At New Vista School the primary focus of the Reading and Language Arts Center (RLAC) is to help students read for understanding. This can be challenging, because many students lagging skills in the area of comprehension. This can be for many different reasons and staff must assess each situation individually and address this presenting learning problem. It can be that a child is hyperlexic, that they have a specific learning disability or other unique learning presentations. No matter the origin, this is a critical skill that must be addressed with any child that presents with lagging comprehension skills.
Researchers at Yale University (Randi, Newman & Grigorenko, 2010) found that hyperlexics benefit from reading interventions that address the cognitive processes of comprehension.
This means that we teach students how to:
- Develop a purpose and ask questions while reading
- Determine importance
- Identify cause and effect relationships
- Use sensory and emotional images
- Form predictions and make inferences.
These abstract concepts are taught with visual and auditory reinforcements. We use Thinking Maps to illustrate relationships within the text and to make connections to what we are reading. Furthermore, we verbally model the thought process involved in comprehension using a research-based best practice known as the Metacognitive Think Aloud Protocol.
In addition, researchers at the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching at the University of Texas found that Direct Instruction (DI) is an effective method for delivering cognitive-centered reading interventions to students with ASD (Flores & Ganz, 2007).
In the RLAC we explicitly model comprehension as a cognitive process through a research-based best practice known as the Scaffolded Reading Experience (SRE) – a form of Direct Instruction.
At the RLAC learning strategies based on the SRE/ DI are incorporated in our entire curriculum. Vocabulary Reading A to Z, Daybook and Sourcebook are rich with opportunities for students to interact with the text in a meaningful way.
Computer Assisted Instruction
Actively Learn is an online platform that lets our teachers engage our students in reading. This is achieved because scaffolding, peer learning, and assessment come together inside a text, exactly when students need help and motivation. This website makes it easy for teachers to collaborate and to share a digital curriculum, diagnose “the why” behind student performance, and access professional development with an immediate impact.
Reading A to Z and Spelling City are two web-based programs that are utilized in the RLAC on a daily basis to improve comprehension, vocabulary and spelling skills. Reading A to Z is a virtual library of leveled electronic books that provides students with explicit modeling of reading fluency. The books are written at 27 levels of difficulty.
There are approximately 2200 different books on the website to meet students’ interest as well as offer a variety of content and genres ranging from fantasy to Earth Science. Each word of the book is highlighted as it is read allowing for readers to follow along with their eyes. Students are able to listen, read silently, and even record themselves reading each individual story.
A comprehension quiz accompanies all stories, with each question addressing various components of reading comprehension. For example, a report may indicate that a student has missed the last four questions that require the skill of compare and contrast. Reports are generated at the end of the week to show which areas students are struggling with the most. This allows for specific, targeted instruction as a way to address the individual needs of our students.
Comprehension is the overall goal of all reading instruction. It is best taught at the developmental or instructional level of the student. Teacher-guided use of eight cognitive comprehension strategies in combination is the most effective approach to building comprehension skills, according to the National Reading Panel. The goal is to scaffold instruction in a gradual release-of-responsibility model until the reader is able to use strategies without the assistance of the teacher (Pearson and Gallagher, 1983). The National Reading Panel concluded in its research analysis that cognitive-strategy instruction results in significant gains in reading comprehension. Reading A-Z uses the strategies necessary for reading comprehension in each lesson. See chart below:
Monitoring understanding means being an active, thoughtful reader. Readers are aware of their thought processes and their use of reading strategies.
Students understand story elements, such as sequences, setting, characters, and events.
Teachers ask questions to guide student understanding.
Students generate their own questions regarding who, what, when, where, why and how.
Students identify main ideas and relevant details of text.
Teachers model how to apply a combination of strategies to extract meaning from text.
Students work together learning and using comprehension strategies.
Students draw meaning and relationships to represent elements and ideas embedded within the text.
The Math Lab is overseen by a math specialist whose responsibilities include program development and instruction. Math placement is dependent upon any of the following: coursework completion, current math assessments, standardized testing and student work samples.
The New Vista School math program seeks to develop students’ math skills to their optimum potential.
* ST Math™ is a cornerstone of math at New Vista School and was developed by Mind Research Institute’s Education Division. This academic, computer program is based on decades of neuroscience and education research which uses a visual approach through instructional software. The software’s unique approach of connecting students special temporal reasoning abilities, allows them to understand higher level math concepts. The program allows students to work at their own pace. ST Math is offered 2 times per week with 45 minute sessions and is integrated into direct math instruction and curriculum.
The Math Lab utilizes the following math materials and/or programs:
- California state-approved math textbooks
1. Pearson Prentice Hall: California Pre-Algebra
2. McDougal Littell: Algebra 1, Concepts and Skills
3. McDougal Littell: Geometry, Concepts and Skills
4. McDougal Littell: California Algebra 2
- ST Math™ (K-5 and Algebra Readiness)*
- Singapore Math
1. Standards-based textbooks 2-5
2. Standards-based workbooks 2-5
- AGS Consumer Mathematics
- Various supplemental texts and manipulatives