Read to Succeed Paper Two

The Read-to-Succeed Curriculum


A Tier 2 Intervention


Inductive Teaching and Explicit Instruction in Read-to-Succeed (R2S) Combine to Make  a Balanced Tier 2 Program for Reading, Writing, and Literacy in All Subjects.

This paper provides information about the program and the evidence on which it is based and the results it achieves. Schools and school districts are welcome to use this presentation when applying for approval to implement R2S as a Tier Two Intervention. 


Prepared by


Bruce Joyce, Booksend Laboratories

912 634 4759


Emily Calhoun, The Phoenix Alliance

912 638 0685


117 Seminole

Saint Simons Island, Georgia, 31522









Table of Contents

We begin with a brief overview of the purpose and rationale of Read to Succeed, followed by a description of the curriculum. In the next four sections the base of evidence is presented. First are inductive models of teaching and models developed from scientific methods. Next is the explicit teaching of comprehension strategies. Third, research under  cooperative learning is referenced. Fourth is a brief review of the research underlying the professional learning opportunities that ensure implementation and consequent gains in student learning. Brief descriptions of initiatives and studies in two school districts follow, including information about implementation and student learning. The paper closes with references and suggestions for further reading.


4        The Features of the Read-to Succeed Curriculum


The Picture-Word Inductive Model of Teaching

Explicit Teaching of Comprehension

Extensive Reading

Daily Writing


11      Evidence I: Inductive Teaching and Learning: Building Knowledge and Skill                         through Investigation

The major features of 40 years of research on Inductive Teaching and                          Learning.

17      Evidence II: The Development of Explicit Strategy Instruction in the Reading           Comprehension and Composing Areas

Thirty years of research and development.

23      Evidence III:Research on Cooperative Learning

Highlight reviews covering 40 years of programmatic research.


24      Evidence IV: Professional Development — Implementation of Complex Curriculums and Models of Teaching that Affect Student Learning

Thirty-five years of continuous study resulting in designs that work very well.

28      Studies of Read-to-Succeed in Action

28               Implementing R2S  for  Struggling Readers – 69 sections in one district

31                Prevention and an Early Advantage—implementing R2S in Kindergarten

42      References and Bibliography
















The Features of the Read-to-Succeed Curriculum

Read-to-Succeed focuses on a critical national need in education at the elementary, middle, and secondary school levels in reading, writing, and literacy across the curriculum. Despite efforts to provide for individual needs within the regular curriculum or the Tier 1 stage, about 30 percent of students nationally (and much-larger numbers in some schools and districts) struggle in the essential literacy areas, necessitating the implementation of more intensive instruction – the Tier 2 interventions. It is vital that those interventions be successful – generate considerable gains — for a major proportion of the students who struggle. The pattern of failure needs to be interrupted and the students need to improve not only their level of learning but the capacity to continue to learn at a high level through school and beyond. For struggling readers and writers, Tier 2 is a second chance to learn to become competent in literacy – a curriculum that virtually has to benefit these students considerably if they are to succeed in secondary education and beyond.

Built around the development of the Picture Word Inductive Model and the explicit teaching of reading comprehension, Read-to-Succeed (R2S) also capitalizes on research on the effects of regular and wide reading and writing. In addition,  R2S includes an effective professional learning design that has been validated through extensive research and evaluation. That design enables nearly all teachers to implement complex curriculums and models of teaching skillfully in the first year of an initiative. Thus, the curriculum can be successfully implemented on a large scale. Student performance in reading and writing will increase substantially. A positive side effect is that as  more students become capable learners, the social and academic climates of classrooms and schools are enriched – the  collateral benefits of learning how to learn.

R2S has evolved over the last 20 years, beginning as “A Second Chance to Learn to Read.”  When the first version was implemented, it had considerable benefits – teachers learned how to use it and students made important gains in both proficiency and how to build vocabulary and understanding (see Showers, Joyce, Scanlon, & Schnaubelt, 1988). In subsequent years its components have been enhanced as the result of  experience and information from evaluations (see, Joyce and Calhoun, 2010, 2012, and 2014 a, b.) Its use as a Tier 2 intervention is our focus here. However, a version works well in the primary grades — advancing learning for all students and reducing the chance that any will fall behind in reading. Thus, R2S can be the focus of the effort to implement the new literacy standards in the primary,grades, becoming a new Tier 1 curriculum and deterring failure (see, Appendix B).

The Curriculum

Teachers volunteer to teach classes of up to 15 students that meet for 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Classes can be made up of students from one or several grades. We need to keep in mind that regardless of age, all these students are beginning readers. Worse, some of  the ways they approach text are actually dysfunctional and their tactics may have to be rebuilt from the ground up.

The curriculum is implemented for 90 minutes per day in addition to existing “regular” literacy curriculums at every grade level. The effect on the students’ capacity to read and write is rapid and will have a positive effect on their success in all academic curriculum areas. But the core curriculum areas are not interrupted or watered down for these students, nor is R2S a tutorial program for the core curriculum areas. However, it is best if all teachers consider literacy as an important part of their work, regardless of their subject specialty. Comprehension skills, vocabulary development, composing, can all be embedded in the teaching/learning process in any subject area.

Selecting students. Teachers nominate students and students can nominate themselves. The only criterion is that the student struggles to read, manifested by trouble managing the books and other instructional resources common for the student’s age and grade level. Where reading is a drawback, writing will be also. Although tests can be incorporated in the screening process, the judgment of the teachers and the students are critical and should always be used.  Once a student is in a R2S class, R2S teachers will give individuals performance tests when they are not sure whether a student’s problem resides in competence in reading. If it turns out that a student reads fiction and non-fiction well and smoothly at the level that is normative for his/her grade and tests confirm a good level of reading, then remedies other than Read-to-Succeed will be sought.

The current R2S curriculum includes sessions designed around the Picture Word Inductive Model, daily reading at the recreational level, daily writing, and daily comprehension instruction – see the Evidence II section below for a more extended discussion of explicit instruction.

* The Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM), built on research on inductive teaching and learning (see, Evidence I) and information on the advantages when print sight vocabularies are built on students’ listening/speaking vocabularies  — rather than artificial sequences of words  that may or may not connect with the developed language of the students. The Picture Word Inductive Model directly teaches vocabulary, inductive word-analysis skills, and the construction of and reading of sentences and paragraphs.

Figure 1 Pictures and Words

PWIM is taught in cycles that begin with photographs of  scenes whose content is within the ability of the students to describe. For example, photographs can be of aspects of the local community, or teachers can take students around the world with photos of scenes they can relate to — a picture of a scene in an outdoor market is an example.  The students take turns identifying objects and actions in the picture.  The teacher spells the words, drawing lines from the words to the elements in the picture to which they refer, creating a picture dictionary (see Figures 2 and 3) in the form of a picture-word chart. Students practice the spellings of the words, and connect the words to the meanings represented in the photograph through a “see, say, spell” routine.

Figure 2. A Picture-Word Chart

The students are given copies of the words and they identify them using the picture dictionary. They proceed to classify the words using the well-tested inductive model of learning, noting their similarities and differences.  The teacher selects some of their categories for extended study. Both phonetic features and structural characteristics are studied. The teacher models the creation of titles and sentences, and the students create same, dictating them and learning to read them.  The students gradually learn to assemble titles and sentences into paragraphs about the content of the picture.  The picture word cycles (inquiries into the pictures) generally take from three to five weeks. The model is described extensively in Calhoun (1999).

* Extensive Reading at the level that is comfortable for recreation. At fifth grade, even struggling readers are expected to read at least two or three books each week — from 50 to 100 “chapter” books each year. Students who read picture books in which illustrations play a central role, will read a greater volume of books.

* Explicit instruction in comprehension strategies. R2S teachers read aloud to the students, talk about the passages, and model comprehension strategies by “thinking aloud” about the strategies they used.  Rapid effects are expected in the students’ monitoring of their comprehension and the skills that are selected for first emphasis in the modeling process. The students learn the think-aloud process and perform it to increase the intensity with which they use the skills.

*Vocabulary development occurs during the picture-word cycles as the words in the chart are studied and classified. Students add words encountered during independent reading and  writing and during sessions when the teacher reads to them. Most students will add 50-100 words each month to their sight vocabulary (words that are recognized readily because of how they are spelled).

* Daily writing occurs. Sentences are often composed with the words generated from the PWIM cycle and frequently are stimulated byprompts built around written passages and film clips. Here again the instructor models and student practice follows. At first, students may struggle to write even a fragment, but they will soon learn to compose sentences and paragraphs and eventually to compose longer pieces. They will study how to construct titles and learn that a title promises something to the reader – information about a topic or a sketch of a character, and so on.

Cooperative Inquiry. Throughout all the components, cooperative learning is stressed, and the overarching tone of the course is to learn through investigation – through individual and collaborative inquiry.

