“The Read 180 classroom: The gateway of reading”
By Julie Strom
Morgan County High School Read 180 Instructor
Many people think that reading is a skill only important in the language arts classroom. The reality, however, is that reading skills are necessary for success in every subject area. Students are expected to complete readings in the majority of their classes, and many math classes have word problems that students must solve. Can most students read their eyes over the words on a piece of paper or the pages of a book? Yes. The problem for most students, and some adults, lies in the skills essential to reading. These critical skills include reading comprehension (making sense of what one reads), making inferences (taking what you know to draw a conclusion), fluency (reading smoothly and expressively), and knowing vocabulary. If students cannot comprehend well what they are reading, they are not getting what they are supposed to out of an academic class. Also, our students are required to pass five graduation tests, all of which require reading skills. Morgan County High School, being sensitive to the growing need to prepare excellent readers, has began a new program called Read 180 this year.
Read 180 is a program developed by researchers at Scholastic that has been proven to help students make quantifiable gains in their reading achievement. The Read 180 classroom consists of whole class instructions and a rotation between three stations: independent reading, small group instruction with the teacher, and computer software. Part of what makes Read 180 unique is its breakthrough software that uses student data to individualize and adjust the path of reading instruction. It also gives the teacher the ability to track what the students do each time they are on the computer in order to hold them accountable. The hope, though, is that the topics covered on the software are high interest enough to have the students enjoy what they are doing. One topic, for example, is “Big Money,” which explores the bright lights of Vegas, shows how fortunes are won and lost on Wall Street, explains how oil made Brunei rich, and showcases people who seek their fortunes at the bottom of the deep sea.
The books in the independent and reading station were also chosen in order to appeal to high school students. Instead of having to read about literature from which they are disconnected, students may choose books that delve into issues that students their age face, like peer pressure and relationship drama. There are also nonfiction books about the history of baseball and the life of Muhammad Ali. One of the most popular books so far has been Ripley’s Believe It or Not. There are four different tiers of books so that every student can find a book on his or her level. The students were tested in August in order to determine their reading lexile and the critical areas of reading that they struggled with the most.
As a teacher, the data that I have been able to collect has helped me tremendously as far as knowing how I can best serve my students. I cannot wait until they test again in December and May so that I can actually see all of them improve. Some of the best evidence so far has been seeing how many students’ attitudes towards reading have changed. Most of my students came to me not liking to read at all, and many have found books they they