Back in 2012, I was doing a lot of dyslexia assessments and thought I would share some reflections about reading comprehension. I used WRAT 4 for word recognition and sentence level comprehension, TOWRE2 to get insight into processing visual and auditory patterns at speed and miscue analysis when I wanted something a little more in depth.
I set a “brain teaser” to stimulate discussion about problem solving reading assessment results:
“Mary” came out in the average range for word recognition and comprehension from WRAT. Her score for nonsense words was also just average on the TOWRE (see an earlier post for my views on non-word tests), though her lower score for real words at speed brought her overall word reading efficiency down below average. She read extended text at 142 words per minute and with 98% accuracy, so miscue analysis was not possible, there being so few errors.
The big surprise came when she could only recall 40% of the detail of what she had read. Even more intriguingly, this score did not improve when I read her an equivalent level passage for listening comprehension.
I might have gone along with Kate Cain and said she had a specific problem with comprehension, but on reflection I thought….
Well why don’t I let you think about it and comment back… ? I posted some discussion points and revealed my analysis, but you might want to think about this too, so only “read more” when you have had a think!
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Back in 2012, did a dyslexia assessment on a young man who I shall call John. John was in his second year of sixth form and applying to university to study history. John’s exam grades the previous year were below his predicted ones. As a result of the assessment, John had extra time in his module exams (and subsequenctly went to university!).
John’s reading profile is interesting. He came out above average for word recognition and comprehension (using WIAT-II-UK-T) but his reading speed of 127 words per minute (wpm) is below average for his age. His scores in CTOPP were all average, as was his reading of non-words (TOWRE-2). I concluded that he did not have any significant problems with phonological processing, though he did show some signs of challenge with focus and attention (his speed of writing was also adversely affected by having to think abut what to write, rather than because of any difficulty with manual dexterity).
What was also notable was that John invariably chose to read aloud (to the annoyance of some of his classmates). I was intrigued about why he had got into this habit and volunteered a few hours of support during half term to look into this more.
Between the feedback on the assessment and our support session, John actually decided to go for reading silently and was happy with the result! Issue sorted? Maybe yes, maybe no. I carried on.
I decided to use an experimental method with a pre-test, post-test format, even with just 3 hours of intervention between. Using passages deemed to be A level standard (one from Klein 2003 and one of my own devising, measured to be of similar readability), John read at 153 wpm – already an improvement from reading silently – but his comprehension and recall was limited (I predicted this might be a spin off of not getting the auditory feedback loop to hold attention).
In the post-test, three hours later John achieved a reading speed of 182 wpm,and his recall covered a wider range of the passage… so what did I do in between? What would you have done? Press “read more” after you have had a think!
Continue reading this article… »
There were some really big names at the BDA conference in 2016, many of them world experts on reading (though still no one who talks specifically about adults). Here are a few highlights, one “so-what” and one lowlight for me:
- In a recent study, Susan Gathercole had been looking at underlying factors that might explain difficulties with reading, vocabulary and maths, concentrating on executive function, working memory and inattention. Perhaps surprisingly she found that poor working memory is not a good predictor of reading difficulty. However, good working memory may be a protective factor for problems with reading and maths.
- Karin Landerl, researching German speaking children was surprised to find a link between problems with reading and maths but not between reading and spelling. She was still not sure of the reason for this. Relevant to my work with adults, a longitudinal study showed that reading difficulties are persistent through childhood, despite support. Even more reason for us to find new approaches for adults!
- Tom Nicholson was speaking to the converted in urging us to combine phonics with real reading. He did however drop in a controversial point. Phonological awareness may be a consequence of reading acquisition, rather than a requirement for reading. His keynote address gave a historical overview about the impact on phonological awareness training on success in acquiring reading skills, with little input from more recent studies. He comes from the point of view of “liking phonics and enjoying giving phonics instruction.” However, in his last but one slide he cited research from Castles and Coltheart (2004), Ehri (1998), Johnston and Watson (2005) to say that this could be an issue of chicken and egg. Maybe we see good phonemic awareness in successful readers, not because they have been specifically trained in this, but because the process of learning to read itself gives a degree of phonemic awareness. He reminded us of studies denying the effect of phonemic awareness training, though these are well outweighed by the studies that show a positive effect. Finally, he made the remark (without a formal reference) that phonemic awareness training should be combined with reading of text to help improve letter-sound awareness.
