Reading Conference helps 115 teachers

August 11, 2003

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Ohio State University professor Patricia Scharer spoke at a conference on guided reading at UWP Aug. 7. More than 115 teachers from around southwest Wisconsin attended.

PLATTEVILLE - More than 115 adults from around southwest Wisconsin spent the entire day Aug. 7 reading childrens' books.

No, they weren't reading Harry Potter. The elementary and middle school teachers were trying to become better educators at a conference on guided reading at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Educators continue to study how to become more effective in teaching children how to read, and the conference focused on how to best aid students in their adventures in literature.

Ohio State University professor and well-known ideologue on guided reading Patricia Scharer led the Aug. 7 conference. She has written or co-authored many books and articles on guided reading and has traveled the country giving numerous presentations. Scharer is also a colleague of Gay Su Pinnell, a fellow Ohio State professor who co-authored the fundamental text on the subject, "Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children."

"She came with a wealth of info," UWP education professor Carol Lange said.

Scharer, who was an elementary school teacher previous to her 13 years as a professor of children's literature at Ohio State, said guided reading is an instructional tool where students work in small groups reading stories at their own pace.

"Not all students read at the same rate," Scharer said. By making reading more individualized, teachers may be able to more effectively help students improve their reading flaws. Making sure they are interested in the book they are reading is important as well.

"From my perspective, students learn to read by reading, and if they don't find reading a successful experience, they won't read. Interest is a big part of that," Scharer said.

In guided reading, all students read the entire text, as opposed to traditional teaching methods where students might read a single paragraph aloud and then follow along as the duty to read is passed on to other students in the class.

The objective is to put more focus on individual students and gear the texts and instruction to their specific needs. The swing in ideology toward different techniques for teaching children how to read occurred in the early 1990s when the in-vogue independent reading methods were failing.

"Kid's weren't comprehending the way they should," Lange said. But by complementing independent reading with guided reading, and also focusing on writing and word study, children may be able to comprehend the material better.

And guided reading isn't a tool reserved only to instruct young children.

"Its underlying principles affect all grade levels," Scharer said.

While elementary teachers help younger children "learn to read," upper-elementary or middle school teachers can help their students "read to learn," Lange said. Older students already know how to read but they don't always comprehend all of the ideas in the text. By learning to become more effective readers they will be able to "get the most out of it that they can."

The low cost of the full-day conference for area teachers made participation affordable. Cindy Terrill of the Hidden Valley Reading Council said

school districts could send as many teachers as they wanted for the cost of only one $100 registration fee.

The UWP conference, the fourth of what organizers hope is a long line of annual reading conferences at the University, was co-sponsored by the Hidden Valley Reading Council, Wisconsin Teachers of English and CESA #3 Reading Specialists.

"We look forward to it next year," Lange said. PR#3-1576

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