Reading Reform Foundation Offers Innovative Literacy Techniques for the Older Learner
The image of a student learning how to read is usually a five or six-year-old child just entering the educational system. Often overlooked are the older learners – students who have attended school for several years, but have not acquired the necessary literacy skills to progress to the next level of education. For various reasons, these students have fallen behind their peers and are oftentimes too embarrassed or discouraged to seek help. Barbara A. Wilson, Director of Wilson Language Training and cofounder of the Wilson Learning Center in Millbury, Massachusetts, addressed this issue in a two-part workshop, “The Older Learner: Closing the Reading Gap”, in Reading Reform Foundation’s 25th Annual Conference on Sunday, October 22, 2006.
Seats in a conference room in the New York Hilton and Towers hotel were quickly filled by teachers and administrators, many of whom were already fans of the Wilson Training Center and looked forward to collecting more useful teaching techniques. “Older learning is one of the best workshops because it focuses on all aspects of reading comprehension and reading influences; its methods are explicit and multisensory – kids like it,” exclaimed an educational administrator from Region 4 [Names of the participants quoted withheld at their request.]. A teacher from Long Island agreed that children enjoy using the Wilson Reading System’s multisensory methods since it helps them grasp what is being taught and understand the terminology.
With the aid of a PowerPoint presentation, Wilson guided the class through an explanation of how to assess a student’s reading level and identify learning disabilities, whether it is a deficiency in word levels, comprehension, or both and described the appropriate approach for each problem. Wilson also provided a lesson on phonology and demonstrated how to use a “sound tapping” system to help students differentiate the speech sounds in a word. Following Wilson’s demonstration, attendees practiced tapping out the sounds to words themselves. In addition to a discussion on phonology, Wilson also focused on teaching methods involving morphology and orthography, as well as decoding, or understanding text. On how to develop reading fluency, Wilson stressed the importance of reading drills, recreational reading, and reading to students. Wilson also gave suggestions on planning lessons and how to execute them.
Although Wilson still had much more advice and knowledge to share at the completion of the class, attendees left feeling excited about incorporating the methods from today’s workshop into their curriculum. “I really enjoyed the workshop. English is a difficult language to learn, but the Wilson system makes it manageable and I’m definitely going to use it with my students,” said a teacher from New York City.
In addition to the useful information that attendees received from “The Older Learner: Closing the Reading Gap” workshop, they also received practical tips from other workshops addressing a range of topics including the visual representation of content, building students’ vocabularies, literacy skills for young learners, reading and interpreting primary sources, reading comprehension, and Reading Reform Foundation’s “bottom-up” training system for teachers.#