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Anything But Lazy - Essay Example

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The paper "Anything but Lazy: New understandings about struggling readers, teaching and text" by Leigh A. Hall was adjudged the most outstanding dissertation for the year 2006 by the International Reading Association. Many papers have been written on how to motivate struggling readers to improve upon their academic performance, resulting in the development of various reading programs such as Success For All, Reading Recovery, the Spalding Method, Early Intervention Reading, the Boulder Project, and the Winston-Salem Project to name a few…
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ANYTHING BUT LAZY The paper "Anything but Lazy: New understandings about struggling readers, teaching and text" by Leigh A. Hall was adjudged the most outstanding dissertation for the year 2006 by the International Reading Association. Many papers have been written on how to motivate struggling readers to improve upon their academic performance, resulting in the development of various reading programs such as Success For All, Reading Recovery, the Spalding Method, Early Intervention Reading, the Boulder Project, and the Winston-Salem Project to name a few. At the root of all these programs is the belief that struggling readers have traditionally been low achievers, "lacking cognitive competencies which may include reading comprehension, study skills, word recognition and reading fluency" (Guthrie & Davis). However, in the present study, the author contends that apart from cognitive abilities, how teachers and students approach required textbook reading and its assimilation will also be influenced by "the social and cultural contexts of the classroom".
In order to examine the effects of these factors, the author undertook a study which examined how middle school students undertake the "reading task demands of his or her classroom" and how each teacher contributed to the students' reading task / challenge. Using a descriptive case study approach, the author conducted periodic visits, administered questionnaires and conducted comprehension assessments in order to gather primary data. Identifying themes and patterns from an analysis of this data, the author identified "the ways in which each student transacted in the classroom and how the teachers worked with / responded to students around issues of reading and comprehension".
The study revealed that as far as students were concerned, their reading / comprehension was influenced by own ability, desire to learn, and more importantly, how the student wanted to be perceived [by his or her peers] as a reader. Since students did not want to be perceived as 'struggling readers', they were hesitant to adopt 'comprehension strategies' that would reveal their weakness to others. Hence the first conclusion derived by the author, that "struggling readers may be trying to find ways to comprehend text and learn content even though they may hold negative views about their reading abilities".
As far as teachers were concerned, they were influenced by their perception of the student's cognitive strengths and weaknesses, and student motivation, especially in applying the 'comprehension strategies' suggested by the teacher. However, since students were generally loath to adopt such strategies for reasons as explained earlier, this led to a considerable amount of frustration amongst teachers. Hence the second conclusion derived by the author that "methodology alone is not enough to improve struggling readers' comprehension abilities". To develop such an understanding requires an understanding of the social and cultural background of the student without which the underlying causes of poor cognitive skills cannot be tackled.
Although the author has concluded his paper by highlighting the importance of the social and cultural context as a factor contributing to poor reading / comprehension abilities, it is surprising that no effort has been made to suggest how this very basic negative factor could be addressed at various levels. This could include among others, the home environment, the classroom environment, parent-teacher and student-teacher interface, and community participation. For example, many educators are of the opinion that it is for the teacher (school) to provide for and ensure a 'nurturing environment'. This is particularly true for schools where students are mainly from underprivileged backgrounds with little or no past family history of academic excellence. Similary the aspect of leadership and the need to have suitable role-models has not been commented upon. Inclusion of some practical suggestion arising out of the study, that could be implemented at the school level, would have served to round off the paper on an actionable note, rather than merely being an academic paper.

Bibliography
Guthrie, John T. and Davis, Marcia H. "Motivating Struggling Readers". Retrieved from http://www.education.umd.edn/Depts/EDHD/faculty/Guthrie/reading.pdf
Kelly Crystal and Campbell Linda, "Helping Struggling Readers". Retrieved from http://www.newhorizons.org/spneeds/inclusion/teaching/kelly.htm Read More
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