Middle School Reading Problems and Programs
Education starts at the kindergarten which takes in children as young as five years. From the kindergarten, children proceeds to the elementary school at the age of 6 to 12 years then move to the junior high school. Normally, elementary school includes six grades although it can be extended to eight grades. Junior high school acts as a transition stage where children move from the elementary school to the high school.
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After successful completion of the high school, students proceeds to the university or vocational schools. Although the central government has a legitimate role in promoting learning, it is the responsibility of the provinces and territorial government to ensure that learning goes on smoothly in their respective provinces (Anon. 2000).
The middle school takes in students between the ages of 10 to 14 years. These are children who are undergoing emotional, physical and intellectual changes. They may also experience changes in their learning, the way they relate to people, or the way they perceive the world around them.
They are often under pressure emanating from their fellow classmates or they may face tensions and conflicts forcing them to behave differently. They tend to withdraw themselves from the society because of the desire to have a private life. At times they do not want to take responsibilities although they demand for privileges (Anon. 2000). It becomes difficult for teachers to control their behaviors without the intervention of the school administration.
To curb this problem, most administrations have put strong disciplinary measures which legally punish any student who goes against the school rules (Maddy-Weitzman, 2009). Punishable behaviors include resistance to authority, use of abusive language, or any kind of behavior that the administration may consider a violation of the schools norms (Anon, 2000).
Some serious punishment include suspension and expulsion, although, many school jurisdictions have granted students the right to sue their teachers if they feel that the punishment is far beyond the offence committed. In such cases, teachers are required by law to provide enough reasons for their actions. However, this is just a voluntary process allowed by the school jurisdiction (Wilson, 2001).
According to Maddy-Weitzman (2009), one of the major problems common in most middle school in learning is negative attitudes. Most adolescents in middle school and high schools develop negative attitudes towards learning. They fail to understand that teachers can not improve their reading skills if they do not cooperate.
They have to be a partnership between teachers and students if they have to succeed in their learning. The government has gone further to provide special schools for the physically challenged students for example, the deaf, blind and crippled.
They are no longer denied their rights to education like before and they can even sue the government if they are not attended to. Religion has also been recognized and students are allowed to wear their religious symbols. However, this does not mean that, students can behave anyhow.
Regression is a common problem experienced by middle school students. There is a certain degree of regression that is normal in almost all children; however, there is a certain group of students who show high levels of regression when they move from one class to the other. Such students may fail to stockpile ideas learned in class in their long-term memory for later recall.
They have a tendency of putting out of mind everything learnt as soon as the teacher leaves the classroom. These students need a longer instruction to help them recover their abilities. In this way, teachers will be able to prevent students from experiencing regression.
Apart from longer instruction, teachers can still use other activities that will help students in recalling what they learn in class (Carroll & Anderson, 2009). For instance, they can propose some activities to be employed by the students whenever they break out of school. Students who are profoundly affected require expressly designed instruction to be used during breaks.
For a long time, teachers have been thought as conservative and submissive members of the society. And yet they have adopted militant tactics to achieve their goals. It is known world over that teachers constitute an essential segment of the society, since they facilitate in propagating knowledge on various matters to the posterity (Carroll & Anderson, 2009).
Furthermore, they form the backbone of the government employees in many countries thus they should be involved in major decision making which is often not the case in most schools. Principals, staff, teachers and pupils and the entire school community should take part in major discussion involving curriculum objectives. In this way, teachers feel more comfortable with the goals laid for them because they have taken part in identifying them.
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On the other hand, pupils feel part and parcel of the education system and put more efforts in their studies to ensure that quality education is maintained and that their classmates benefits (Maddy-Weitzman, 2009). When principals and staff take part in the decision making process, they are able to plan for the necessary developments that ensures utilization of resources such as equipments and instructional materials available in schools
Parent’s Participation at the Middle School Level
Carroll & Anderson (2009) have found out that, parents’ involvement in their children’s education helps the children to perform better. However, the same can not be effective if the parents have a negative attitude towards education. They have to understand the importance of education to their children and have faith that their children can excel in school.