Professional Development.  The major strands of professional development prepare a cadre of teachers who can offer initial and continuing training and moral support to the Read to Succeed teachers. The cadre and other district personnel also become an assessment team that can administer tests of performance in reading and prepare the R2S teachers to do so. The professional development covers the rationale of the program, includes demonstrations of the components – videos are used extensively – and practice is supported by peer coaching teams and regular sessions with PD staff. Implementation is followed closely and teachers report regularly on progress and problems to be addressed. PWIM is unfamiliar territory to most teachers and the explicit instruction in comprehension has many elements that are new to them. And daily reading and writing are new to these students and learning to help them overcome their histories of frustration and failure requires considerable sharing of ideas and companionable support.

Assessment. Student progress in vocabulary acquisition is assessed regularly in each Picture Word cycle. Independent reading is tracked, samples of writing are analyzed continually, and comprehension skills are assessed periodically. At the beginning and end of each semester formal assessments include the administration to a sample of students in each section of the Gray Oral Reading Test which is based on the reading of passages of sequentially more difficult levels and the Gunning procedure based on having the students read published books at beginning through advanced levels. The data are aggregated to provide an evaluation of the initiative on a district-wide basis. Teachers administer the tests to their other students to track their promise and gather information for planning.

Research and Development

We turn now to the research base underlying the major components of  Read to Succeed and the reports of two extensive applications on district-wide scale.

Research on inductive teaching and learning is an important part of the base on which R2S is developed, and several of the processes in the Picture Word Inductive Model are inductive inquiries. The learning of knowledge and skills and learning ability are products of inductive thinking.

Research on explicit teaching of comprehension and composing focused both on identifying skills and on how to teach them.

Research on cooperative learning is the base for the general approach that pervades R2S,  enhancing study, developing social skills, and increasing motivation.

Research on professional learning has resulted in understanding of how teachers learn and how to provide the conditions that lead to implementation, the formative study of learning, and positive effects for the students.




























Evidence I


Inductive Teaching and Learning:

Building Knowledge and Skill Through Investigation


Over the last fifty years developers and researchers have given prominence to a rich array of  ways of teaching and learning inductively. Learning through cooperative investigations, through building and analyzing sets of data, through trying to solve puzzling problems — all have contributed knowledge on which models of teaching such as the Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM) have been built. Some lines of research and development  emphasize the major ideas and processes of various disciplines and some emphasize building curriculums around sets of projects. Building categories inductively – generating data sets or analyzing existing ones – is a persistent feature of all the approaches to inquiry learning and investigations are an essential feature of learning processes. The construction of knowledge is an ongoing part of inductive curriculums, and Read-to-Succeed is no exception. Disciplined study is pervasive,  ideas are grounded in experience, and study is cooperative in some sense – the most individual inquiry results in sharing the product.

The Inductive Dimension

Building and analyzing data sets enables quantities of information to be organized and analyzed. Inductive analysis can be closely aligned to the protocols of a discipline or students can form concepts from the attributes they see from their own study. Most important is attention to helping students capitalize on their inborn capacity to build concepts and to help them gain control of the inductive process and become ever more sophisticated in its use. Building data sets is essential in bringing the masses of data available through ICT into orderly sets that can be analyzed.

Experiential and Academic Investigation

Students can build concepts by analyzing domains new to them, and they can do so by applying their own minds to attempt to understand unfamiliar material. For example, presented with a set of oil paintings in a real or virtual contemporary gallery, students who have never been inside one can begin to note attributes and build categories that will lead to questions to investigate. And, they can be introduced to the ways of thinking that art historians use to understand the same material. What the students do with their own minds is worth respect. But their creative thinking will often be stimulated and enlarged by the ideas from specialists.

The Cooperative Dimension

Inductive/inquiry investigations can be carried out by individuals, partners, groups, and whole classes working together or with individuals or groups coordinated around a theme. However, cooperation is generally important as students learn to borrow ideas from the academic community and from each other. Even within very individualistic arrangements, inquiries and results need to be shared.

History of Research: The Place of the Academic Reform Movements and Relevant Studies

Because a considerable amount of research on teaching and curriculum has been connected to the curriculum in the academic disciplines, particularly the biological, physical, and social sciences, we can see bursts of innovative activity and research in terms of three phases of Academic Reform Movements where bringing scientific concepts and processes into education were central.

Roughly, the first phase took place between the late 1950’s until about 1985. The second phase occurred between 1985 and 2008 and built on the first movement. We are entering the third phase now, as the National Academy of Sciences has developed its approach to the new state core curriculums. In this emerging phase content from the traditional science disciplines of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology continue, but the addition of engineering and technological content and process will enrich subject matter significantly.

National Research Council (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education Practices, Crosscutting Ideas, and Core Ideas. Washington, D.C. The National Academies Press.




The First Phase of the Academic Reform Movement:

Studies at the Secondary Level

A set of meta-analyses of more than 300 studies were coordinated at the University of Colorado. Ronald D. Anderson, a senior researcher at the Laboratory for Research in Science and Mathematics Education at the University of Colorado in Boulder,wrote the summary of the effort: A Consolidation and Appraisal of Science Meta-Analyses, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 1983) Vol.20 (5).  pp. 497-509. His summary reflects on the long report of the set of studies on science curriculum and teaching. The article is based on an immense report

Taking into account that the research on science teaching is complex and studies vary considerably in their focus and conduct, a persistent focus was on the effect of efforts that are characterized within the cooperative/inductive/inquiry complex. Particularly, did students acquire information, build and study data sets, form concepts by organizing and analyzing information in those sets, and engage in investigations (formulate questions, devise methods, and study results)? Put another way, did the students, by studying the content of science with the empirical methods of science, and, engaging with the inductive processes that cross curriculum areas, learn academic content and processes for solving problems?

Anderson summarizes the results of the larger effort: “Pertinent information from four of the meta-analyses is discussed here and, in general, points to a positive vote for inquiry teaching.” (p. 500) If all the dependent variables are collapsed into a general indicator, the mean effect size is 1.11 based on 326 studies. Essentially, the mean of the scores of the inquiry-based classes was at about the 90th percentile of the control groups.

Anderson concentrated on the extent that inquiry methods were fully  implemented in long-term curricular implementations. He points out that in the Shymansky, Kyle, and Alport meta-analysis of 105 studies (1000 classrooms with, conservatively, 150,000 students) the investigation-based methods achieved their effects with varying degrees of implementation even though in control groups the curriculums were based on science content and processes.

Anderson, R.,Kahl, S., Glass, G., Smith M., & Malone, M. (1982). Science meta-          analysis project. Boulder: Laboratory for research in Science and Mathematics Education. University of Colorado. 797 pages.

Shymansky, J., Kyle, W., & Alport, J. (1983) The effects of new science curricula      on student performance. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 20 (5), 387-404.          105 studies, 1000 classrooms, 150,000 students.

As we study inquiry teaching and curriculum, we find that studies like the set summarized by Anderson followed about 20 years of curriculum development in what was termed the Academic Reform Movement where curriculums – largely for the secondary schools — based on the empirical processes of the sciences were developed, implemented, and studied.

The First Academic Reform Movement: Studies at the Elementary Level

In addition to the set of University of Colorado reviews, Bredderman pulled together the studies of the inquiry-oriented, hands-on science curriculums at the elementary level.

Bredderman, T. (1983). Effects of activity-based elementary science on student outcomes: A quantitative synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 53 (4),499-518.

Bredderman drew on research on three “activity-based” programs funded through federal resources and assembled by scholars in education, scholars in the sciences, district consultants in science, and teachers. The three programs varied considerably in structure, with Education Science Study being the most open ended, the Science a Process Approach problem being more structured, and Science a Process Approach being the most structured. None were structured around textbooks in elementary science. Students acquired data largely through observation and experimentation. Among the three programs there were 57 controlled studies reported over a five year period, involving 900 classrooms and, conservatively, about 13,000 students. Two-thirds of the studies involved 10 or more classrooms. Half of the studies were a year or more long. Most were two years long or longer.

The mean effect size for learning science processes  0.52. Scientific content was 0.16. Attitudes toward science and process was 0.28. Smaller subsets of studies examined effects on creativity (0.42),and  measures of intelligence (0.48). Computation and mathematical understanding increased modestly. The aggregated mean effect size was 0.30.

“The idea that curriculums should aim at ideas, inductive and other scientific processes, and intellectual capacity and creativity is quite different from the position that the fundamental purpose of education is to imbue students with basic information and skills. One of the often-heard reactions to the activity-based programs has been that they paid too much stress on science process at the expense of content learning. However, when activity-based programs are compared with traditional science programs on standardized achievement tests, it appears that those fears have been unwarranted. Content achievement was not affected in a negative way. This was true even if only a subgroup of studies that compared textbook programs with activity programs was considered (p.512).”

The Second Phase of the Academic Reform Movement

Over the next twenty years, research on inquiry teaching continued and in 2010 Minner, Levy, and Century presented a synthesis that covered 138 studies from 1984 to 2002. Nearly 2000 classrooms and about 40,000 students were involved.

Minner, D., Levy, A., & Century, J. (2009). Inquiry-Based Science Instruction – What is it and does it matter? Results from a Research Synthesis Years 1984-2002. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47 (4), 474-496.

