Blog Series

From Reluctant to Reader: One Student's Transformation

by Helen Long on Nov 11, 2015

  • Education Technology
  • Literacy
  • Reading Intervention
  • Struggling Students
From Reluctant to Reader-1

How many more times do we have to hear from NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) that 30 to 40 percent of middle and high school students are struggling and/or can’t read?

It’s a catch-22. Because reading is difficult for them, older struggling readers don’t like to read, and therefore they don’t read. As a result and over time, vocabulary, sentence structure, comprehension, and academic language become less familiar, and these students begin to fall further and further behind.

In Carver, Massachusetts, 11th grader Noah Pina explained to a group of educators, including myself, how an intervention program changed his life. Noah started the curriculum last year reading at approximately a fifth grade level and is now reading at a 10th grade level!

The curriculum is called LANGUAGE!® Live, a unique intervention for older struggling readers that offers explicit, systematic instruction through a blended learning approach of technology and teacher-led instruction.

The big “aha” during Noah’s transformation was that he had never mastered the foundational skills of reading:

  • Speech sounds (phonology)
  • The print system (orthography)
  • Word meanings (semantics)
  • Sentence structure (syntax)
  • Text organization (discourse)

LANGUAGE! Live results have shown that students who work simultaneously on both the foundational skills of reading (through personalized technology) and text comprehension (through classroom instruction) make more than twice the rate of progress as students who work on only one aspect of reading.

So how does this happen in a classroom with students reading at all different levels? It’s called a blended learning approach. Through the technology part, Noah is able to begin learning the foundational skills at just the right level of instruction. Each day for about 30 minutes he simply signs on and moves through the different levels of engaging expert- and peer-led videos and activities. In a private, respectful online environment, Noah learns at the pace that’s right for him, mastering each skill before moving on in the curriculum.

Noah can log on through a laptop, desktop, or mobile device anytime and anywhere he has an Internet connection. And he can use his own social media platform to communicate with classmates and receive messages posted by his teacher. Nothing elementary about this program; it’s totally designed for adolescent students!

While Noah is working on phonology, orthography, and semantics, his teacher is working with another group on text comprehension with really cool anthologies that are relevant to the students’ lives and interests. The reading and writing strategies are a teacher’s dream, as each strategy is broken down into step-by-step directions that support best practices in teaching struggling readers. Noah receives this teacher-led instruction in turn through the blended learning approach.

I could keep going on and on, but instead why not let Noah tell his own story? Take a moment (2 minutes) to watch the video and see how LANGUAGE! Live has forever changed Noah’s life. As author Dr. Louisa Moats says, it’s never too late!  

To learn more about ways to help struggling adolescent readers, view a webinar by Helen Long that explores the science behind “training” the brain and offers proven techniques that support middle and high school students who struggle with reading.

Watch Webinar

Do you have questions about motivating adolescent students who are reading below grade level—or tips to share with other educators? Please share your thoughts in the comment field below.

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