Parents’ participation is important for the child’s growth in communication. They should work hand in hand with the practitioners to ensure continuity of the child’s education. Therefore, parents can assist the practitioners incase of difficulties because they have a better understanding of the child’s needs and have knowledge on how they respond to different experiences.
Most parents get involved in their child’s learning only at the elementary level and become inactive when their children join the middle school. They fail to understand that, their participation in the middle school is as important as in the elementary school. It is therefore advisable for parents to actively participate and collaborate with their children and teachers in the middle school.
When parents participate in their children’s education, it is not only the children who benefit but also the school in general. Grades get better, students develop positive attitudes towards learning which makes the teacher’s work easier, academic programs become successful and the whole school becomes more effective (Watkins, et al. 2007).
Parents’ participation does not mean that, only the parents with high literacy levels are to be involved in their children education. All parents irrespective of the literacy levels should show some concern on the academic performance of their children. Such participation is beneficial not only to the adolescent but the entire family including the school.
Through it, the family gets an opportunity to appreciate the school curriculum, teachers get a chance to understand their student cultures and the students feel more appreciated and are able to consult adults when confronted with problems (Carroll & Anderson, 2009).
Parents can get involved in their children’s education through a variety of ways. For instance, a parent can talk with his child about the daily happenings of the school, spend time together especially during meals or family outings and point out what he likes most about the child, listen to him and offer a shoulder to cry on in times of troubles, and support the good thing about the school the child goes to.
It is important for parents to understand that arguments and scolding do not solve problems especially when the adolescents are involved (Watkins, et al. 2007). As a matter of fact, they aggravate the problem and should be avoided at all time. Instead of arguments, parents should listen to their children’s reasoning and correct them when they are not on the right path.
Homework and part-time reading should be encouraged as they help the children’s learning. They should be provided with the necessary materials and a good learning environment at home (Coleman & Klapper, 2005).
The fact is that as much as it is the responsibility of parents and guardians to ensure that children get their needs, the inability of the parents and guardians to provide these basic needs to children defines the poverty status of the families as whole; but the poverty affects children directly as they require much for their development such as schooling, medication, clothing and shelter.
It is like a custom that children who are born in poverty must just remain poor. Such cultural beliefs have played a major role in keeping the children to believe that they are to be poor and hence such scenario jeopardizes the ambitions and dreams of the children to be successful in life (Carroll & Anderson, 2009).
Besides, many children suffer from malnutrition which weakens their body and therefore makes them vulnerable to other diseases some of which are very fatal while others may have lifelong effects on the poor children.
This is a learning tactic where the instructor permits students to learn according to their differences. However, similarities appear to take center stage in those classes where differentiated instruction is not a norm. It is good realize that children of the same age aren’t all alike when it comes to learning.
They have many things in common but they also have important differences when it comes to learning. In the (differentiated) classroom, similarities are appreciated where the differences among learners is respected forming vital elements in teaching and learning as well (Orlich, et al 2009). The teacher proactively plans a diversity of ways to get at and articulate learning.
Some teachers interpret differentiated instruction as increasing workload for some learners and reducing for the others. However, this is not true because a teacher who understands the need for teaching and learning looks for every opportunity to know her students better through individual conversations, group discussions, student’s work, and observation.
What she learns becomes a means for crafting instruction in ways that help each student make the most of his potential and talents. Evaluations are no longer predominately things that happen at the end of a unit to determine who have understood (Orlich, et al 2009). They normally take place as a unit begins to establish the particular needs of individuals in relation to the unit’s goals.
Differentiated instruction helps students to learn and understand concepts according to their abilities. The step taken by the teacher to understand what works best for the students not only motivates them to work harder but it also raises they self-esteem (Coleman & Klapper, 2005). Many are the times when teachers continually neglect the poor performing students with the perspective they can never improve.