Like Anderson, 26 years before them, Minner, Levy, and Century are able to make a definitive statement about the effectiveness of the Inquiry-Based Science curriculums during what we characterize as the second phase of the Academic Reform Movement. “Findings … indicate a clear, positive trend favoring inquiry-based instructional practices, particularly instruction that emphasizes student active thinking and drawing conclusions from data. Teaching strategies that actively engage students in the learning process through scientific investigations are more likely to increase conceptual understanding than are strategies that rely on more passive techniques.” (p. 474).

Generally speaking, the effects reported in the Minner, Levy, and Century synthesis are somewhat larger than the results from the studies associated with the academic reform movement. Probably this is a result of the increased refinements in curriculum and instruction. And we can expect more.

The Third Phase of the Academic Reform Movement – Just Beginning

The National Academy of Science position papers recommending the next core curriculums in science will generate a third phase of the Academic Reform Movement and the inclusion of engineering and technological content should enhance content and process significantly. From the forty years of studies drawn on above, we can predict that the teaching/learning process will not only be upgraded, but that student learning will rise to new levels also. Actually, the New position paper recommends even more powerful curriculums than its predecessors and the incorporation of content from engineering and technology (general technology, not just computer technologies) adds strength to content and process. The development of hybrid curriculums that draw on ICT and the increased use of interactive electronic media in and out of school should have significant additional gains in the use of investigation as an important part of the curriculums.


Very strong evidence indicates that humans can learn through disciplined inquiry. When curriculum and instruction capitalizes on the inborn ability to study the environment, organize information, and conduct investigations, much can be learned and increased cognitive ability occurs. However, inductive inquiry is underused. Many educators, parents, community policy-makers, and even an arm of the United States Government have strong beliefs in rote, recitative methods. However, we live in an era where both inform and informal inquiry are challenging those beliefs. Educators need to lead by informing the public that professional study confirms that a good number of alternatives educate our students better in many ways. Whether we consider the new core curriculums, the need for 21st Century Skills, or just look around us, we can see that inefficiency of the rote, drill-dominated ways of conducting school is either obsolete or should at least be balanced with cooperative, inductive, inquiry-oriented curriculum and instruction.





Evidence II

The Development of Explicit Strategy Instruction in Reading Comprehension

          “Reading is thinking. Teachers of reading are teachers of thinking. You don’t teach children to read or think by leading them by the nose. What you can do is help them develop strategies they can use to learn letters, words and structures  and, most important, to tease the meaning from what they read.”

                                                ….. Russell Stauffer, 60 years ago, keynoting the opening of a set of workshops on the experience-based method of teaching reading.


About 25  years after Russell Stauffer’s comments, there began a serious effort to conduct research on the processes readers use to comprehend extended text – a particularly fertile time was between the mid-1970’s and the 1980’s, although research continues to the present. While understanding how students derive meaning was the focus, these researchers also had action in mind. They designed and tested explicit instructional models aimed at teaching helpful comprehension strategies and teaching them more effectively. These models were developed and modified as research provided more information about how students went about constructing meaning from extended text and the differences between more and less effective readers.

The back story and rationale for the effort in reading comprehension has several facets. First, studies of student learning indicated that many students had difficulty finding and putting together the meanings in stories and expository text. A certain number of those students possessed relevant sight vocabularies and could “sound out”  words new to them as long as the new words were not too numerous, but much of the content in the text was not processed. In other words, they were not actually reading – they were emitting sounds that they could not really understand. That jarring picture continues to the present day –  about one-third of students have a “comprehension” problem. (see, The Nation’s Report Card in Reading2011: Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education).

Second, there were a good many studies of  classrooms during the 1970’s and 80’s that focused on how teachers taught reading, including how they provided their students with instruction on how to build understanding while reading. These results of these studies indicated that the majority of teachers did not offer much instruction in how to construct meaning from text. Many teachers taught in an “assessment” style, asking ask students questions about the content – characters, plots, settings in the case of fiction and topics and main ideas in the case of non-fiction – thus determining what had been understood (see, Durkin, 1984). However, few had a toolkit  of ways of improving the process. Without instruction, many students were not able to teach themselves to comprehend better. By the way, the problem was true of a number of types of broad approaches to the teaching of reading. Some heavily phonics-oriented curriculums lacked a comprehension component. It was missing also from some materials-based “basal” programs. Some teachers did teach comprehension successfully. Some curriculums, notably the experience-based and literature-based approaches, did so, but they were used by few teachers and schools because few pre and inservice programs emphasized them (for other examples, see Duffy, G., Roehler, L., & Herrmann, B., 1988; Garner, 1987, Pressley, 2006).

Another facet of the background is that studies of really good readers were indicating that many of them used similar basic strategies to dig the meaning out of text. An example is that they monitored their comprehension while reading and persisted in trying to achieve a full understanding of the text, displaying a variety of skills as they did so. Poorer readers often plowed ahead without focusing on the extent to which they were acquiring information. Better readers periodically summarized what they were learning and prepared themselves to add information as they proceeded. Thus, many of the community of researchers decided that it might be worthwhile to teach all students the strategies used by expert readers (see, for example, Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1984; Pearson and Dole, 1987).

Parallel lines of research were suggesting that the learning of skills was greatly enhanced by a high degree of consciousness, by the students, as they used those strategies while reading. Termed metacognition, the essence is that when we humans are learning new practices, understanding the rationale and monitoring our practice facilitates the attainment of mastery (see, again for example, Pressley & Brainerd, eds 1985).  (A note here on language. Some of the scholars in this field prefer use the term, skills, to refer to both simple and complex actions and thoughts whereas some others use the term, skills, to refer to actions that have become relatively automatic and strategies to refer to ones that require the reader to pause and consciously decide what to do. We will use the terms interchangeably but will describe the degree of complexity of any skill or strategy we identify.)

Other lines of research were emphasizing the importance of modeling in the instructional process. In other words, teaching that includes demonstration is more effective than teaching that merely tells the student what to do. This is as true of cognitive skills as it is of motor skills. The tennis pro who demonstrates the half-volley several times will be more effective than the one who shows it once and then asks the student to practice. The algebra teacher who demonstrates the setting up of an equation several times, discussing the rationale in the process, will be more effective than one who demonstrates a particular process once or twice and then proceeds to have the students try to imitate the procedure. .

Putting these facets together, the community of researchers proceeded to approach the problem of improving the teaching of comprehension by

* identifying the strategies used by high-comprehension readers,

* organizing instruction to model those strategies for students,

* asking the students to practice them consciously as they read,

* studying their use of the strategies, identifying areas that need further modeling and practice and, as in the case of most effective models of teaching, lending help (scaffolding).

* helping the students to assess their comprehension of passages and the extent to which they are progressing in the ability to obtain meaning –in other words, they learn to judge their own growing capacity. Essentially, the teacher brings the students into an action research partnership, leading strongly but then gradually giving the control to the students. Palincsar and Brown (1984), in the approach they called Reciprocal Teaching, gave special emphasis to the process that begins with modeling, proceeds to guided practice, and then to students’ independent exercise of the skills.

Let’s look at some of the strategies used by expert readers to comprehend passages. The passages may be made up only of  written prose but all manner of  illustrations and animations can be included and need to be understood as well.

The Nature of Comprehension Strategies

The approach to teaching that resulted is most often called “Explicit Instruction of Comprehension Strategies,” frequently shortened to just “explicit instruction.” The term is often confused with “Direct Instruction,” but there is a very important difference: Most of the practitioners of direct instruction, when they attempt to teach a skill or body of knowledge, will break the skill into sub skills or the knowledge into segments and teach them sequentially. Thus the eventual larger skill will be acquired step-by-step.

The comprehension skills themselves, however, resist segmentation – just as they are employed to develop understanding of a passage of text as a whole, they operate as a whole. Thus, the explicit instruction modality demonstrates skills as wholes, and the learner acquires them by degrees rather than assembling them from sub-skills.  And, several of them work together as an integrated approach to the development of meaning. Thus, the student comes to see them as a coordinated overall approach to understanding (see, Pearson and Gallagher, 1983; and Pressley, 2006).

A benefit of the holistic nature of comprehension skills is that a relatively small number of skills have considerable benefit. Therefore instruction can be focused.

A warning. Some commercially-available programs claiming to improve reading comprehension have segmented the researched skills into many sub-skills — generating a long list that diffuses teaching and learning. In one sad example, the developers attempted to teach a strategy each week for twenty weeks, virtually assuring that none of those skills would be mastered.

Let’s take a look at some of the high-benefit skills that have been identified.

Continuously monitoring comprehension. As this is written, there is virtually complete agreement that this practice is used virtually all the time by expert readers, less by average readers, and almost not at all by poor readers. Importantly, it appears that the practice can be taught to beginning readers —  kindergarten and first grade students can be started off with a high-payoff skill. It can be a part of the curriculum for all students and a focus for  scaffolding in Tier 1 for students who have difficulty mastering it. It is an essential for Tier 2 – nearly all those students will need to learn to monitor their comprehension. Essentially, the best readers have a metacognitive mind that operates as they read and operates like a heart-rate monitor, generating a comprehension-awareness chart in their minds. Having read a passage and being aware that comprehension was low, the good reader takes action – like reading the passage again. The essential component of monitoring is the awareness that one is understanding the story or message and taking action when an internal warning signal is activated. Monitoring is a very complex skill to learn, but when it has been mastered and become automatic, it becomes a comfortable part of the reading process.

