I. Introduction- Success Story of a Student that Received Reading Interventions
Every fall new students enter our classrooms. No students are the same; all come from different backgrounds, families, beliefs, and experiences. They are not only different in those ways but also in their learning abilities. It is then our job as their teacher to learn about them in a way that allows us to understand where they came from, what experiences they have had, and most importantly how they learn best. This fall a young boy entered my first grade classroom. He was new to the school and the town and did not know anybody when entering school that day. He began to make friends and adjust to the routine of the classroom and the school. Within the first few weeks of school I began to notice him struggling with his ability to identify letters and sounds. This made it very difficult for him to engage in reading as well as writing. When the students were asked to write a sentence about an activity they did over their weekend he was only able to draw a picture. His way of writing at this point was through drawing a picture. With guidance and support I began to help him with his writing. First, he wrote a word to go with his drawing and week by week he began adding more to his work. As he began to learn and understand the sound-symbol relationship necessary for both reading and writing his confidence grew and he felt more comfortable completing his assignments. Even though he was beginning to understand phonological awareness and the sound-symbol relationship he was still struggling in the classroom. Due to the concerns I was having he began receiving Reading Interventions from the Reading Specialist at our school as well as from other educators that could help him with his reading. He began receiving Reading Mastery, Great Leaps, Lexia, as well as small-group instruction led by our Reading Specialist. All of these interventions are used to build phonemic awareness, sound and letter correspondence, vocabulary development, as well as oral reading fluency. He began receiving these interventions early in the fall of first grade. He continued to receive these interventions throughout the school year. As the year is coming to an end I am very pleased to say that he made ambitious growth throughout the year and met all benchmarks given to him. All of the assessments given to him met the grade-level benchmarks and were considered "on-level". This story of a young first grader who entered my classroom without a lot of experience and background knowledge for reading and writing demonstrates that with the appropriate reading interventions and hard-working educators our students can reach their potential and be successful.

II. Definitions

What Are Reading Intervention/Intervention Strategies?

In a traditional intervention model, one teacher works one-on-one with a student and focuses on those particular students strengths and needs in a particular academic or social area. Bacon (2005) states that the elements of a well-formulated and implemented reading intervention include, but may not be limited to, intensive instruction to students who are reading significantly below grade level, which is usually two or more levels below their instructional reading level. Ideally an intervention should occur regularly in a one-on-one setting with a professional, such as a reading specialist or a special education teacher, for an hour each school day for at least a six week period. The lessons implemented during these one-on-one sessions should begin at the students instructional level of reading and "incorporate word work, rereading, guided reading, comprehension activities, and a connection to writing." The strategies during this intervention time, along with classroom strategies during regular instruction, should take advantage of the student's strengths and the student should use these to increase his/her reading skills and abilities. On the other hand, many districts do not fund reading specialist positions, so teachers must employ these intervention strategies into regular instruction either by themselves or in a co-teaching environment with a special education teacher.

What is a Mixed-Ability Classroom?

A mixed-ability classroom is a group of students that have varying learning styles, intelligence, learning abilities, cultural backgrounds, confidence, and motivation (Drake, 1993). A mixed-ability classroom refers to grouping students together with different abilities. This sort of grouping aims to increase interactions among students of varying backgrounds, learning abilities, intelligence, learning styles, etc. Mixed-ability grouping allows for students to grow and mature through their interactions with their differing peers. McKlesky and Waldron (2007) "contend that inclusive classrooms are only successful to the extent that they can accommodate most of the needs of students with disabilities in ways that are a natural and unobtrusive part of the school day." Moreover, in a mixed ability of inclusive classroom, the support should be natural and routine in the classroom. Also, students should be kept in the rhythm of the classroom as best as possible, so that they are not stigmatized or miss any important classroom instruction. Lastly, all students should feel like they are included in the learning and social classroom community so they do not feel left out.

What Does a Mixed-Ability Classroom Look Like?

A mixed-ability classroom may consist of children of varying abilities and age. These classrooms consist of students who come from different languages, backgrounds, experiences, knowledge, learning abilities, talents, and motivation. A mixed-ability classroom requires the teacher to create a climate that nurtures and values cultural differences (Drake, 1993). As students begin to value and understand the differences they will begin to form relationships with each other that will instill cooperation. Theoharis (2009) states that a mixed-ability classroom should be a community where all students feel like they are an important part of the classroom, feel like they are connected to their peers, "have access to rigorous and meaningful curriculum, and receive the collaborative support to succeed."

