Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

Examining the Effect of Teacher Read-Aloud on Adolescent Attitudes and Learning

Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

Examining the Effect of Teacher Read-Aloud on Adolescent Attitudes and Learning

Article excerpt

Over the past 3 decades, a great deal of attention has been focused on how children learn to read and ways instruction could facilitate maximum growth. This concentration on reading fluency is critical for younger students. Likewise unresolved reading difficulties with reading fluency can remain an obstacle for learners far beyond fourth grade. Middle school years and the accompanying physical growth are often considered a transition time for many adolescents. After spending the majority of the elementary school day in a classroom containing the same teacher, routines, and classmates, most middle schools require moving through a less personal environment of frequent class changes, several teachers, and a much larger peer group. Reading instruction, replaced by English grammar and literature, is no longer a separate daily subject but an expected skill for all curriculum areas. Coupled with unpredictable physical changes, adolescents are faced with multiple academic adjustments that can impact their success.

The search for text meaning continues as readers mature and move progressively through secondary grades. Louise Rosenblatt's transactional theory (1994) states that each "reading act is an event, or a transaction involving a particular reader and a particular pattern of signs, a text, and occurring at a particular time in a particular context.... The meaning ... comes into being during the transaction between reader and text" (p. 929). Meaningful transaction with text contributes to student knowledge about the world and application to personal life. Whether approached efferently to gather information or aesthetically for enjoyment, there is no transaction if a meaning is not acquired. Rosenblatt believed responsibility falls on the teacher to connect students with texts and support developmental differences for gaining meaning. A teacher read-aloud is one mechanism for adolescents to relate to text, particularly if they are developmentally unable to do it alone.

An important perspective looks at the reader's attitude and its role in reading understanding. Repeated inability to obtain meaning can affect the attitude of the reader toward reading. A positive attitude leads to an intention to read, which then leads to the reading act itself (Mathewson, 2004). The combination of theories supports the idea that difficulties in decoding limit the focus on meaning. Recurring negative encounters with reading progress to lack of motivation and avoidance of written text, which is a typical symptom found with adolescent readers.

Secondary classrooms typically contain a mixture of reading abilities and motivations. Biancarosa and Snow (2006) found over 8 million adolescents have difficulty reading at grade level, with 70% needing additional guidance. The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress statistics indicate 78% of eighth graders have reached a basic reading level (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013). Of that total 78%, only 36% of that group is considered proficient or showing solid academic performance and competency. Most middle grade classes have a wide spectrum of abilities and interests with average reading abilities becoming progressively higher each year (Ivey & Broaddus, 2001; Manzo, Manzo, & Thomas, 2005). However, the ability range widens further as some students with reading difficulties could not progress the expected full year and others rapidly outpaced the norm (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006).

As students progress through older grades, the reading materials become more challenging, abstract, and specifically focused toward different disciplines. Textbooks remain an important resource and are designed to provide information for students in an efficient and sequentially organized manner. However, content area texts can often be a struggle for students to read and understand (SheridanThomas, 2014). Each subject area has unique knowledge requirements that change the language, vocabulary, organization, and purpose of what students must read and understand (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006; Shanahan & Shanahan, 2014). …

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