Summarizing is an another complex skill and functions as part of continuous monitoring. Nearly all top-level readers summarize at intervals and reflect on what they are learning. Students who learn to summarize effectively usually both learn and retain more of the content they are reading, both fiction and non-fiction.

Strategic Backtracking. Picking up from Bird’s studies, Scardamalia and Bereiter (1984) emphasized that good readers, as they monitored their comprehension, would look back in the text to reinforce or clarify content and try to answer questions that had occurred as they read. (‘Just how little is the little girl?’) and fill in understandings large and small. [Both present authors do this regularly when they read and have needed to modify and augment   their printed-page  skill as they increasingly read electronic displays.]

Setting up ‘Watchers.’ Another procedure from Bird’s studies is, while reading, thinking of items where more information might be useful to understanding or might be clarified. [An author introduces a town, but does not initially provide information about size or history, which might be interesting or useful to understanding. Another opens the subject of continental drift, but … .] This is a sophisticated skill, and is related to

Prediction, that got some attention in the old basal readers which were fiction-oriented and teachers were urged to regularly ask the students “What do you think will happen next?” As a component of comprehending, prediction is much more multidimensional than that. A student who is aware that an author is using a comparison/contrast strategy to present information may predict what element of comparison will proceed next or, as clarified, what changes or amplifications will occur, or whether an analogy will be repeated. Picking up on devices like foreshadowing and plots that create suspense are marks of readers with good prediction skills.



In Sum

We can consider several avenues to comprehension, but these are enough for us to step back and see how these few might operate. Imagine a reader who does not monitor comprehension, doesn’t summarize even when tackling long passages, doesn’t backtrack to clarify, doesn’t think ahead and identify things to watch for and amplify, and doesn’t predict, compared to a reader who does all those things. Among other differences, the poorer reader not only lacks the metacognitive train of thought but is probably a passive recipient of parts of the text that are readily understood and lets the others remain as gaps. It is easy to understand why a capable person who has poor comprehension skills is likely to find reading unsatisfying and, possibly, to find the act of trying to read an aversive experience.

As investigations have continued, there have been additions to the repertoire for teaching comprehension. An important innovation is “thinking aloud,” where the instructors read and simultaneously discuss their processes of comprehension, modeling by letting students inside their working minds. Discussions ensue and, eventually, the students learn to discuss their thinking while reading. Thus a partnership evolves as teacher and student think together about comprehension and how to strengthen their own modes of thinking about text (see, Kucan and Beck, 1997.

Two major reviews, one in 2001 and one in 2011, bring together the literature, including studies that easily meet the criteria enunciated in the regulations accompanying the ESEA legislation and many others that have contributed to the development of what is now a supportable set of strategies that will help all students and make a serious difference to Tier Two students. We refer to Gersten, Fuchs, Williams, & Baker, 2001, and to Duke, Pearson, Strachan, and Billman, 2011.

The inductive models and explicit instruction work together – both employ investigative competencies – creating the overall tone of Read to Succeed.





Evidence III

Research on Cooperative Learning

The last 30 years has seen a burst of research on cooperative learning. Here are four reviews that provide strong evidence about the effects of cooperative environments.

Johnson, D. & Johnson, R. An educational psychology success story: Social interdependence theory and cooperative learning. Educational Researcher 2009; 38(5); pp. 365-379

The Johnsons’ most recent summary of their models and studies. This one speaks to the extreme “gold standard” advocates by pointing out  how much work has been done in cooperative learning that  meets that standard.

Sharan, S. (1980). Cooperative learning in small groups: Recent methods and effects on achievement, attitudes, and ethnic relations. Review of Educational Research, 50(2), 241–271.

As always, the Israeli group combines innovative and even daring projects with solid evaluations and research.

Sharan, S., & Hertz-Lazarowitz, R. (1980). Academic achievement of elementary school children in small group versus whole-class instruction. Journal of Experimental Education, 48(2), 120–129.

Another title that annotates the article.

Sharan, S., & Shaulov, A. (1990). Cooperative learning, motivation to learn, and academic achievement. In S. Sharan (Ed.), Cooperative learning: Theory and research (pp. 173–202). New York: Praeger.

One of the interesting concepts is that cooperative learning moves motivation from the extrinsic to the intrinsic, resulting in increases in students’ ability to direct their own behavior and lessening the problems inherent in extrinsic reward strategies.


Evidence IV

Professional Development: Implementation of Complex Curriculums and Models of Teaching that Affect Student Learning

Thirty–five years ago a serious problem in staff development was the implementation of its content. When universities and central offices offered training in curriculum and instruction, implementation of the content was rarely studied. In other words, if teachers took a course in, say, the study of arithmetic, there was rarely follow-up including the collection of data to find out if anyone used the content of the course, let alone whether student learning changed or increased. However, as the venue of staff development shifted to the school district, which had a real interest in whether a curricular or instructional change was made, the study of training elements and their effects became more urgent and prominent.

The following description is from our own research and experience over the last thirty years.

To use a new curriculum pattern or model of teaching, several types of learning are needed.

Knowledge is terribly important. Teachers and administrators cannot implement a new curriculum without the knowledge that supports it and is available in their minds as courses, units, and lessons are prepared and used.

Skill in planning is the key to implementation as the curriculum is introduced to the students. New teaching moves (skills) may also be needed.

Preparation for use in the classroom is another essential.

Thus, the training needs to provide knowledge, skill, and preparation for implementation.

Several training elements are combined to generate the requisite learning:

* Demonstrations are a critical element. Organizers frequently underestimate the number needed. In our work, 20 or more spread over a year are not unusual. Often a combination of videotaped lessons from both the host district and other settings are used.

* Presentations – readings, lecture/discussions and the analysis of curriculum materials are interwoven with the demonstrations.

* Preparation for implementation is vital and, again, woven with demonstrations, readings, and presentations. Teachers need to reach the classroom with lessons in hand, complete with the materials they will use.

* Implementation – the entire process is conducted as an inquiry, and the teachers are prepared to study student learning FROM THE BEGINNING. In a literacy curriculum in the primary grades (K-2), the acquisition of sight vocabulary is studied, word by word. Acquisition of alphabet recognition is tracked. Numbers of books read by each student are reported. A “log” guides the teachers through these studies and into questions for the trainers as the year progresses.

These elements occur in sessions spread over several months or even a school year. A few days at the beginning followed by one/day or half/day sessions every three or four weeks is often about right.

Well-organized and delivered training can generate knowledge and skill and preparation for short-term implementation. Yet, long term implementation usually does not occur – only about ten percent of the teachers master the new model and incorporate it into their repertoire. In a long series of studies, a variety of remedies were explored. A very successful one was to have the trainers follow the teachers and administrators into their classrooms, discuss implementation, and help them with the stickiest items. The rate of implementation rose to over 90 percent. Great, but costly. Speaking practically, sending the trainers to provide the “follow-up” is a VERY expensive option, as is training coaches to track and assist implementarion. So, borrowing from studies on therapies for mild neuroses, where the clients did quite well when organized into self-help groups, we organized the teachers into peer-coaching groups who met together, discussed their teaching, and, in the best circumstances, planned lessons that they both tried and then discussed with one another. Well, the implementation rate went up to 90 percent with the teachers supporting themselves.

Thus, at present, in our work,  participants are organized into peer-coaching teams of two or three that meet regularly to plan lessons and discuss progress. In regular sessions during implementation, progress is shared. Alternatively, teams of teachers from schools are  brought together for sharing and “booster” training and work in their schools to achieve implementation (for a general discussion of the development and researching of the “training model”, see, Joyce & Showers, 2003).

In other words, it turned out that there was nothing wrong with the teachers’ learning capacity. If the environment was arranged correctly, they could learn new curricular and instructional patterns, build them into their working repertoire and then use them as they thought right for years on end. The tough part was the move into serious implementation. They needed each other — and could help each other get through the invisible barrier that had been the obstacle.

The important outcome of the long series of studies was that new curriculums and models of teaching were well within the reach of teachers and administrators – PROVIDED that the staff development was arranged correctly (see, Figure 1.1).