Furthermore, there also may be a special education teacher or paraprofessionals present in a mixed-ability classroom. The classroom teacher, the special education teacher, and paraprofessionals should all work together to make any necessary adjustments for student differences, especially for students with behavior differences and learning disabilities, in order to make their classroom experience as ordinary as possible. McLesky and Waldron (2007) state that there are two choices to making student differences ordinary: the general education teacher and the special education teacher co-teaching and/or to have a paraprofessional present in the classroom, and varying the way we group students together and/or "altering" instructional teaching methods. "Regardless of which option (or options) is chosen, much evidence indicates that the supports that work best and that continue to be used are those that fit naturally into the ebb and flow of the general education classroom" (McLesky & Waldron 2007). In addition, students in a mixed-ability classroom should all have a similar schedule and rhythm of the school day. Having the rhythm of the day similar for all students does not stigmatize students that may have disabilities and provides all students with cohesive, thorough instruction. As a result, all of these "considerations help to ensure that difference becomes ordinary" in the classroom and that all students equally "become part of the learning and social community of the classroom" (McLesky and Waldrom 2007).

How Does a Mixed-Ability Classroom Benefit the Student?

Through much research it has been noted that mixed-ability classrooms benefit all students who encounter them. The intentions of mixed-ability classrooms are to increase the experiences, knowledge, and abilities that all students hold (Katz,1995). No two students that enter a classroom have identical backgrounds, family life, experiences, and so forth. which makes it essential that students have the oppurtunity to interact with others who are different from them. These opportunities can become a source of intellectual and social benefits (Katz,1995). Mixed-ability classrooms provide a wealth of teaching opportunities for not only the teacher but also the students. Mixed-ability classrooms benefit not only the older students in the classroom but the younger students as well.
Mixed-ability classrooms have social and educational benefits for the older or more developed students of the class. With mixed-abilities and ages in a classroom allows older or more developed students to guide and support younger students in the classroom with understanding new skills or concepts. In the classroom setting, older students are able to act as models for the younger students in the classroom. They are able to model appropriate behavior, social skills, work ethic, and much more(Mixed-Ability Module). The Mixed-Ability Training Module indicates that the older students improve their cognitive skills due to their opportonities to consolidate knowledge by sharing or instructing the younger students in the class. Through these students having the opportunity to engage in this behavior also develops leadership skills and enhances their self-esteem (Mixed-Ability Module). Every student, regardless of their abilities or knowledge, should feel that they can provide insight and knowledge to another peer. With this classroom climate, all students build their self-esteem and are seen as a valuable member of the classroom. The sense of partnership that is felt amongst the students in the classroom promotes a climate of cooperation to both the older and younger students. This idea of partnership and cooperation gives a purpose to both groups of students to work together and help eachother when necessary (Katz, 1995).

The mixed-ability classroom setting also provides benefits for the younger children in the class. The Mixed-Ability Training Module confirms that these students are consistently exposed to cooperation activities with older and more matured students, which allows for them to learn the importance of team work and collaboration. Experiencing this classroom climate enables students to learn how to work in small groups and with others cooperatively and collaboratively, which are important skills they will need in the future. Not only does the mixed-ability classroom provide benefits academically but also behaviorally. These younger students are constantly around older, more mature peers who demonstrate mature and appropriate behavior. The younger students who view these students as models begin to recognize and behave in the same ways. The Mixed-Ability Module indicates that the younger students are inspired by their older peers and want to imitate and behave similar to them. As you can see through the research, mixed-ability classrooms inspire and provide benefits for all students. This climate allows students to work together and cooperatively in a way that is allowing the students to learn from not only the teacher, but one another as well.

III. Focus on Literature Pertaining to Interventions for Reading

Repeated Readings

There are a variety of interventions and strategies that can be used to assist elementary aged children in reading. Horman et. al (1993) indicates that the Repeated-Reading procedure began as a means for developing automatic decoding with unskilled readers. The goal of Repeated Reading is to increase the speed of word recognition and make the decoding of words automatic, which then enables the student to focus on the meaning of the text (Jolivette et. al 2005). The procedures that take place when Repeated Readings occur are the student reads a short passage while the teacher records the student's miscues, the student then rereads the passage again several times orally or silently, and then the student rereads the passage again aloud as the teacher records the miscues again. The teacher then graphs the results on a graph to track the data and growth of the student (Horman et. al 1993). The Journal of Behavioral Education (2008) discusses that reading has been identified as one of the most important skills a student learns in elementary school. However, that being said, it is known that that a considerable number of students from across the United States struggle in their reading abilities (Ardoin et. al 2008). This is why it is essential that teachers everywhere should be aware of reading interventions and strategies to assist those beginner readers who need extra support and instruction. Ardoin et. al (2008) discusses that effective reading instruction includes the teaching of phonemic awareness, phonics, promoting fluency, as well as providing teachers and educators the necessary information on how to provide this specific reading instruction.