Motivational Strategies for Struggling Learners
Direct instruction is a term used to refer to the explicit teaching method using demonstrations or lecturers. It involves the use of explication of the skill to be taught and may exclude student participation. The instructor gives the student the procedures to be following in performing a task and he does not expect them to contribute.
All the students have to do is to listen to the instructions being given then follow them accordingly. In direct instruction, the instructor/teacher begins by asking himself about the most efficient way to teach each skill (Kim & Axelrod, 2005). The learner is expected to act in a perfectly sensible way, which means that the learner will always obtain an interpretation that is reliable depending on the presentation he receives.
If the presentation of examples is constant with more than one interpretation, the learner will receive one of these interpretations and not essentially the one the teacher wishes (Theodora, 2005). On the other hand, the presentation that is consistent with only one interpretation will work with nearly all learners who have essential pre-skills (Kim & Axelrod, 2005).
The direct instruction teaching technique categorizes discriminations as choice-responses discriminations, production –response discriminations, and sentence-relationship discriminations. Any discrimination of a given type can be taught through a disparity of the same series (Carraquilo & Rodriguez, 2002).
For example, any choice-response discrimination can be processed through a distinction of the same sequence, and it will teach because it will express only one interpretation. Direct instruction is apprehensive of both the growth and application of skills that are taught as well as with the teaching of new motor behaviors.
It is a strategy that is used to institute new behaviors and maintain them. It relates to virtually all instructional troubles, from the teaching of very strange behaviors to a handicapped young person to turning on older students who are not easy to encourage (Kim &Axelrod, 2005).
This is a teaching approach where learners with varied ability levels study in groupings or small teams. They use different learning activities in order to advance their understanding of a specific subject. The learning is symbiotic where each member plays a critical rule in helping as well as learning from the other.
Work on specific assignment until they are contented that all members of the team are conversant with it and are able to complete it. The aim of cooperative learning is to help students gain from others; it helps students to realize that they share a common interest (David, 2002).
From research, it is clear that, cooperative learning not only boosts student retention, it also promotes their academic achievement. It also assists learners to progress on their (oral) communication, upholds social skills as well as their confidence.
When it is done well, cooperative learning is a vastly well thought-out teaching approach that capitalizes on the verity that, any children become skilled better in the midst of interaction with their peers (Orlich, et al 2009). It arises when instructional methods allow students to work and learn in small, heterogeneous-ability groups. When this happens, cooperative learning is able to lead students into the social power of learning.
In cooperative learning groups, the task is clearly and definitively structured. The goals of the task are thoroughly explained and if the project is complex, it is divided into pieces and each individual is assigned a separate piece (Carraquilo & Rodriguez, 2002).
As noted earlier, the group is heterogeneous and thus the complex task calls on the potency and abilities of everyone on the group. In this way, the learning experience becomes interactive and exciting. To be in a joint grouping, each member must be very active in learning the allocated material as well as helping colleagues learn the same (Theodora, 2005).
Language Experience Approach
The language experience approach which is also known as LEA is a strategy to reading instruction which is founded on actions and stories built up from personal understanding of the learner.
The stories about personal experience are normally written by the teacher and read by a group of students until they are able to associates the spoken word with the written. The core of the strategy is the development of children-dictated stories that are the product of experiences or are a natural result of spontaneous events that occur in the classroom (Carraquilo & Rodriguez, 2002).
For a teacher to be able to conduct a LEA, he needs a stimulus which may be in the form of a trip or holiday, a pad of large newsprint and a pen. The lesson begins with the concrete stimulus. The children talk about the stimulus verbally, more often than not with leading questions by the teacher. All children who want to articulate themselves should be given the opportunity to do so.
This stage is very important in gathering data on a child’s oral language skills and preparing the children for the dictation phase (David, 2002). After the actual experience has been discussed, the teacher requests the children to write a story about the experience and each child contributes a sentence. The teacher writes down the exact words from the child and reads each word clearly as it is written on the pad.