Figure 1  Elements of Design

Elements Effect on Knowledge Short Term Use Long Term Use
Rationale +++ 5-10% 5%
Rationale Plus Demonstrations



5-10%Rationale Plus Demonstrations Plus Preparation Time






80% and higher



5-10%All of the Above, Plus

Peer Coaching


90% and higher

90% and higher


Multifaceted Learning .Studies of teachers learning models of teaching indicate that there are three types of learning mingled together:

1, Developing an understanding of the model, how it works, why it works, and how it can be modulated to take individual differences into account;

2. Getting a picture of the model in action, envisioning what the teacher does and what the students do, and how the instructional and social environments are managed;

3. Adapting the model to what one teaches – the goals of the parts of the curriculum for which one is responsible.


The first involves lots of reading and discussion – getting hold of the books and articles that describe the model and its rationale and analyzing them thoroughly. The second requires watching demonstrations and analyzing them so that the process becomes clear. One begins to ‘feel’ the model in action and sense how to teach the students to use it as a tool for learning. Our rule of thumb is that one has to see a ‘new’ model about 20 times to get that feel. The third is adaptation of the model to one’s teaching situation – practicing until executive control over the model is achieved. During that practice, one has to cope with the frustration that more trials are needed than one expects, and the farther the model is from one’s developed repertoire, the greater the number before a comfort level is reached.


Optimally, these three learning processes are mixed. One reads, watches, reads some more, watches and practices, reads and watches and practices, and so on . . .


Sources. These two references will lead you to the literature on Professional Learning relevant to the summary you have been reading.


Joyce, B. & Calhoun, E. (2013). Teachers Coaching Teachers. Reviews research and development from 1978 to the present.


Joyce, B. & Calhoun, E. (2014). The school as a center of inquiry: Rebirth. In The Handbook of Professional Development. Edited by Kragler, S., Martin, L., Bauserman, K., & Quqtroche, D. N.Y.:Guilford Press.


 Studies of Read to Succeed in Action:

(The following examples closely follow their appearance in our books, Models of Professional Development and Realizing the Promise of the 21st Century.

Implementing R2S for Struggling Readers: 69 Sections in One District

We begin in Canada with an application for struggling readers in Grades Three to Twelve. The description that follows is of the  implementation process and results in the Saskatoon Public Schools in Saskatchewan. Let’s start with the development of a district literacy cadre – the team of teachers and administrators who will be responsible for supporting  an initiative called Literacy for All, that will include Read to Succeed, curriculum and instruction in kindergarten and the primary grades, and Just Read, an effort to increase independent reading by K-12 students.

The cadre was brought together for several days at the beginning of the school year and again for one or two days each month. They were introduced to the curriculum with the theory-demonstration-practice paradigm and worked together as peer coaches. They were assigned to Read to Succeed sections in the schools of greatest need, and the rest of their time was occupied in support of their peers, first co-training with external consultants and later carrying on all professional development with support from those consultants. They also worked with the consultants to analyze embedded student achievement data collected by the teachers and to synthesize and analyze formal test data. They summarized those data for the district cabinet and board and for distribution to the teachers of Read to Succeed in the 53 district schools. In June 2006, end-of-year data were available for a random sample of students from 56 sections (477 students altogether).

For the teachers, training is provided over eight 3-hour monthly sessions preceded by two days before school. The teachers maintain logs in which they record student learning of vocabulary, as well as report problems that need to be addressed in subsequent workshops. During these workshops, teachers are covered by other school personnel or paid substitutes. They share lessons together, peer coach one another, and analyze the results of assessments. They also are prepared to administer the Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT)  to assess competence in reading at the beginning and end of the school year. An assessment team made up of the cadre and other teachers and administrators administers the test to a random sample of students in each section to provide an estimate of the reliability of tests given by the teachers.

Here are some summative results taken from the report to the central administration and trustees.

Entry and Response

On entry to the program, the pretest scores indicate that the average student had made an annual gain of about 0.6 grade level equivalent (GLE) in comprehension and 0.25 in fluency each year; these students are precisely the population Read to Succeed is designed to serve. At each level, the learning history scores are similar—over their years in schools, the entering students had gained at about the rates indicated above, whatever grade they are in, whether they are third grade or eighth grade. Thus, we can see the “falling farther behind” phenomenon. Entering the fourth grade, our average R2S student is below the level of an entering third grade student. Entering the eighth grade, our R2S average is only a little above the average of an entering fourth grade student!

In R2S they began to catch up — the average gain in comprehension is GLE 1.3 and, in fluency, 1.15,  and the gains were similar throughout the grades.

However, as is historically true with most interventions for struggling readers, with Read to Succeed, about 30 percent did not gain in their first year in the program. The average gain of the others was GLE 1.7 in comprehension and GLE 1.4 in fluency. In the second year, the 30 percent who gained little in their first year gained at the rate of the other students in the second year – an average of GLE1.7. Our belief is that they required a longer time to develop habits of study and feelings of optimism, habits and feelings that had diminished as they had failed to learn for several years before Read to Succeed was initiated.

The 1.7 GLE rate of gain brings most students to a new perspective on school and school achievement. They are now learning at a decent rate and bring better literacy skills and vocabulary to their classes in the core curriculum areas. By the end of the second year, the average Read to Succeed student is gaining at a rate gained substantially higher than the average student —  enough that they are moving within the normal range of all students. And the other third has narrowed the gap and are on their way to catching up. Of the 477 students only a handful need Tier Three assistance.

The members of the cadre – known as “Literacy Teachers” — each taught an R2S section and did so in the schools with the lowest histories of achievement in the district. The mean gain of their students was nearly 2.0, about 0.7 GLE higher than the typical R2S average gain. Many of their students would have been assigned to Tier 3 programs in previous years.


Sixty percent of the enrollment is males. Scores at entry are similar for males and females, but females gain somewhat more – at every grade level — and the small difference is statistically significant. This difference persisted through the first five years of the program, and no explanation has been developed. However, the gains by the males are satisfactory.

Level of Class

There were some classes of third graders, some with fourth to sixth graders, others with sixth to eighth graders, and several with high school students. At every grade level the gains were about the same in GLE terms. The curriculum did not need to be altered to accommodate students of different ages All the struggling readers were, essentially, beginning readers on entry. Some had more skills than others, but not enough that they could read material common at their grade levels with good comprehension.

Socioeconomic Status

The curriculum appears to have similar effects in schools serving students from homes at various economic levels. Some of the highest-achieving sections are in schools serving the urban poor. And the sections serving students from higher socioeconomic brackets are doing very well. Similarly, students identified as having mild to moderate learning disabilities, so often linked to socioeconomic status, appear to gain equally with students not so diagnosed. The major “minority” ethnic group, from aboriginal populations, gained an average of 1.6 GLE each year.

Joyce, B., Calhoun, E., Jutras, J., & Newlove, K. (2006). Scaling up: The results of a literacy curriculum implemented in an entire education authority of 53 schools. Paper delivered to the Asian Pacific Educational Research Association, Hong Kong.

          Prevention and an Early Advantage: Implementing R2S in Kindergarten

An Example of the Curriculum as the Core Literacy Curriculum in Primary Grades

Let’s turn to an experience with the version of Read to Succeed when it becomes the basic literacy program in the primary grades – in a sense becomes both the base curriculum and  a prevention against failure.

In the Northern Lights, Alberta, Canada, Schools, kindergarten is our focus here, although PWIM was initiated through the elementary grades as was Read to Succeed. The evaluation was designed so that the effects on the various populations described above could be examined.

The kindergarten dimension of the Northern Lights program tests the theory that most kindergarten children are ready to learn to read and can have long-lasting effects from doing so. In other words, this initiative has theoretical practical implications for the field of early childhood education. The question is

“Can we, using the Picture Word Inductive Model, regular reading and writing, and comprehension instruction,  teach kindergarten children to read – and what are the implications for the controversy about whether formal literacy instruction is good for young children?” The question was asked and responded to by the kindergartens in the Northern Lights, Alberta, Canada school district.

Kindergarten has been an interesting area in educational position-taking. A substantial movement has worked hard against any type of formal teaching of reading in kindergarten (Elkind, 1987,2001) on the grounds that it is not “developmentally appropriate.” On the other hand, innovations in the teaching of literacy have developed curricular and instructional models that have substantial promise to teach young children to learn to read in the early years. To educators and laypeople alike, the term “developmentally appropriate” makes intuitive sense. Everyone would hope that schooling would make contact with the student’s developmental level.  The position papers of national organizations take the extreme position that teaching reading in kindergarten is developmentally inappropriate (IRA, 1998; IRA and NAEYP, 1998). They appear to believe that young students are fragile and can be damaged if  they are “overmatched” with the curriculum. Some folks even question whether having “full day” kindergarten is too much, let alone one that includes a curriculum in reading (Natale, 2001). The title of an April 2005 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, “Kindergarten or ‘Kindergrind'” captures the controversy. Opponents of formal study of reading claimed that it was necessarily a move toward a harsh and rote curriculum (Gao, 2005) that does not meet the needs of the children.

The views expressed by the national organizations and government panels are not shared by all “experts” on reading.

Years ago, one of the most respected scholars of early reading in the United States has presented an extensive argument (Durkin, 1966) for beginning early, and her rationale is essentially unquestioned by most leading scholars. In a longitudinal study, Hanson and Farrell  (1995) found that the effects of a reading curriculum in kindergarten could be seen in the academic achievement of Twelfth Grade students. Finally, the “father” of the idea of Kindergarten, Fredrich Froebel  emphasized the need for a rich environment that would pull students into inquiry and development: neither a free-play school in a play-only environment nor a rough-edged curriculum. However, none of these advocates would be pleased with the “No Child Left Behind” stance toward the teaching of beginning reading whether in the first grade or before. However, the new state standards on literacy appear to be much more even-handed on the subject and lean on the side of “reading as soon as possible.”