Ardoin et. al (2008) discusses that Repeated Readings of text can build a students' reading fluency as well as improve their comprehension abilities. It has been shown that through supplemental reading instruction with Repeated Readings of the text a student's fluency and ability to read clearly and smoothly, as well as read for meaning and understanding, has improved (Ardoin et. al 2008). This specific strategy is known to be beneficial to both learning disabled students as well as non-disabled students. Wilson (2007) found that "repeated reading improves the reading fluency and comprehension of both nondisabled students and students with learning disabilities." Those findings indicated that in a mixed-ability classroom this strategy could be implemented for all students to increase fluency and reading comprehension. For more information on Repeated Reading you can click on this link to an article describing the benefits of Repeated Reading as an intervention

Shared Reading Strategy

Another well known strategy that is used in classrooms all across the country is Shared Reading. Kesler (2010) discusses the value of shared reading for children's vocabulary acquisition as well as reading comprehension. Kesler (2010) continues to express the importance shared reading can have on nondominant groups. Kesler (2010) states "nondominant groups need explicit support with comprehending the decontextualized language in books." In mixed-ability classrooms there may be a wide variety of cultures, backgrounds, learning abilities, and intelligences which makes Shared Reading a beneficial strategy not only for nondominant groups but for all mixed-ability classrooms. Kesler (2010) focuses on four approaches to teaching reading through the Shared Reading Strategy. The four approaches Kesler (2010) focuses on are: "possible sentences, using context clues, repeated readings, and using our bodies." The "Possible Sentences" approach encourages critical thinking before, during, and after reading. Prior to reading the teacher would choose two words that occur next to each other in the text and begin by using the words in sentences. The students would then make predictions about what the text may be about. While reading the class would keep track of how many times the words appeared in the text and after reading the class would generate sentences using the new vocabulary. The "Using Context Clues" approach prompts and reminds students to use the text to guide their comprehension and meaning of words. The "Repeated Readings" approach requires the students to reread short passages which improves the student's fluency and decoding abilities. The "Using Our Body" approach had the students create and use gestures using their hands or body to indicate the meaning of new vocabulary. Kesler (2010) discusses "the value of using multiple modes to develop understanding of academic language." Research has shown that using kinesthetic and tactile activity provides modes other than language to demonstrate understanding (Kesler, 2010). This mode of learning new vocabulary words demonstrates a way of teaching and learning that can reach all learners. If the student does not learn by seeing or hearing the words the child is then able to learn the new word through using gestures which would benefit kinesthetic learners. This strategy, which is known as Shared Reading, can benefit all students in a classroom and provides a way to reach a variety of learning styles.

Reading Coaches

Along with shared reading strategies, many educators have discovered that "education has evolved to include the notion that a student's peers are a hearty source of more skilled someones" (Bacon 2005) This is why teachers are progressively employing peer reading coaches in their reading instruction. First and foremost, the student reading coach model must be implemented in a cooperative learning environment that has already built a respectful rapport among students. This rapport in built by modeling to students that mistakes are normal to make, that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and that we need to judge each other on our hunger for learning rather than on our skills. Furthermore, students need to make their own reading goals during their reading experience that they would like to improve upon. Lastly, students need to recognize the importance of becoming a reader that critically thinks.

In the classroom, teachers break students into heterogeneous groups. This is a collaborative setting in which students are taught to "listen, question, prompt, confirm, explore and reflect on their reading and the reading of their peers" (Bacon 2005). In this setting, all students bring their strengths to the small, mixed ability groups to share with and learn from each other. For instance, a student may be more fluent in one area of reading comprehension and less skilled in another area. Bacon (2005) states that "it is the lively interaction of these varying abilities in the small-group setting that allows students to be the more skilled someone at different times." It is proven that students pay more attention to their miscues and understanding of the texts, as they are trying to continually impress their peers. In the implementation of this model, the teacher picks a text for each group based on student interest. When students formally meet, the meetings "involve different activities aimed at improving skills in word identification, fluency, and comprehension" (Bacon 2005). The first activity focuses on comprehension skills, in which students write and share predictions about the text being read. Next, two students read aloud a chunk of the text, during which students examine and correct any miscues that were made during the reading. Next, the students discuss the content of the text through open-ended prompt cards. Lastly, students independently reread the text read in their group, focusing on the reading strategy for the week. Overall, the peer reading coach strategy allow for students to learn from both themselves and their peers, which in turn creates a rich learning environment that meets the needs of diverse learners.