After completion, the teacher loudly reads the story (two or more times) before inviting the children to read. Finally the children read aloud the story with the help of the teacher (Carraquilo & Rodriguez, 2002). LEA helps students to learn about language, writing and reading. It also expands on the student’s ability to tell stories through writing. LEA helps students to write what the say or think.
Use Of Assessment Methods
Assessment methods help a teacher to determine a student’s learning capacity. In practice there are many assessment methods used in the classrooms to assess students. In most classrooms, students fail to communicate to their teachers because of the language barrier. Regular education teachers can use the assessment methods to help identify the students’ strengthens or weakness which might help them in their lessons (Bailey, 1998).
Evaluations used in classes include dictation, cloze tests, among others. Most teachers agree on the assessment methods they chose to use because they have seen them have a positive influence on the students. Let’s give a brief explanation of how the assessment methods help regressed students.
- Multiple-choice questions can be given to both regular students and regressed students
- Through dictation, students are able to write what the teacher reads out and this improves their listening and writing skills.
- A portfolio is a record of the students’ achievements and progress which help him to see their improvement in language development.
- A cloze test is a passenger which contains some omitted words which have to be inserted by the student. By doing do, the students improves his writing and speaking skills.
- Participating in role plays help regressed students to act in realistic situations which help them in recalling what they learn (Orlich, et al 2009).
- Also through writing of samples, the teachers are able to assess the student’s strengths and weaknesses in grammar which might help them in their classes (Bailey, 1998).
A cloze test can be used to assess the reading skills development on both students. A cloze test is a kind of exam which contains some omitted words which have to be inserted by the student (Bailey, 1998). By doing so, the students improve their writing and speaking skills.
However, different exams need to be used for each student since they are at different learning levels. After completing the short-term project, each student should be given his/her portfolio. This is a documentation of the students’ attainment and improvement, which help them to see their progress in the development of reading and writing skills.
It is good to understand that, different students respond differently to the teaching technique used by their teachers. Most of the time, teachers do not take their time to analyze the background of knowledge of their students in order to identify the teaching techniques that can work best for them. Students come from different family background and have different learning rates that have to be considered for them to succeed (Wilson, 2001).
Students attend learning institutions in order to expand their knowledge base. It would be inappropriate to ignore these student’s needs and understanding capacity. Students who attend the public schools come from different social classes. Some come from high income families while others come from low income families.
Those who come from the low income families often experiences varied number of problems. These problems are experienced in terms of cognitive development, academics and interpersonal relationship (Watkins, et al. 2007). These children are likely to repeat their grades or classes, or have poor interpersonal relationships than children born in relatively rich families.
The intelligence of children raised in poor families is comparatively lower than those raised in relatively rich families. Watkins, et al. (2007) found out that, the rising number of children in poverty has immensely contributed to making classrooms to become more diverse than ever anticipated.
This has been found to make classroom activities to be more challenging than usual; teaching and learning processes have increasingly become difficult and those most challenged are the teachers who must ensure the children from poor families perform just like those from rich families do.
In some cases, the teachers are forced to act beyond their classroom duties to assist the children through counseling them and giving them extra class tuition to help them catch up
The following are examples of the factors that can be put into consideration when planning a stronger student learning.
- Measures that indicate each students’ learning style
- Teachers views on the needs of students, which may be due in part to the views of previous teachers and cumulative records (Coleman & Klapper, 2005)
- Inventories that measure student’ personal values, goals, and attitudes.
- Pretest of student knowledge background
- Measure of student learning rate
- Key concepts, generalizations, and skills that are germane to the subject area (s)
- Students’ portfolio
- The school district’s curriculum guide, which lists knowledge and skills students are expected to attain (Bailey, 1998).
- Knowledge about personal family problems your students face
- Knowledge about the social climate (human dynamics) of your classroom and school
- Community goals and competency expectations for students
- Knowledge about students’ ethnicity
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Wilson, J. D. (2001). Student Learning In Higher Education. New Patterns Learning Series. New York: Taylor & Francis.