Reading Plus is the name of an online reading program that is being used by schools to help students improve their reading fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, recall, and much more. It is being used at Douglas County High School for struggling readers. Of course that includes SPED students. What that means is that instead of instructing students for the full class period, they spend approximately 45 minutes per day (3x per week) working with the computer on their reading.
Colleagues who I respect, have looked at the research and said that this program is successful in teaching students to read better. As it is a program that I am expected to use in all three of the classes I teach, I thought that it made sense for me to try it out. Luckily, I was able to have myself “enrolled” as a student (9th grade) prior to Winter Break. The first time you use this program, it assesses where you are at; you take a test. After that the program adjusts to your level and provides reading activities to help you improve. The high school students I worked with prior to having my own classes, generally, would groan when they were told they needed to work on Reading Plus. Before I tried the program, I thought that it couldn’t be a big deal.
Then I tried it out. The students were right. It is boring. The stories are colorless; there are few descriptions and the ones they have are boring. It is repetitive. You read and provide information over and over again. But, it seems to work. Reading speed increases. The interesting thing is that I only scored with a reading level of 9.5 (9th grade 5th month). My vocabulary was 12.0 and my reading speed was 295 words per minute and after completing 3 lessons, I was reading at 333 words per minute. Most of my students are reading between 120-150 words per minute.
The problem is that it is boring. It is hard to stay focused on the program. I found my mind wandering. I found myself getting sleepy and not wanting to continue. And I don’t have problems with reading. So I can only imagine what my students go through. However, I do think that it is in their best interests to continue with the program. I’m going to work on putting together the offline exercises for each student to allow them to continue to work with the program, but focus on specific skills which the program has identified, and that they do with paper and pencil. It is a ton of work for me, but I believe that it will be beneficial for the kids. I am also going to work on direct instruction in areas that they seem to be struggling. Most of my students have difficulties with vocabulary. I have some active learning vocabulary lessons planned and can’t wait to start using them. Hopefully, by changing things up and making it interesting they will be able to focus for the time that is required to improve in Reading Plus.
I think that I will continue doing Reading Plus Lessons. I want to see what improvement I make and I want to be able to show the kids that I really do understand how they feel. Sometimes we have to do things that we don’t like because they are good for us.