The new mission of the Common Core State Standards has been our mission for decades.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) say we must ensure students are able to read and comprehend complex texts independently and proficiently. Many are scrambling to align their products with this CCSS requirement, but we don’t have to. Developing independent silent readers has been the mission of Reading Plus for decades. Our head start on alignment with CCSS requirements has allowed us to focus time and attention on the critical areas of reading that have been largely ignored by others. We’ve created a program that develops reading capacity, efficiency, and motivation — the foundation of success in college and career.
SHOULD TEXT COMPLEXITY BE DETERMINED BY SENTENCE LENGTH OR VOCABULARY DIFFICULTY?
If you said both, you are correct. However, sentence length is the dominant factor in computer programs that evaluate text complexity. This means that simple manipulation of sentence length can dramatically shift a text’s Lexile® even if vocabulary remains unchanged. Reading Plus uses the Lexile® Framework for Reading, but we get under the hood. We look at both components that make up a Lexile®: vocabulary and sentence length. We never manipulate sentences to force a text to fit on a reading level. Instead, we use grade-appropriate vocabulary as the driving force behind the Lexile®. Dr. Elfrieda Hiebert, the leading expert on vocabulary’s role in reading acquisition and a Reading Plus academic advisor, has ensured that all our reading selections are written to achieve appropriate text complexity that is vocabulary based. Her design lets us provide a far more authentic staircase of text complexity than one based solely on sentence length. We build student capacity through ever-increasing levels of vocabulary, sentence length, and word counts. Our unique text complexity approach benefits readers of all abilities, but it is especially crucial for English Language Learners. Back to the top
Literary & Informational Text
Are students who don’t read any better off than students who can’t read?
The ability to read does not guarantee students will want to read. Once students master the process of reading, how can we get them to keep reading so they continue to build knowledge about the world around them? It’s simple. We must respect students’ interests and spark their curiosity. Reading Plus selections align with student-designed reading categories and student-suggested topics. Students can filter selections, giving them choice and control over their reading experiences. They can deepen knowledge on familiar topics or broaden their horizons by exploring new topics. And, we show students how their own interests link to curriculum areas, which builds an appreciation for the value of reading and lays the groundwork for intrinsic motivation. Back to the top
is how you ask a comprehension question as important as what you ask?
Comprehension questions are a measure of how well a student understood a complex text. But in the Reading Plus program, they also serve as a powerful instructional tool. We use innovative electronic question formats to encourage and scaffold effective comprehension strategies.
As they answer questions, students are directed to proactively reread portions of text, closely and critically, before selecting an answer option. If a student selects an incorrect answer, he or she is automatically returned to the portion of text where the correct answer can be found. We provide struggling readers with an additional option of using a “Clues” button, which highlights the specific evidence needed to answer the question correctly.
Our goal is to empower students with the skills needed to consistently answer questions correctly. Each comprehension question is aligned with CCSS anchor standards as well as sub-skills. Reading Plus tracks students’ performance on every question, groups students by shared deficiencies, and automatically assigns targeted instruction at each student’s independent level. Dr. P. David Pearson, a member of our advisory board, is a renowned expert in assessment, educational measurement, and reading development. Questions and answer choices in the Reading Plus program follow a rigorous comprehension probe rubric designed under the guidance of Dr. Pearson. Back to the top
Scaffolds for Independence
What’s the jeopardy of “outsourcing” students’ reading?
Outsourcing occurs when students are able to understand the gist of complex texts without actually reading because supports such as multimedia videos, simplified synopses, or text-to-speech software are giving away context and meaning. Although these assists can help students gain information about content, they miss an opportunity to help students learn to read and engage with complex texts. This is a major concern since students won’t have access to these assists while taking assessments such as PARCC or Smarter Balanced. And, perhaps even more alarming, because students can get information without actually having to read, students begin to see reading as having little value or purpose. Reading Plus offers more than content delivery; it is an intelligent eReader that personalizes instruction by aligning our broad battery of scaffolds with the individual needs of each learner. Our scaffolds develop efficient and independent readers who can confidently gain knowledge about the world around them by reading. Our Guided Window changes the way students take in text while reading. The Guided Window gradually increases comprehension-based silent reading rates. As students develop and automate reading efficiency and fluency, they are able to focus efforts on comprehension and gaining knowledge, rather than on the process of reading. The Guided Window makes reading productive, which in turn makes it more enjoyable. Longer reading selections are presented in shorter segments to help build stamina and appropriate silent reading rates. Text segment lengths are increased gradually to build student capacity with longer texts.
“Engagement Builders” appear between text segments. They provide enticing images with brief, interesting text that help build knowledge and encourage an active and engaged reading experience. Back to the top
General Academic Vocabulary
How do you turn 2,400 words learned into 10,000 words known?
It all comes down to choosing the right 2,400 words to teach. In creating her innovative list of “2,400 Words to Master” for Reading Plus, Dr. Hiebert selected words that are essential to general academic knowledge. These words are part of rich morphological families. General academic vocabulary words are critical because students encounter these words repeatedly across multiple curriculum areas. Mastering these words helps students access a wide variety of texts.
Learning words from rich morphological families serves as a knowledge multiplier. For example, a student who learns and masters a word, such as estimate, is empowered to read and understand estimates, estimated, and estimation. One word learned becomes many words known. The “2,400 Words to Master” are among the most frequent words in written English that appear in content areas and literary texts, and are the keys to knowing 10,000 words. Back to the top
How can you tell if a student has mastered word meaning? How can you help a student who has not?
Mastery is the ability to instantly recognize and give meaning to a word, and be able to determine if a word is being used correctly in context. Reading Plus determines which words students have mastered and which need to be taught through activities that assess and develop word recognition and usage.
Reading Plus introduces new vocabulary using explanations of word meaning and contextually rich sentences rather than traditional definitions, which are of limited value. As students learn each word, they also develop contextual analysis skills that help them unlock the meaning of other unfamiliar words. The use of images for concrete words, plus English and Spanish audio, support the mastery of words that are difficult to learn using only contextual clues. Words are repeated within and across reading selections, in a variety of contexts, to ensure word mastery. Back to the top
Writing: Varied Assignments
Can writing help students find value in reading?
Often, students read because of extrinsic motivators such as a graded assignment from a teacher. However, when students are given the opportunity to share what they’ve learned, they begin to read with the purpose of gaining knowledge. They begin to see reading as a valuable means of getting information.
When students access the integrated writing portal within Reading Plus, they review the writing prompt and then reread the text closely and critically to find the evidence, ideas, and details that will help them craft their responses. When students have the ability to share what they know in a meaningful way, they start to see reading as having purpose and value, and they begin to develop an intrinsic motivation for reading. Back to the top
Can technology improve a student’s writing process?
Nothing takes the place of a great teacher. But technology can be a valuable tool that facilitates great teaching. Pen-on-paper writing assignments make it difficult for educators to provide feedback to students while they are in the process of writing. Students must turn in a paper and wait for feedback, losing valuable work time.
The writing portal in Reading Plus lets educators view, edit, and comment on student writing at any time from the educator’s dashboard. In turn, students can alert a teacher when they would like to have their work reviewed, and can continue to write their essays during the review process. Students get “just in time” feedback that can be integrated into their writing before a final essay is submitted for grading. Requesting and receiving feedback in this fashion encourages the writing process and helps students to become more confident, fluid writers.