From our perspective the real issue is whether a comprehensive reading curriculum for kindergarten-age students can be developmentally appropriate, meaning can the children learn to read and do so without harm.

The complexity for Northern Lights and us is that we not only needed to work together to locate areas where the Read to Succeed curriculum would need modification (primarily, it turned out, access to “easy” books) and generate the staff development to assure implementation. The evaluation needed to deal with the early childhood curricular controversy and the effect on a diverse population. It is worth noting that many curriculum innovations are attended by similar concerns. For example, when mathematics and science curriculums are taught with inductive methods, questions are raised about whether the “basic” information and computation will suffer. Evaluations need to include the study of effects on diverse populations and deal with the important issues attendant to a curriculum change in any area.

And, parents needed to be oriented and kept informed about student response. In this district, only two or three students (fewer than one percent) normally reached first grade able to read at even the most basic beginning level. Now almost all would if the program was successful.

Curriculum Design

Important for our early literacy curriculum was the emergence of the Picture Word Inductive Model from the tradition of the language experience frame of reference with the addition of concept formation and attainment models of teaching (Calhoun, 1999).

A central assumption is that students need to become inquirers into language, seeking to build their sight vocabularies and studying the characteristics of those words, trying to build generalizations about phonetic and structural characteristics.

We imagined an environment where students would progress from their developed listening/speaking vocabularies to the reading of words, sentences, and longer text that they had created, where they would examine simple books in a relaxed atmosphere, where they would begin to write with scribbling and simple illustrations, where they would be read to regularly and where comprehension strategies would be modeled for them through the reading and study of high quality fiction and nonfiction books.  If the work of childhood is play, we imagined the students playfully working their way into literacy. Froebel envisioned capitalizing on children’s natural propensity to play to enable them to mature socially and cognitively by engaging in increasingly complex activities. We wished to create an environment where students would learn to read in a joyful fashion.



Professional Development, Implementation, and Student Learning

At the beginning of the school year, the start of kindergarten was delayed for a week after Grade Ones through Twelve began. This week was used to introduce the kindergarten teachers to the curriculum for teaching reading (none had taught reading formally in their past). The professional development model described earlier was used to design the sessions and the followup.

School principals, central office personnel, and a cadre of teachers attended the sessions and experienced additional days of support because they, and the primary consultant-trainers, became a Literacy Team whose members visited the teachers and offered advice and support through the school years. Kindergarten teaching teams from the schools became peer coaching teams. In addition, designated staff development days were augmented and a day’s session was organized for seven occasions during each school year. Prior to those sessions, the teachers filled out logs reporting implementation and identifying problems to be solved. And, they studied the acquisition of alphabet recognition and vocabulary through the year and reported progress in those logs. The resulting information was used not only by the teachers but by the consultants and literacy cadre as they planned and organized the follow-up training sessions.

Also, the literacy team tested the kindergarten children using the Gunning Procedure described below and the Gray Oral Reading Test from Grades One through Seven. Altogether, the literacy team participated in the design of the curriculum and professional development, provided training including visitation support, and evaluated implementation and effects on students.

Results I:


The study of implementation was accomplished through a combination of self-report logs and observations conducted by consultants and central office personnel.

Most of the teachers implemented the curriculum with a good deal of enthusiasm. They were particularly buoyed by watching the students acquire alphabet recognition, sight vocabulary, and observing them as they read sentences, paragraphs, and simple books. And, as some of the students moved rapidly to about the level of good average second grade readers, the teachers reported considerable satisfaction. A member of one team summarized their beliefs. “We were sure these kids couldn’t learn to read. Then they did. We think we can teach any little kid who comes to school how to read and read well.” Here you feel the “commitment follows competence” thesis coming to life.

The teachers reached varying levels of skill with aspects of the curriculum, but we judged that nearly all had mastered the important dimensions of the models and were using them comfortably by the end of the first year.

Results II

Embedded Study of Alphabet and Vocabulary

The teachers measured alphabet recognition out of the context of words, using flash cards. By mid-year nearly all students recognized all the lower and upper-case letters (tested out-of-context). Recognition of the words shaken out of the pictures was also assessed out of context – again with flash cards – and, by the end of each cycle, most students in each section recognized nearly all the words. By year’s end, three-fourths of the students recognized all of the 150 or so words shaken out during the year and no student recognized fewer than 120. (The students had learned sight recognition of a considerable number of other words as well, but the testing highlighted just the ones prominent in each PWIM cycle. The findings were important to the teachers – typically in the school division, only a handful of students entered first grade able to read the simplest books – and only about one-third had full recognition of the alphabet (knowledge of which is the best predictor of first grade reading achievement).

Results III

Formal Assessment of Competence in Reading:

The Gunning Procedure and The Gray Oral Reading Test

At the end of the kindergarten year, the students were administered what we call the Gunning Procedure. Then, in Grades One through Seven, the Gray Oral Reading Test was given to those who were still in the district at the end of each school year.

The Gunning procedure, developed by Thomas Gunning (1998), presents to the students trade books that have been selected because they represent increasingly more demanding levels.


Level One. PICTURE LEVEL. The vocabulary is very small — sometimes only a half dozen words, and are closely linked to pictures.

Level Two. CAPTION LEVEL. There are a few more words and there is more action — more to comprehend. Each page has a phrase that moves the book along.

Level Three. EASY SIGHT LEVEL. Extended text is introduced. The student has to read text beyond what is illustrated.

Levels Four to Six. BEGINNING READING LEVELS. The vocabularies increase, the complexity of the stories increases, and the understanding of even lavishly illustrated books depends on the reading of complex text.

Level Seven. GRADE 2-A. These are larger, more complex books. The student who can read at this level can read a large number of books on many topics and do so independently.

The books are presented to the students and the cover pages are discussed briefly. Then, the students read the books and they answer questions designed to assess comprehension of the major aspects of the books. To ensure that the students are not familiar with the books, they are selected from titles published in Great Britain that have not yet been widely distributed in Canada. The Gunning assessment is of performance. The students’ levels are measured directly by having them read material at various levels of complexity. Performance measures are strikingly different from multiple-choice tests where reading levels are inferred from response to structured tasks rather than from engagement in reading books and text passages.

The Gunning Results

Table 1 presents the results for the initial kindergarten cohort group at the end of the kindergarten year.

Table 1

Percent of Students Reaching Gunning Levels at End-of-Year Testing


Level                              Percent Reaching Level


Picture (A few words,

closely connected to pictures)           2

Caption (Picture books, with text in

captions)                                           26

Easy sight (Simple text carries

meaning)                                           30

Above Easy Sight (extended

Text in complex stories)                             42



The students learned to read somewhat better than first grade students usually did in our school district with an important addition — they all learned to read at some level.  All eight sections apparently succeeded in bringing all the students to some level of print literacy. About 40 percent of the students appeared to be able to read extended text and another 30 percent manifested emergent ability to read extended text. Twenty percent reached the “2A” level, which includes long and complex passages and requires the exercise of complex skills both to decode and infer word meanings. All the students could manage at least the simplest level of books. Very important to us was that there were no students who experienced abject failure. Even the student who enters first grade reading independently at the picture level carries alphabet recognition, a substantial storehouse of sight words, and an array of phonetic and structural concepts to the first grade experience. However, a half dozen students needed to be watched closely in Grade One because, although they were able to handle books at the caption level, they labored at the task, manifesting difficulty either in recognizing text-graphics relationships or using their phonetic or structural generalizations to attack unfamiliar words.

In previous years, about 30  percent would have been at the picture level or below at the end of Grade One at the end of the academic year.



The Gray Oral Reading Test is built around a series of passages that the students read to the assessor. The passages proceed from the simple to the complex.

The assessor studies the students’ ability to recognize the words and apply strategies for recognizing the words not recognized by sight. The assessor supplies words that are not recognized after a reasonable period of time (about three seconds). After the reading of each passage, questions are asked to assess comprehension of the content. The test yields scores on fluency and comprehension that have been normed on a substantial population of students. Thus, the results here can be compared with the normative picture.


The Gray Test (GORT) has been administered annually to that first group of   kindergarten students who have remained in the school division.  At the end of grade five, 69 were  still enrolled in division schools. At the end of grade five the national GORT average Grade Level Equivalent score in comprehension is 6.0 the national (and district) average of fifth grade students. For the 69 students, the average was GLE 7.7.  Contrary to the doctrine that teaching kindergarten students with a formal literacy curriculum will be damaging later, it appears that these students have not been damaged but, rather, have prospered. Importantly, only four students are below the 5.0 level and just one of these is a struggling reader. At the end of grade seven, the mean GLE 10.0 – the national and district average for grade nine students. As this is written, the students are graduating from high school and data on their achievement and plans for college are being collected.

