Closing the Gap in Early Reading By: ALina odom

As children enter school, they are expected to hit the ground running. Kindergarten is now the grade in which students are expected to learn to read. Reading skills are then practiced in first grade. In second grade the transition from learning to read to reading to learn takes place. If students begin these primary years at a reading deficit, then the gap begins. In grades third through fifth, standardized testing data reports yearly growth and deficits. Deciding the best way to teach reading in the primary and elementary grades is a huge decision and one that can impact a child for the rest of their school career. In comparing my school's 2015 and 2016 GMAS reports, there is a gap in reading proficiency. I used GMAS testing data to show gaps in reading proficiency. In hopes to close this gap, a balanced literacy approach is being implemented into grades K-5. The use of technology for each of the balanced literacy elements is also demonstrated for use during classroom instruction.

This graph compares Reading results of the Georgia Milestones EOG test for the years 2015 and 2016. As you can see, there was an increase in the level one area of the percent of students who did not pass. Level one is considered to be "Beginning Learner". This is not a passing level for an end of grade test. Level four is considered to be "Distinguished Learner". As you can see by the graph, this percentile decreased from 2015 to 2016. There was also a decrease in level three which is "Proficient Learner". And finally there was an increase in the level two which is "Developing Learner". Ultimately we would like to see a decrease in the levels one and two, and an increase in levels three and four. In order to foster an increase in reading proficiency, we will take a school wide initiative to incorporate a balanced literacy approach in teaching reading. The balanced literacy approach includes six elements. In each session teachers will learn how to incorporate each element of balanced literacy into their teaching and will learn how to use technology to implement these six elements as well.

Professional Learning Unit

Teachers will be expected to complete six sessions during a three week period. Upon course completion, teachers will have an understanding of what the Balanced Literacy components are and gain knowledge of how to incorporate technology into each component of the approach.

Introduction to Balanced Literacy

Take a moment and answer these questions.

*How do you currently teach reading?

*How long do you spend teaching reading each day?

*How do you incorporate technology into the teaching of reading?

*Why do you think students are not making enough gains in reading?

*Do you include all of the balanced literacy components of teaching reading that were mentioned in the video?

Please complete the following sessions over the next three weeks. At the end of each session there will be a short assessment. Please complete each session and assessment.

session one

Please click on and read the following article.

Assessment is one component of Balanced Literacy.

Running records are informative tools to use when assessing readers. A running record helps teachers to identify patterns in student reading behaviors. These patterns allow a teacher to see the strategies a student uses to make meaning of individual words and texts as a whole. There are also computer programs that allow for students to record themselves reading online. The students can then playback their reading to listen to themselves. This helps the students to identify any mistakes in their reading. Teachers can also listen to these recordings to conduct a running record. Please watch the videos to learn how to conduct a running record.

session two

Read Alouds

Read Alouds are still enjoyed by students. Listening to someone read a book, an audio book, or a podcast, is enjoyable and beneficial for children and adults. Read alouds are beneficial to learning.

Challenge: Add one read aloud to your lesson plans for every day this week!

session three

Shared Reading

Shared reading is an interactive reading experience that occurs when students join in or share the reading of a book or other text while guided and supported by a teacher. The teacher explicitly models the skills of proficient readers, including reading with fluency and expression. (

How to use shared reading:

Why use shared reading:

It provides struggling readers with support.

Shared reading of predictable text can build sight word knowledge and reading fluency.

It allows students to read materials that they may not be able to read independently.

It provides support so students feel successful.

Watch this sample shared reading lesson.

Shared reading is sometimes called repeated reading. Here is an article about repeated readings.

Idea: Have your students use their chromebook to look up an article online. Use this article as a shared reading text.

Word Study and Guided Reading

Guided reading is small group reading instruction that provides differentiated teaching that supports students in their reading. When students are in small groups they can be taught in a way that focuses on their needs in order to help them accelerate in their learning no matter on what level they are currently reading. During a guided reading lesson the teacher can also incorporate some word study. Word study is based on word patterns rather than memorizing unconnected words as traditional spelling assessments would do.

session five

Independent Reading

Independent reading is defined as someone reading text - such as books, magazines, newspapers, text on iPads, and kindles - on their own with minimal to no assistance.

Just like anything else in your classroom, independent reading has to be taught.

Challenge: Incorporate some independent reading time into your schedule this week! If you have struggling readers who may be embarrassed to hold a book on their level, try letting them use a kindle or an iPad to read! By using a device, no one is able to tell what type of book is being read.

session six

Writing Workshop

Writing plays a role in learning to read.

Check out these writing mini lessons.

Please click on the buttons below. These are some good online instructional writing programs:

Follow Up Plan:

After completing all of the modules the teachers will have a discussion session in a PLC (professional learning community) meeting about balanced literacy. These meetings are held weekly and provide time for teachers to work together to discuss and share ideas. I will meet with the teachers to review the balanced literacy professional development model. I will ask them for feedback for what worked well, and what can be improved upon. I will also ask if this module was useful to them for helping them to learn about balance literacy and how to implement this approach into their teaching. Teachers will also be asked to share how they are implementing all of the components of balanced literacy into their daily practice. Changes and/or improvements will be made according to the feedback given. If teachers are completing this professional development from different schools, or even the same schools but different areas of the school they can use a program such as vimeo to conduct a PLC. Using an online conferencing site can open doors to unlimited resources from other teachers who are practicing the same approaches to learning. Teachers learn so much from each other and various experiences that they can share with each other. Also, by using an online conferencing tool, teachers can meet from their classroom and have access to work samples and can show materials used in their rooms without having to pack it all up to take to a central location. There are a lot of online meeting websites. I have used vimeo in the past. Please see the following link to try out the vimeo site.


Allington, R.L. (2013). What really matters when working with struggling readers. The Reading

Teacher, 66(7), 520-530.

Clemens, N.H., Hagan-Burke, S., Luo, W., Cerda, C., Blakely, A., Frosch, J., Gamez-Patience,

B., Jones, M., (2015). The predictive validity of a computer-adaptive assessment of

kindergarten and first grade reading skills. National Association of School Psychologists,

44(1). 76-97.

Heitin, L. (2016). How should elementary schools teach reading in an age of computers?

Education Week, 36(12), 8-11.

Kostewicz, D.E., Kubina, R.M., Gallagher, D.L., (2016). Using read alouds to help struggling readers access and comprehend complex informational text. Reading Improvement, 53 (1), 23-41.

Morris, D. (2015). Preventing early reading failure. The Reading Teacher, 68 (7), 502-509.

Santoro, L.E., Baker, S.K., Fien, H., Smith, J.L.M., Chard, D.J. (2016). Using read-alouds to

help struggling readers access and comprehend complex, informational text. Teaching

Exceptional Children 48(6), 282-292.

Ziemke, K. (2016). Balancing text and tech. Literacy Today 33(4), 32-33.


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