Transforming Reading Instruction

Kelly McGrath responds to questions on the release of Reading Mastery Transformations

1. Millions of people, including me, learned to read with the help of Reading Mastery. Why change such a successful product? Although Reading Mastery has evolved, the instructional design of the program remains the same. Reading Mastery Transformations is based upon the Direct Instruction pedagogy of explicit, systematic instruction. So, teachers can be confident that while they may see new content or skills taught, the way these are taught is grounded in the strong instructional design that is the core of Direct Instruction programs. In collaboration with the authors, we identified areas of focus for changes and improvements.

For example, teachers will find enhancements across several areas including vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and collaboration. Even so, the primary levels continue to provide a strong foundational skills approach that aligns with recommendations for learning to read. We also wanted to leverage technology to address a significant problem for teachers – not enough time!

Through teacher interviews and observations, we found that most teachers were evaluating student progress but the number of teachers analyzing the data and acting on that data was inadequate. One of the main obstacles is time.

Analyzing data and pulling together resources once you recognize an issue is extremely time consuming. Now, teachers of Reading Mastery Transformations will access the remedy summary information which in real time analyzes the group data and pinpoints areas in need of additional support. To take it a step further, teachers will see remedy lessons designed to address those areas of need. No need for teachers to search and gather the information, as it will be at their fingertips.

2. What theories of reading acquisition are behind the update to Reading Mastery? In developing Reading Mastery Transformations, the authors considered feedback directly from teachers using the programs. Other changes came from an examination of ELA state standards, instructional materials, and state assessments. Many of these have increased the inclusion of informational text. Therefore, we felt it necessary to strike a greater balance between literature and informational texts during an instructional lesson. This shift ensures that students are prepared as they enter middle and high school.

3. Indications are that rates of reading acquisition have slowed during school shutdowns. How can teachers help students learn to read remotely? The environment of remote learning poses a significant challenge, particularly for students in the early stages of learning to read. Consider the impact that this type of delivery model might have on oral language acquisition or phonological awareness development. In addition, we know that young students experience distractions in their home environment, technical and connection issues, and the lack of real contact with a teacher and peers.

As students return to brick-and-mortar, our first step is to determine the degree of learning loss. Recent reports indicate that these losses are significant, particularly in schools that predominantly serve students of color. Once we identify the degree of loss, the next step is to help students with opportunities to accelerate their learning. For some students, this means increasing the time and intensity of reading instruction. Reading Mastery Transformations is designed to meet students where they are and accelerate their learning through an evidence-based instructional model. With Reading Mastery Transformations, we are prepared to help students to meet their full potential.

Kelly McGrath is chief academic officer of McGraw Hill’s School group.

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