Curriculum development may have bypassed the controversies as far as kindergarten is concerned.



Diversity and the Initial Kindergarten Population


We are concerned here with gender, socioeconomic status (SES), learning disabilities, and ethnicity.


Gender.  Gender did not influence levels of success from kindergarten through grade five. The distributions of scores for boys and girls were almost identical. For the United States as  a whole, the National Center for Educational Statistics distributions for grade four indicate that the males are at approximately the 30th percentile of the female distribution.


SES. The distributions of scores for students having or not having subsidies for lunch were also approximately equal.

Learning Disabilities. As is typical in our school district, about 28 kindergarten students were identified by special education diagnostic procedures as having special needs . By grade five, all but eight of those students had been discontinued from special education because they showed no signs of disabilities. In the past, all 28 would have been continued.

Ethnicity. In this population area, the major concern is with the achievement of aboriginal students. In the district, nearly all the aboriginal students have done poorly. In the sample of our kindergarten students, there were only eight aboriginal students. Their average comprehension score by the fifth grade was 7.0. Just one was below 6.0.


As student achievement for the entire population of kindergarten students rose with the implementation of the formal and more robust curriculum in literacy, it appears that the sub-populations benefited simultaneously. As we look at the students who have just graduated from Grade Seven, the females are prospering, literacy-wise, and so are the males. Mild to moderate learning disabilities appear to be diminishing. SES did not inhibit growth. And, in the area where we have the skimpiest evidence, ethnicity, in this case the progress of aboriginal students, did not appear to have the dampening effect that ordinarily occurs on the customary measures of profress.

As this is written, the original KG students have exited grade seven and the high achievement continues, with only two at the fifth-sixth grade norms.

Scaling up in Kindergarten

As part of the large project in Saskatoon, all kindergarten sections – 80 in all (about 1800 students) – were involved and a random sample of  students in each section were given the Gunning assessment at the end of each year. Here are the results from the first year:

* Of a random sample of 350 Students, only one had not reached the    Picture Level or above. Levels achieved were

* Picture Level – 30 percent

* Caption Level – 34 percent

* Easy Sight Level – 12 percent

* One of the Beginning Reading Levels, 18 percent, and

* Level 2A, 6 percent.


On this large scale, the effects of using the Picture Word Inductive Model in kindergarten appear to be very satisfactory.


For the Future

We recommend the organizational and professional processes used in the Saskatchewan and Northern Lights examples to implement R2S:

Following the decision to employ the Read to Succeed approach – a broad-based decision that includes and orients not only central office leaders but the board of trustees and leadership teams from the schools (see, Joyce and Calhoun, 2010, for a description of inclusionary decision-making),

*The development of a cadre who will provide professional development, the organization of peer-coaching, and carry out continuous study of implementation and student learning,

*The scheduling and implementation of a two-year professional development program for teachers and building administrators,

*The development of an assessment team that validates the formal data on student achievement that is collected by the teachers, and

*Regular reports of progress to all concerned.

R2S is a straightforward approach that depends on optimism and a raising of expectations about the capacity of young children and the rapidity with which struggling readers can discover their competence and recover their positive self-concepts.


















References and Bibliography

On Inductive Teaching and Learning

A set of meta-analyses of more than 300 studies were coordinated at the University of Colorado. Ronald D. Anderson, a senior researcher at the Laboratory for Research in Science and Mathematics Education at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, wrote the summary of the effort: A Consolidation and Appraisal of Science Meta-Analyses, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 1983) Vol.20 (5).  pp. 497-509. His summary reflects on the long report of the set of studies on science curriculum and teaching.

Anderson, R.,Kahl, S., Glass, G., Smith M., & Malone, M. (1982). Science meta-analysis project. Boulder, Colorado: Laboratory for research in Science and Mathematics Education. University of Colorado. 797 pages.

Shymansky, J., Kyle, W. & Alport, J. (1983) The effects of new science curricula on student performance. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 20 (5), 387-404. 105 studies, 1000 classrooms, 150,000 students.

Minner, D., Levy, A. & Century, J. (2009). Inquiry-Based Science Instruction – What is it and does it matter? Results from a Research Synthesis Years 1984-2002. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 47 (4), 474-496.

National Research Council (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education Practices, Crosscutting Ideas, and Core Ideas. Washington, D.C. The National Academies Press.

Almy, M. (1970). Logical thinking in the second grade. New York: Teachers College Press.

One of the greatest studies of the impact of inductive/inquiry/cooperative teaching/learning on the development of the intellect. The discipline based inquiry approaches to the teaching of science, mathematics, and social studies were brought together for these primary grade students and capacity to think logically — the ability to learn intelligently — increased.


Alexander, P. & Judy, J. (1988). The interaction of domain-specific and strategic knowledge in academic performance. Review of Educational Research, 58, 4, pp. 375-404.

This is where the teachers’ roles in teaching students to learn conceptually interact with the performance of the students. Where teachers have strategic, conceptual control of content, students learn to think conceptually and learn more.

Baumert, J., Kunter, M., Blum, W., Brunner, M., Voss, T., Jordan, W., Klussman, U., Krauss, S., Neubrand, M., & Tsai, Yi-Niau. (2010). Teacher’s mathematical knowledge, cognitive activation in the classroom, and student progress. American Educational Research Journal. 47,1, 97-132.

You can’t just tell the students to go off and inquire, you have to inquire yourself. A nice study that ties teacher knowledge and use of that knowledge to student learning.

Baveja, B. (1988). An exploratory study of the use of information-processing models of teaching in secondary school biology classes. Delhi: Delhi University. PHD thesis.

A fine study where both concept-formation and concept-attainment processes increased lower-order content and, importantly, very large gains in higher-order concepts. Gains increased over the long-term.

Burkham, D., Lee, V., & Smerdon, B. (1997). Gender and science learning early in high school: Subject matter and laboratory experiences. American Educational Research Journal, 34,2, pp 297-331.

A large scale study of 10th grade achievement in science with a particularly interesting conclusion: that hands-on laboratory experiences, while benefitting all students, were of particular benefit to females.

Bonsangue, M. (1993). Long term effects of the Calculus Workshop Model. Cooperative Learning, 13(3), 19–20.

Conducted with entering students in engineering, improved passing rates dramatically by bringing students together to inquire into the subject matter.

Fuchs, L., Fuchs, D., Hamlett, C., & Karns, K., (1998). High-achieving students’ interactions and performance on complex mathematical tasks as a function of homogeneous and heterogeneous pairings. American Educational Research Journal. 35,2, 227-267.

Third and fourth grade high-achieving students were assigned to study groups in homogeneous and heterogeneous achievement pairs. The heterogeneously-assigned high-achievers performed better — confirming the hypothesis that differences are synergistically positive. Heterogeneity generates greater inquiry and conceptual understanding.

Gagne’ R. &White, R. (1978). Memory structures and learning outcomes. Review of Educational Research 48, 2, 137-222. [3634]

A major piece on cognitive learning. Makes the case that long-term retention and transfer of learning depends on building networks of concepts where information and skills are nested and retrievable.

Hunt, D. & Sullivan, E. (1974). BPE: Between Psychology and Education. Hillsdale, ILL: Dryden.

A superior introduction to the applied psychology of education.

Klauer and Phye (2008) focused on inductive reasoning across all subject areas. … programs that aimed to teach detecting generalizations, rules, or regularities.”  In other words, they concentrated on whether we can teach students to think inductively. The 74 studies brought together by Klauer and Phye indicate both that inductive processes can be taught straightforwardly to most students ( mean D= 0.59)  and that, when they employ inductive inquiry, those students will successfully acquire and organize information, build concepts, and develop questions to guide their inquiries. Klauer and Phye focus on the heart of inductive/inquiry models of teaching – capitalizing on the inborn capacity to think inductively and teaching students to enhance and apply with relation to school curriculum areas and in their personal inquiries. The most important finding is that measures of cognitive functioning – essentially general intelligence – increased.

Klauer, K. & Phye, Gary. (2008). Inductive reasoning: A training approach. Review of Educational Research.78,1,85-123.

Knapp, P. (1995). Teaching for meaning in high-poverty classrooms. New York: Teachers College Press.

In 140 high-poverty classrooms, teaching for meaning-comprehension generated more growth than did skills-emphasis classrooms.

Kramarski, B. & Maravech, Z. (2003). Enhancing mathematical reasoning in the classroom: The effects of cooperative learning and metacognitive training. American Educational Research Journal, 40,1, 281-310.

Demonstrated that the combination of cooperative/metacognitive strategies outperformed the effects either cooperative or metacognitive strategies alone. — 8th grade, 384 subjects.

Sharan, S. (1980). Cooperative learning in small groups: Recent methods and effects on achievement, attitudes, and ethnic relations. Review of Educational Research. 50, 2, 241-271.

Indicates how complex cooperative inquiry increases conceptual work and reduces the effects of ethnic, SES, and learning history.

Sharan, S., & Shaulov, A. (1990). Cooperative learning, motivation to learn, and academic achievement. In S. Sharan (Ed.), Cooperative learning: Theory and research (pp. 173–202). New York: Praeger.