Guided Reading Approach

The Guided Reading approach to balanced reading instruction is used by a multitude of educators throughout schools. In the Guided Reading Approach, teachers provide differentiated reading instruction in small, homogenous or heterogeneous groups with "similar strengths or instructional needs" (Avalos et. al 2007). In order for students to make reading improvements or gains, the small groups must meet 20 to 30 minute per week for three to five sessions. Avalos et. al (2007) states that "this approach to reading instruction provides teachers the opportonity to explicitly teach children the skills and comprehension strategies students need, thus facilitating the acquisition of reading proficiency." When teachers are utilizing the Guided Reading Approach, various texts are chosen for the small groups according to the instructional needs of the students, thus the texts should align with the each students zone of proximal development. This provided students with a challenging, yet attainable reading experience. Furthermore, students flourish in both reading proficiency and confidence when guided reading is an instructional strategy to teach reading. In support of this Avalos et. al. (2007) claims that some of the benefits of guided reading are "individualized instruction, the use of books at students' reading levels, the opportonity to create and sustain meaning, the exposure to language that is context embedded, the structured format of the lesson, and the systematic evaluation of students' progress." Also, students and teachers need to be equally involved in guided reading, with the teacher teaching and reinforcing fluency and comprehension strategies and the students reading and discussing the story with their peers. Lastly, this approach to reading allows for "reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills...in a social environment by engaging in conversations before and after reading" (Avalos et. al. 2007). As a result, the guided reading approach allows students, especially those in a mixed-ability classroom, to take more ownership and responsibility for their learning while both being challenged and improving their reading proficiency.

IV. What Have We Learned?

Mixed-ability classrooms are full of students from different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, languages, learning abilities, talents, and ages (Drake, 1993). No classroom is going to be identical and will always provide a challenge for the teacher to ensure that each student receives the necessary instruction, supports, strategies, and interventions to be successful. This process reminds all educators that each student that enters a classroom is different and may require additional experiences, supports, and instruction in order to reach their potential. It seems that mixed-ability classrooms can benefit all students who enter them through older or more mature students. These specific students are able to serve as models and assist younger students when learning new concepts, skills, and behavior (Katz, 1995). This climate that mixed-ability classrooms foster allows all students to feel important and connected to their peers. With such a connected and positive climate in the classroom students benefit through their ability to work cooperatively and together, which then enables them to learn not only from the teacher but from each other as well. By doing research and reading many articles related to mixed-ability classrooms and reading intervention strategies, it seems that all educators have building blocks to build on. Repeated Readings, Shared Reading, Reading Coaches, and Guided Reading are all instructional strategies or interventions that educators could begin implementing in their classrooms. It is essential that these strategies are implemented in a slow and careful process for the students. All teachers can begin implementing one of these strategies or approaches to reading instruction to not only assist a student in their classroom that they notice may be having reading difficulties, but teachers may also use these as effective instructional approaches. These strategies were specifically chosen to discuss in this paper because they are "doable" for the classroom teacher to learn and begin implementing when prepared and ready. As an educator, it is vital and essential that all students who enter a classroom feel comfortable, important, and successful. When the students are able to feel this way and their affective filter is low, their learning is up to the teacher to provide what is necessary for each student to be successful.




References

Ardoin, S.P., Eckert, T.L., & Cole, C.A. (2008). Promoting generalization of reading: A comparison of two fluency based interventions for improving general education
student's oral reading rate. Journal of Behavioral Education, 17, 237-252.

Avalos, M.A., Plasencia, A., Chavez, C. & Rascon, J. (2007). Modified guided reading: Gateway to english as a second language and literacy learning. The Reading Teacher, 318-320.

Bacon, S. (2005). Reading coaches: Adapting an intervention model for upper elementary and middle school readers. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 417-420, 422-424.

Drake, D.D. (1993). Student diversity: Implications for classroom teachers. Clearing House, 66 (5).

Katz, G.L. (1996). The benefits of mixed age grouping. Eric Digest, 8.

Kesler, T. (2010). Shared reading to build vocabulary and comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 64, 272-277.

McLesky, J., Waldron,, N.L. (2007). Making differences ordinary in inclusive classrooms. Intervention in School and Clinic, 163-166.

Mixed ability grouping. Retrieved from:
http://www.ellinogermaniki.gr/ep/muse/data/images/Mixed_Ability_Grouping_version1_5.doc

updated 6/16/11 by Erin Blanchette and Alyssa Cobill