By Shawna Audet
There is no doubt about it, reading remediation lessons require a high level of engagement from students. Students often leave their first few lessons feeling physically exhausted. One way that I help my students to build engagement stamina is that I provide them with mastery-oriented feedback. Mastery-oriented feedback encourages students to use specific supports when they face a challenge, emphasizes effort and improvement, is timely, and is informative rather than comparative. When I teach reading remediation lessons, using the Dyslexia Training Institute program, all these qualities are built into every lesson.
The first element of mastery-oriented feedback - encouraging students to use specific supports - is something that I teach through the use of "blocking strategies." Blocking strategies are specific steps that students are taught to use to when they encounter a problem. Blocking strategies are unique to each of the different types of the daily drills that we do in a lesson. For example, when doing the phonemic awareness drill, the students are instructed to “tap it and then say it” when they have trouble pushing the different sounds (phonemes) together to make a word. When students have trouble remembering a specific phoneme or grapheme is the visual and auditory drills, they are taught to attach a key word to the sound to help them remember it. When struggling to write a word, students are taught to use the finger tapping method in which they tap the sounds on their hand with their fingers first and then try to write it. After writing a sentence, students are taught to use C.H.O.P.S. to check their own work. C.H.O.P.S. stands for “capital, handwriting, read out loud, punctuation, and spelling.” Providing ways for students to overcome challenges on their own to check their own work is empowering and actively engages them in their learning.
Other types of master-oriented feedback that students receive during all reading remediation lessons is feedback that emphasizes improvement, and is specific and timely. When students provide an incorrect answer, I do not say, “No.” I avoid this word because students have heard it too many times in their lives and it can make them shut down. Instead, I ask a probing question. For example, I might ask, “What type of syllable is “tap”?” If the student replies incorrectly by saying, “It is an open syllable.” then I ask a series of probing questions to help the student think their way to the correct answer. Here are some of the questions that I might ask:
How many vowels are in the word?
Is the vowel at the beginning, middle, or end of the word?
What sound is the vowel making? Is it long or short?
The process of having the student use my questions to think their way through to the right answer is one that provides instant feedback that is highly specific. It is also great because it places emphasize on the thinking process.
The final quality of mastery-oriented feedback that I use in all my reading remediation lessons is that I make sure that feedback is informative rather that comparative. In one way, this is built right in the program since each lesson is individualized and tailored to the specific needs and pace of each student. When a student decides that they have mastered a sight word or a specific phoneme, they tell me that it is time for that word or phoneme to leave its spot in the drill pack. If we find out later that there is still a problem with a certain sight word then we can always put it back into the sight word pack, but this rarely happens. Students are good judges of whether they have mastered a concept. Together, we tick off the different concepts on my scope and sequence as they are mastered so that they can see their progress as they move through the program.
On average, it takes a student 100 hours to complete the Dyslexia Training Institute’s reading remediation program. Each lesson takes between 45-60 minutes, and we meet at least twice a week. This requires a level of sustained concentration that many students need to build. For this reason, I use mastery-oriented feedback to increase their ability to sustain their engagement. It is important to be compassionate about the fact that time is needed for many students to develop the stamina needed to stay engaged for long periods of time. This is especially true in reading remediation lessons because I am asking them to do an activity that requires great concentration forces them to focus on an area of personal weakness. As the students build their stamina and are encouraged by their personal progress, they begin to look forward to classes. Faint hope turns to confident certainty in their skills as they overcome their reading and writing challenges.
CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org