One of the interesting concepts is that cooperative learning moves motivation from the extrinsic to the intrinsic, resulting in increases in students’ ability to direct their own behavior and lessening the problems inherent in extrinsic reward strategies.

Sharon, S. & Shachar, H. (1988) Language and Learning in the Cooperative Classroom. New York: Springer-Verlag.

A world-class study of the most complex cooperative model that includes inductive inquiry as a major aspect of the process.

Tennyson, R. & Park, O. (1980). The teaching of concepts: A review of instructional design research literature. Review of Educational Research. 50, 1, p. 55-70.


On the Explicit Teaching of Comprehension

Bereiter, C. & Bird, M. (1985). Use of thinking aloud in identification and teaching of reading comprehension strategies. Cognition and Instruction. Vol. 2,# 2, 131-156.

Bird, M. (1980). Reading Comprehension Strategies: A Direct Teaching Approach. Doctoral dissertation. Toronto: The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Duffy, G. (2002). The case for direct explanation of strategies. In Block, C. & Pressley, eds. Comprehension Instruction. New York: Guilford. 28-41.

Duffy, G., Roehler, E., Sivan, E., Racklife, G., Book, C., Meloth, M., Vavrus, L., Wesselman, R., Putnam, J., and Bassiri, D. (1987). The Effects of Explaining the Reasoning Associated with Using Reading Strategies. Reading Research Quarterly, Vol 22, pp 347-367.

Presents evidence that partially grounds the Read, Talk, Think process.

Duffy, G., Roehler, L., Herrmann, B. (1988). Modeling mental processes helps poor readers become strategic readers, The Reading Teacher, 41, 762-767.

Mental modeling attempts to demonstrate the thinking processes behind the visible acts of reading or writing. Essentially, modeling is followed by providing examples and providing students with practice with connected text, then modeling again …

Duke, N., Pearson, P.D. Strachan, S., & Billman, A. (2011). Essential elements of fostering and teaching reading comprehension. In Samuals, J. & Farstrup, eds. What Research Has to Say about Reading Comprehension. Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association

Duke, N., Pearson, P.D. Strachan, S., & Billman, A. (2011). Essential elements of fostering and teaching reading comprehension. In Samuals, J. & Farstrup, eds. What

Research Has to Say about Reading Comprehension. Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association

Durkin, D. (1966). Children Who Read Early. New York: Teachers College Press. Educational Researcher. 12,5. pp 4-12.

Durkin, D. (1978-1979). What classroom observations reveal about reading comprehension instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 14 (4), 481-533.

Englert, C., Raphael, T., Anderson, L., Anthony, H., and Stevens, D. (1991). Making Strategies and Self-Talk Visible: Writing Instruction in Regular and Special Education Classrooms. (1991). American Educational Research Journal. Vol 28, No.2, pp.337-372.

Garner, R. (1987). Metacognition and Reading Comprehension. Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex.

Gersten, R., Fuchs, L., Williams, J., and Baker, S. (2001). Teaching reading comprehension strategies to children with learning disabilities: A review of research. Review of Educational Research Vol. 71, No.2, pp.279-320.

Kucan, L. & Beck, I. (1997). Thinking aloud and thinking comprehension research: Inquiry, instruction, and social interaction. Review of Educational Research, Vol.6, No. 3, pp.271-299.

Cokes, L. (2010). Reciprocal Teaching at Work. Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association.

Annemarie Palincsar and Ann Brown developed a teaching strategy focused on helping students learn how to improve their comprehension when reading text, both fiction and non-fiction (citation). They prepared teachers to use what they named Reciprocal Teaching and conducted a number of studies on implementation, responses by students, and effects on comprehension of passages. They reported positive results and the practice has been disseminated widely in the intervening years and  continues to be, with several consultants offering training and writing books and manuals on how to learn and use it (see, for example, Oczkus, 2010).

Pearson, P.D. & Dole. (1987). Explicit comprehension instruction: A review of research and a new conceptualization of instruction. The Elementary School Journal. Vol 88, #2, 151-165.

Pressley, M. (2006). What the Future of Reading Research Could Be. A Paper presented at the International Reading Association’s Annual Conference, 2006. Chicago.

Presseley, M. & Brainerd, C., eds. (1985). Cognitive Learning and Memory ion Children. N.Y.: Springer-Verlag.

Scardamalia, M. & Bereiter, C. (1984). Development of strategies in text processing. in Mandl, H., Stein, N., & Trabasso, T. (eds) Learning and Comprehension of Text. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.  (379-406).

Vellutino, F., Scanlon, D., Spay, E., Small, S., Chen, R., Pratt,A., & Denckla, M. (1966). Cognitive profiles of difficult-to remediate and readily-remediated poor readers. Journal of Educational Psychology.88, 601-638.

An important study. Second semester first grade students received daily tutoring. After about a half-year, about two thirds had caught up to their age mates. The others had not and many of them did not respond to subsequent tutoring.

On Cooperative Learning

A massive amount of energy has been devoted to the study of cooperative learning methods and how to teach them to students, including adults.

Here is a sample, including a couple of important reviews.

Bonsangue, M. (1993). Long term effects of the Calculus Workshop Model. Cooperative Learning, 13(3), 19–20.

One of the most dramatic illustrations of what cooperative learning can accomplish.

Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L., Mathes, P., & Simmons, D. (1997). Peer-assisted learning strategies. American Educational Research Journal, 34(1), 174–206.

A basic presentation.

Johnson, D. and Johnson, R. An Educational Psychology Success Story: Social Interdependence Theory and Cooperative Learning. Educational Researcher 2009; 38(5); pp. 365-379

The Johnsons’ most recent summary of their models and studies. This one speaks to the extreme “gold standard” advocates by pointing out  how much work has been done in cooperative learning that  meets that standard.

Sharan, S. (1980). Cooperative learning in small groups: Recent methods and effects on achievement, attitudes, and ethnic relations. Review of Educational Research, 50(2), 241–271.

As always, the Israeli group combines innovative and even daring projects with solid evaluations and research.

Sharan, S., & Hertz-Lazarowitz, R. (1980a). Academic achievement of elementary school children in small group versus whole-class instruction. Journal of Experimental Education, 48(2), 120–129.

Another title that annotates the article.

Urdan, T., Midgley, C., and Anderman, E. (1998). The role of classroom goal structure in students’ use of self-handicapping strategies. American Educational Research Journal, 35(1), 101–102.

A warning about how many students handicap themselves and how much evidence there is that integrative teaching/learning models reduce self-destruction.



On Kindergarten and Reading Achievement

Calhoun, E. (2004). Using Data to Assess Your Reading Program. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Durkin, D. (1966). Children Who Read Early. New York: Teachers College Press. Educational Researcher. 12,5. pp 4-12.

Elkind, D. (1987)Miseducation: Kindergartners at Risk. New York: Knopf.

Gunning, T. (1998). Best Books for Beginning Readers.  Boston, Allyn Bacon.

Hanson, R., & Farrell, D. (1995). The long-term effects on high school seniors of learning to read in kindergarten. Reading Research Quarterly, 30 (4), 908-933.

International Reading Association. (1998). Position Statement on Phonemic Awareness and the Teaching of Reading.  Newark, Deleware: International Reading Association

International Reading Association and The National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1998).  Position Statement on Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children.  Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association.

International Reading Association. (1998). Position statement on phonemic awareness and the teaching of reading. Newark, Del.: Author.

Natale, J. (2001). Early Learners: Are full-day kindergartens too much for young children? American School Board Journal, 188 (3),22-25.

Walston, J. & West, J. (2004). Full-day and Half-Day Kindergarten in the United States. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.

Xue, Y., & Meisels, S. (2004). Early literacy instruction and learning in kindergarten. American Educational Research Journal, 41, 1,191-229/

On Program Components

Calhoun, E. F. (1999). Teaching beginning reading and writing with the picture word model. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Joyce, B., Hrycauk, M., Calhoun, E., & Hrycauk, W. (2006). The tending of diversity through a robust core literacy curriculum: gender, socioeconomic status, learning disabilities, and ethnicity. A paper delivered to the Asian Pacific Educational Research Association. Hong Kong.

Joyce, B., Calhoun, E., Jutras, J., & Newlove, K. (2006). Scaling Up: The Results of a Literacy Curriculum Implemented across an Entire 53-School Education Authority. A paper delivered to the Asian Pacific Educational Research Association. Hong Kong.

Joyce, B. & Showers, B. (2004). Student Achievement through Staff Development. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

McGill-Franzen, A., & Allington, R. (2003). Bridging the summer reading gap. Instructor, 112(8), 17–19.

Just providing books to low-SES kids made a big difference in achievement and pride.

Showers, B., Joyce, B., Scanlon, M., & Schnaubelt, C. (1988). A second chance to learn to read. Educational Leadership, 55(6), 27-31.

Wiederholt, J. & Bryant, B. (2001).Gray Oral Reading Tests. Austin, Texas: Pro-Ed.

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