- Don Compton has investigated more about comprehension and found a positive link between reading/listening comprehension and prior knowledge. Is this surprising?
- A new version of the Adult Reading Test (ART) was due out soon, with improvements. Rob Fidler pleased me by mentioning not just their extensive validation data, but also case study findings that highlight the strength of a diagnostic problem solving approach to reading support, using qualitative observations from testing.
- I have to confess to having been very excited at the prospect of hearing Elena Grigorenko speak for the first time (having heard her co-author on the Dyslexia Debate, Joe Elliott previously). I was less excited at the prospect of Maggie Snowling, as I have heard her many times and been disappointed in her narrow stance on reading and dyslexia. At the BDA international conference in March 2016, however, I was proved wrong. Grigorenko was boring and uninspiring, spending far too long on the historical context and then whizzing through some rather difficult information from her latest research about mapping the phenotype of reading difficulty to specific points in the genome. We were told of exciting news coming out in a journal soon… (too hush, hush for her to share it)
- By contrast, Maggie Snowling brought well-reasoned insights into her now more balanced view of dyslexia, as broader phenotype that includes underlying language difficulties and possible co-occurring difficulties in motor and executive function (including attention and concentration). Her account of longitudinal studies (so far from age 3.5 to age 9) was fascinating. I do hope she and her group carry on to see those children into early adulthood!.
- The idea of this technique is to encourage fluency and confidence when reading.
- The idea is to stop the disruption to flow caused by a learner struggling to decode words or waiting to be corrected.
- This approach can bring back the pleasure in reading for pleasure.
- Choose a text that the learner is interested in reading (for pleasure or information).
- Although it is best if the text is at a level appropriate to the learner’s assessed needs, this method can be used to assist reading a harder text that the reader urgently needs to access.
- Make sure that you can both see the text comfortably, or have two copies.
- Start reading aloud together.
- Make sure you match your speed to what the learner can cope with so you don’t leave them behind or leave them frustrated.
- Model fluency and good expression.
- If the learner stumbles over a word, keep reading and encourage them to continue without pause. If they lose their place, wait for them to catch up.
- If you sense that the learner is reading confidently and accurately, fade your voice to a quieter volume, but be prepared to fade back in if they falter.
- Warn your learner that you may fade out altogether if they continue to read well.
- With a beginner reader, be prepared to pair read the same text several times so they also gain fluency from repetition and familiarity.
Stein, J. and Kapoula, Z. (2012) Visual Aspects of Dyslexia, Oxford, OUP.
This book, published last autumn is a hard but very rewarding read. I remember struggling to understand the magnocellular theory of dyslexia, as presented in the work of Professor John Stein, when doing my diploma qualification and later endeavouring to put the information across when teaching on the same diploma programme.
The book illustrates well how the theory behind visual facets of dysexia has developed, been debated furiously, drawn antagonists as well as advocates, widened in its applicability and still draws passionate and well-reasoned responses from its supporters.
John Stein and his co-editor Zoi Kapoula (based in Paris) have brought together a range of neuroscientists and researchers with a specialism in ophthalmology, each writing a chapter, which stands alone but together forms a story of the ramifications of this subject. Stein provides a summary chapter of his own, bringing us up to date on his current stance.
Some highlights for me are as follows: Continue reading this article… »
On the final day of this brilliant conference, I heard keynote speeches from Kate Cain and David Saldana,
The format of the conference allows for groups of speakers to present their research or ideas for 20 minutes, clustered into themes. I went to a session like this on learning and memory. Here are some of the insights:
1. Carol Leather (University of Surrey) has found that good organisational planning is a factor for those adults with dyslexia who rate themselves as successful. This confirms the usefulness of intervention she frequently uses in workplace support.
2. Elpis Pavlidou (University of Edinburgh) is interested in why dyslexic children don’t become fluent and automatic in their learning. She thinks it is something to do with them not being good at the implicit abstraction in some tasks. She makes a good case for ensuring that learning is more active and explicit. However, her research results are based on the rather artificial measure of differences in reaction time to the different stimuli she presented. I am always really wary of drawing real-life conclusions from this sort of research, though Elpis’s presentation was very engaging and a good example of active learning!