Pat Johnson, Regie Routman, Dr. Leslie Mandel Morrow, Richard Allington and Dr. Janet Mort speak with passion about reaching vulnerable readers.
Listening to these speakers made me think about my teaching. Did I do the best for all students in my class? Did I do all I could to teach those vulnerable readers? Did I know where each and every student was and what their instructional needs were? I would like to think I did. Thinking back on my years of teaching I know that primary teachers are very good "kid watchers". Teachers observe and know what their student's abilities are. They also use running records so they can analyze what readers are doing.
While each speaker labelled it a bit differently, gradual release of responsibility is key in explicit instruction for our learners. Telling students exactly what goes on in your brain when reading and modelling this for students is the first step. Giving time to practice with support (small group) is the next step. The last step is supporting students until they can use the strategy independently. Regie Routman calls it the Optimal Learning Model using the terms demonstration, shared demonstration, guided practice and independent practice. Others use the terms: modelled, shared, guided, and independent reading. But it basically means the same.
What teachers need to know is that we can help our struggling readers if we use formative assessment to guide our instruction and if we use gradual release of responsibility to demonstrate what readers do. Then support our young readers until they become independent.