Friday, October 3, 2008

Teaching Reading "Fundamentals" to Older, Struggling Readers

My colleague gave a presentation recently about the importance of not neglecting to teach the fundamentals of reading to older, struggling readers who need it, even though you may fear that going back to the basics would turn these older learners off. Going back to the basics, including instruction in such skills as phonics, when teaching older, struggling readers is important in order to locate and fill the gaps in these students' reading skills. Of course, it is crucial to match your reading instruction to these specific students' needs. It is also important to convey to these older, struggling learners why you are going back to the basics so they can see the purpose of doing so. My colleague (previously mentioned) suggested one effective way to do this is by sharing an excerpt from Randy Pausch's book, The Last Lecture, that relates the importance of going back to the basics--learning fundamentals. I've included her reference to Pausch's experience here:

Randy Pausch's experience on the importance of fundamentals

Randy Pausch is the professor who last fall gave the “Last Lecture” at Carnegie Mellon and has a book published with the same title. He recently passed away from pancreatic cancer. He loved football, but he did not start with much enthusiasm since he was a “naturally wimpy," small kid. He was very intimidated by his hulking, six-foot-four coach, but he said he learned some of his greatest lessons from that man. This is an excerpt from his lecture:
“On the first day of practice, we were all scared to death. Plus he (the coach) hadn’t
brought along any footballs. One kid finally spoke up for all of us. ‘Excuse me, Coach. There are no footballs.’

And Coach Graham responded, ‘We don’t need any footballs.’

There was silence, while we thought about that…

‘How many men are on the football field at a time?’ he asked us.

Eleven on a team, we answered. So that makes twenty-two.

‘And how many people are touching the football at any given time?’ One of them, we said.

‘Right!’ he said. ‘So we are going to work on what those other twenty-one guys are doing.’

Fundamentals. That was a great gift Coach Graham gave us. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. As a college professor, I’ve seen this as one lesson so many kids ignore, always to their detriment: You’ve got to get the fundamentals down, because otherwise the fancy stuff is not going to work.”
(Pausch, Randy. 2008. The Last Lecture (pp. 35-36). New York: Hyperion.)

See also the following posts about teaching "fundamentals":

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