet an eligibility requirement by performing above the designated cutoff scores for reading, writing, and mathematics. This requirement must be satisfied prior to the candidate's senior year of college, which is devoted primarily to the practicum experience. If not satisfied by then, this requirement may be used as a basis for denying the candidate the opportunity to complete the practicum and might lead to the candidate's removal from the program without the fulfillment of teacher licensure requirements. Candidates are allowed to take the test as many times as they wish prior to their senior year. The reading portion of this test is a timed reading comprehension test (10 passages and 36 comprehension questions within 45 minutes) similar in format to the SAT verbal test.


Early in fall 2013,1 was contacted by four juniors hoping to become teachers of reading and seeking my help in passing the test. Although some had successfully passed the writing and/or math segments of the test, these students had taken the test multiple times without obtaining the minimum required score on the reading portion. Initially, I collected diagnostic data by administering a spelling test and an informal reading inventory (IRI) to these students. The spelling assessment (Flanigan et al., 2011), is known to be a good indicator of the mental representation of words in the lexicon (Perfetti, 2007 ; Perfetti & Hart, 2002) because it provides important insight into readers' decoding knowledge and word recognition ability. For this assessment, I used Upper-Level Spelling Inventory (USI; Flanigan et al., 2011). USI is a list of 31 words of increasing length and difficulty with a coverage of a wide range of orthographic patterns in English (consonant blends/digraphs, short vs. long vowel patterns, consonant doubling, e-drop, derivational spelling relations, etc.). To administer the USI, I first called out the spelling word, read aloud the sentence context provided for the word, and called out the word one more time.

On the IRI assessment, students read aloud a 400-word passage from Timed Readings (Spargo & Williston, 1975) as I followed along and marked the miscues they made. (The read-aloud was also tape recorded in order for the students to listen to their own reading after the assessment.) The read-aloud was timed in order to derive students' reading rate score, and immediately after the read-aloud, students were asked to answer 10 comprehension questions without looking back at the passage. For half of the questions, literal comprehension of the passage was required. For the other half, students had to make accurate inferences from the passage. …

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