Thursday, November 17, 2011

Crew Review: Read Naturally Live

If you've been reading my posts about homeschooling my boys, you might recall that Luke struggles a bit to read.  While he might be testing at a generally appropriate grade level, and listening to him read makes me think that he gets the gist of the passage, reading is not easy for him.  And, while his comprehension is fine now, I know that as he begins to rely more on reading for learning (as opposed to me reading aloud to him), his comprehension will break down and he'll get lost.

So I practically begged to be able to review Read Naturally Live, an online program that purports to help students improve their reading fluency and comprehension.

The Product:  Here's a video explanation of what it does:

And here's some quotes from the website (which is huge and is full of information and research about their approach!):

...Our industry-leading programs develop and support the five essential components of reading, identified by the National Reading Panel: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. ...

Read Naturally's structured intervention programs combine teacher modeling, repeated reading, and progress monitoring — three strategies that research has shown are effective in improving students' reading proficiency. Using audio support and graphs of their progress, students work with high-interest material at their skill level.
With teacher modeling, a proficient reader models good, correct reading for a less able reader. In Read Naturally, students read along while listening to a recording of a fluent reader. This helps students learn new words and encourages proper pronunciation, expression, and phrasing.
Repeated reading is another strategy that research has shown improves fluency. In Read Naturally, students practice reading a story until they can read it at a predetermined goal rate. Mastering a story helps students build fluency and confidence.
Daily monitoring of student progress has also been shown to improve student achievement. Students become more involved in the learning process, and teachers remain aware of each student's progress. In Read Naturally, students monitor their progress by graphing the number of words read correctly before practicing and then again after practicing. The graph shows the students' progress, motivating them to continue to read and improve.
Each Read Live seat includes:
  • ·         Access to 13 Sequenced and 6 Phonics curriculum levels for each enrolled student (Read Naturally Live).
  • ·         Access to oral reading fluency benchmark assessment passages and reporting for up to 30 students (Benchmark Assessor Live).
  • ·         Online teacher training videos.
  • ·         The ability to reassign purchased seats if a student completes or leaves the program.
  • ·         Technical support...
Read Live is $149.00 for a 12-month subscription.  You can find a free 60-day trial here.

Our Experience: Luke is currently working on the Phonics Series reading material.  These stories are reinforcing simple phonics rules (short/ long vowels, digraphs, blends).  How are they reinforced?  When Luke first picks his story (there are 12 to chose from), three key words are shown on the screen, with an explanation of the phonic pattern (short i, for example).  There are additional words that are shown as well.  He's asked to repeat these words that the speaker (not a computer-y voice,  but a pleasant, patient female) says.  He'll see these words later in the lesson when he's asked to read lists of words for speed and accuracy.
  • OK, so Luke picks a story.  His most recent one was about a Rosy Spoonbill, a bird.  All the stories are non-fiction, and there is a wide variety of content:  science, social studies, and biographical information.  He's enjoyed each story so far! 
  • After go over the Key Words (which I explained above), Luke is asked to type in a Prediction of the story's content, based on a simple photo, the Key Words, and the title.  This is hard for Luke, because he's not a confident speller, but I don't care in this situation.  Near the end of this lesson, I'll determine if his answer is correct of not, so maybe someday I'll decide to count spelling.  Or not.
  • Next is Wordtastic, a vocabulary game where Luke is given four choices from which to pick a synonym or antonym.  I'm glad that the definition of synonym and antonym is on each page, and I just discovered that the program will read each word to the student if they are having trouble decoding it!  I cannot wait to show that feature to Luke tomorrow!
  • Wordtastic is a great little game, but it is really just purposeful busywork [please don't get me wrong, I love this game.  It is good for Luke!].  Luke plays this while he waits for me to come listen to him read the passage he selected for a "Cold Timing." This is his first time reading, and the purpose is to baseline is reading speed in words per minute.  [This is part of the "monitoring progress" the graphic above.]
  • After this, the Read Along session.  Here, a pleasant female voice reads the passage at a comfortable rate and the student is supposed to read aloud as well.  The sentence that is being read is highlighted in blue to help your student follow along. 
  • Next comes Practice.  Luke clicks the "start time" button, and begins reading the passage aloud.  When 1 minute is up, he clicks on the last word he read.  His goal is to read fluently at the words/minute goal that I set for him (right now he's working on 90 wpm).
  • When he's met his goal, Luke has read the story a minimum of 5 times!  He's now asked 5 Quiz Questions.  These quiz questions are factually and inferential.  I love this part.  I feel like I'm killing two birds with one stone: making sure he is reading for the sake of practice, but also getting some practice with thinking about his reading.  When I have him read aloud to me in other situations, I sometimes get so narrowly focused on the mistakes that he's making that I forget to consider "is he getting the message of the story?"
  • Next Luke has to practice the Word Lists.  This is unique to the lower level, Phonics Series.  Here, Luke has to read approximately 28 words that are in groups of 3-4 from the same word family. This section is probably the most helpful for Luke, as he struggles with reading accurately.  He does a "great" job of guessing at words, and this task has caused him to slow down and pay attention to the whole word.  Here's a sample:

  •  When he's done practicing this list (read in columns and then in rows), He's ready for the Pass Activities.  This is when I listen to him read (counting his errors), grade his Prediction answer, and listen to him read his word lists.  The program has specific criteria which the child must meet, but many of the parameters are customizeable.
I need to be honest and say that Luke does not like this at all.  Have I noticed any generalization yet?   Well, no, but I plan to continue to use this through our complementary subscription period.  I know he's learning something about reading, because his fluency has gotten better and he has certainly gotten the "hang" of reading the words lists much more than at the beginning.  I suspect with more practice, I'll see his reading in subject work improve as well.

To see what others thought of Read Life (and their paper product, One-Minute Reader), please visit the Review Crew!

FCC:  Thanks to Read Naturally for a complementary subscription to this product in exchange for my honest opinion about our experience with this product.

    1 comment:

    Debra said...

    Alane -- this is great! My kids really didn't like Read Live at first, but something clicked a week or so ago, and they actually (almost) enjoy it now. At least they no longer hate it.

    I love the difference I've been seeing in the last week or so also.