In the book, Teaching Reading to Students Who Are At Risk or Have Disabilities, the authors, William D. Bursuck and Mary Damer, have compiled years’ worth of data and teaching methods to help teachers who are trying to reach “at-risk” readers. The authors claim that students with reading disabilities are generally disfluent readers. They either struggle with decoding, remembering high-frequency words, blending sounds together, or exhibit any combination of these problems. Bursuck and Damer point out that the need to read fluently increases as students get older, because they are required to read more text, at a higher level, to gain information (188). Therefore, there is a great need to get students to achieve fluency.
In one of the peer-reviewed articles I read, titled “Balanced, Strategic Reading Instruction for Upper-Elementary and Middle School Students with Reading Disabilities: A Comparative Study of Two Approaches”, researchers Genevieve Manset-Williamson and Jason M. Nelson, compared two different methods of instruction. Both methods included research-based approaches in phonemic awareness/analysis, decoding, fluency and comprehension. The difference was how explicitly comprehension strategies were taught. The results of the study showed that both interventions were beneficial for the participants. During a time when most students regress, summer break, the majority of the students showed gains in comprehension, fluency and phonemic awareness. Interestingly, the group that received explicit comprehension instruction did not show growth in passage fluency. The researchers attributed this to possibly being tied to their increased comprehension. To explain, as the students read and realize, based on context, that they are reading the wrong word so they slow down to self-correct, which affects their words correct per minute. This is further proof of the complicated relationship of all the elements that go into fluent reading.
I also reviewed a book called Collaborating with Students in Instruction and Decision Making: The Untapped Resource, by Richard A. Villa, Jacqueline S. Thousand, and Ann I. Nevin. In this book, there is a chapter dedicated to peer tutoring and partner learning. This source taught me that the kind of peer tutoring I will be studying is known as “cross-age” tutoring and has been successful in many different subject areas. I also learned the importance of purposefully training students to be tutors. According to Villa, Thousand, and Nevin, there are six essential ingredients for successful peer tutoring to happen. The help the tutor provides must be relevant, appropriately elaborated, timely and understandable to the tutee. In addition, the tutor must provide a chance for feedback to be practiced and the tutee must practice it (63). The authors also provide a checklist, or guide, to establishing a peer-tutoring practice to ensure that the essential ingredients are being thought about and included. Areas that are to be considered include identifying students to participate, recruiting and training those students, supervising tutoring sessions, evaluating the progress, reinforcing and recognizing the hard work put in by both the tutor and the tutee, analyzing and redesigning, and sharing results with colleagues.