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Reading Specialist Interview

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years ago



Reading Specialist and College Professor

May 30, 2008

Submitted by Debra


In order to gather more information about potential use of school resources, an interview was conducted with an experienced reading specialist. The interview is provided below.



Background questions           



1. How long have you been teaching reading?


 I’ve been a reading specialist since 1993 – 16 years.  My experience teaching reading is longer if you consider when I was teaching reading in the regular classroom.



2. What other experiences have you had in regards to teaching reading?


I’ve taught first grade since 1968 in Toronto and Montreal, Canada and in Durham, N.C.   I was a consultant in Durham County for reading teachers for two years.  This included teaching reading and writing instruction using the whole language approach.  At McGill University in Montreal I taught reading courses and I supervised student teachers.  At UNC-CH and at NC State, I taught courses in the Masters degree program for teachers.



Interview Questions



1. What do you consider to be the most important school resources? 


Books, classroom teachers, reading teachers, specialists


One of the most important material resources is appropriately leveled material for the students you teach.  Students need to have materials that apply to their specific learning level, whether it is in reading, math or other subjects. 



2. How can teachers use other teachers as resources effectively?


Team meetings.  Teachers need time to talk with each other and plan cooperative units – team teaching in this way.  Teachers need time to consult with other teachers, such as the reading specialist. It is ideal if reading specialists can provide ideas and materials for both professional growth and for use in the classroom.



3. What needs to change in schools so that teachers can make better use of other teachers as resources? 


Teachers need release time.  It would be great if teachers had time to observe each other in addition to team meeting time.  Informal staff development could be provided to inform teachers of availability of help and resources within a school.  Teachers need time to meet together to share ideas and resources.



4. How do you feel about English Language Learners (ELL) receiving both reading and ESL (English as a Second Langauge) services? 


I am conflicted.  The problem is there are so many students who need help in reading.  For example, if you take only the lowest students at my school, the reading program will be largely Latino, because the language barrier often puts these students behind in early reading. This means that other children in the school would not be selected to receive help.  Some or these other students need help in order to be successful. So, if giving double services (ESL & reading services) means other students are not served, this is a problem. I also believe ELL students do not benefit from English reading help until they have an adequate understanding of English.



5. Do you see these (ESL & reading support programs) as different services?


Yes.  The ESL service teaches lots of different things.  For example, they teach how the English language works, and they have a separate curriculum.

6. How do you feel about how the N.C. Standard Course of Study (SCoS) is written? How could it be written differently? 


The SCoS is written broadly to describe what is to be taught.  Some of it is subject to different interpretations.  I only use the K-2 literacy portion of the SCoS, and within that portion I focus mostly on reading. I use the SCoS in that the skills and strategies I teach are included in that document.  Since it is written broadly, it doesn’t tell me specifically which skills to teach.  I use other sources for specific skills. I’m not sure how or if I would change the way the SCoS is written.  Writing a document that guides all teachers is complex. For me, the way it is written is useful and sometimes when a guide is too specific, it doesn’t leave room for my own ideas or meet the specific needs of my students.

7. Do you use the SCoS or a literacy framework?



Because I work one-on-one with first and second grade students, I take both the SCoS and my knowledge of literacy into account.  After assessing students formally and informally, I determine what the student needs in order to move forward in their development. Then I carefully choose skills and materials that are easy enough to be on the edge of their development so they are reinforced, and yet hard enough to move them to the next level.  Books I choose are easy enough for the student to develop self-confidence, which is further encouraged through at least two rereads. I was once a strong proponent of whole language and still believe in its use, but many of the students I serve need a more systematic approach to phonics. I use portions of the Wilson Language Program for the skill components of my lessons, and I use a lot of methods similar to Reading Recovery


The basic lesson components I use are:  rereading a book from the previous lesson, reading a new book, focusing on skills the child needs to practice, writing sentences to answer questions in a journal and then a skill game that reinforces skills taught. Each child has two or three volunteers who follow the same lesson structure and plans prepared by me. Students have three to four thirty minute lessons each week.  They have a small notebook/journal for correspondence with the parent, and they take home a book they have already read at least twice at school.  In this way my students read books at least three times, and the parent is informed and becomes a partner in the process. This works well for beginning readers.



8.  How do you feel about students with disabilities, (Exceptional Children, EC) not being able to get extra support from the reading specialist?  Do you agree or disagree with this?


 I have mixed feelings. At our school we have excellent EC teachers who know how to teach reading. Children are seen frequently, depending on their Indivdual Educational Plan (IEP), and, since the reading specialist’s resources are spread so thin and (spreading even thinner), I feel that EC children shouldn’t be seen twice as much and fill the place of a student who isn’t EC but could use the extra help from the reading specialist. However, if the student is in EC for written language or math, I think they should be eligible to receive reading services.

9. What are your views on the recent position cuts around the state? (i.e. reading teachers)


Naturally, since I believe reading is at the heart of success in every subject, I think the state is making a big mistake. If we don’t catch struggling readers very early in their schooling, we risk them failing in school, dropping out, developing poor self-concept, etc. etc.  It is my experience that past first grade and perhaps second grade in some cases, classroom teachers do not spend much time on the mechanics of reading. By third grade the big focus is on comprehension, but if the child can’t figure out the words, he’s not going to have ANY comprehension.

10. What is your impression about the program Reading Recovery (RR)?


 I think it was a wonderful program that helped focus attention on one-to-one early intervention in reading, using predictable print materials and building gradually on the child’s strengths. Unfortunately, it is “high maintenance” both for the training and for the implementation, and as a result it is very expensive. Also, children are dropped from the program if they aren’t progressing. My experience is that there are some children who make very slow progress and they need help all year for several (if not more) years. I would hate to think what would happen to them if they were to get dropped. Also, RR only deals with first grade children. In Intercede to Succeed, I used many aspects of RR including predictable print books, but also used the more phonics-oriented Wilson approach, especially for children who were dyslexic or non-English speaking. Much of the research on RR was done by RR people so I’m not sure if all the research about the success of RR is valid.





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