Read to Succeed


One of the biggest problems in today’s classrooms is the ineffective use of transition times. Transition times are mostly spent re-directing children and attempting to control chaos and confusion in the classroom. This work presents the idea of using re-entry transition times (i.e., returning from lunch, music, etc.) as silent reading. When tested in December 2009, approximately 40% of the children in my classroom were reading at level E, when compared to the other 60% who were reading at G or higher. For six weeks, all children were required to read for five minutes immediately upon entering the classroom from a school event, increasing their reading time up to 25 minutes a day. The results conclusively show that students who have the extra opportunities to read daily have increased their measured reading level from E to H, significantly increasing their reading fluency as measured by running records.

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    In today’s classrooms, classroom management is the most important part of the setup. For most, transition times come to be the biggest inefficiency in a classroom, even with the most effective classroom management plan. Re-entry transition times, when the student re-enters the classroom after being away at special classes (e.g., P.E., music, library, etc), are often the hardest type of transition times to use productively.

    My mentor teachers’ classrooms were like tightly run ships. The classroom management plan was very effective and ran very smoothly. While looking at the schedule of the classroom, we realized that one time, every day, things seemed to get a little out of control. Time was being wasted on return transition times from lunch, recess, specials, bathroom, and library. The students would enter the classroom with no direct instruction and chaos would ensue. We estimated that 20 minutes of daily instruction time was being spent controlling this chaos and redirecting students onto the next task. With this extra time throughout the day, my mentor teachers’ and I thought that there was no excuse for the 40% of the children in the class who were reading below the expected reading levels for first grade. We thought the students should receive some extra help. We decided that we needed to provide a solution that would involve both of these classroom issues.

    We thought long and hard about this solution and one of my mentor teachers brought up the idea of silent reading upon entering the classroom. After no better or feasible suggestions, we decided to go ahead with this idea of silent reading, but first had a long conversation about the logistics of our plan. Our first plan of business was to ensure that every child had a book on their proper reading level inside their desk. We did this because we wanted to eliminate any opportunity for students to come in, sit down, and then get up to get a book, or otherwise have any reason to use their time ineffectively. The students would read their book for a full week during every re-entry transition time. This would ensure that students would be able to read a book on their reading level fluently. Students who are fluent on their reading level are more likely to increase their reading level to higher levels. After students read the book for a whole week, we paired them up according to reading levels (one high student with one low student) and let them read to each other on the carpet for about 20 minutes every Friday. This got the students excited about the reading plan and feeling confident in their abilities. The students, who did not comply with the plan and could not read their book fluently, did not read on the carpet but read their book at their desk instead. This was the incentive for the reading plan, which seemed to motivate a lot of the students.

    We introduced the idea to the students by telling them that this would be an everyday thing and that upon entering the classroom they would have to get their books out. In the beginning, we used their behavior plan to re-enforce this idea and moved clips for the students who did not follow the procedure. The clip behavior plan implemented in the classroom is the main discipline plan for the students. All students begin on the color green and if unacceptable behavior occurs, students move their clips down to yellow, orange, and then red. Each color has a consequence associated with it. When students move their clip once, they walk for five minutes during recess. This time increased by three minutes after each color change until they walk the entire recess when they reach red. Eventually, the behavior plan was not needed as the students became accustomed to the routine and conformed to the reading plan.

    We believe that if the students had the opportunity to practice reading fluently on their reading level, they would indeed increase their reading level, fluency, and overall reading abilities. We decided to measure this data using English Language Institute (ELI) scores and running records for the six lowest readers in each classroom. The ELI test is a district-wide standardized assessment given three times during the year. It is administered within the first six-week term, third six-week term, and then again in the sixth six-week term. It tests the student’s knowledge of letter sounds, identification, and other areas of phonemic awareness. Running records are also assessment tools teachers use to measure the student’s reading level, fluency, and overall ability. Together, we used these scores to identify the student’s ability levels at each point in the research.

    We started our data collection with the December ELI scores. This served as our baseline for the research. We then implemented the study in classroom A, but not in classroom B so we could do a reversal design for the last month. After a month, we tested each of the 8 students in both classrooms with running records. For the next month, we implemented the plan in classroom B full force while relaxing on the plan in classroom A. The reversal design was created to see if students in classroom A would still continue to participate in the plan without verbal reinforcement because it had now become a habit. After that month, we took our final running record scores. We organized these scores in a chart so we could identify the progress made in each classroom. The system organized the books alphabetically with A being the lowest available. To simplify it, we assigned a point system that correlated with the letter’s numerical placement within the alphabet. For example, A was given one point; B was given two points and so on and so forth. We used the corresponding points to the alphabetical letters to organize our data.

    The first month, we found classroom A, the class with the plan implemented, had noteworthy positive changes in their reading levels, whereas classroom B had a significantly smaller increase. The data are presented in Table 1.

    The average increase for classroom A was 2.3 reading levels; meanwhile, the average increase for classroom B was 1.5. This seemed to make sense seeing as the plan was only being implemented in classroom A. After this month, we decided to take away the verbal reminders for the students in classroom A as we began implementation in classroom B. We wanted to do this reversal design to show that this plan works for more than just this specific classroom. We had hopes that the progress for classroom B for this round would be similar to the same progress classroom A had in its first month of the study.

    The data from March to April proved to be an important and positive increase for both classrooms regarding reading level. The new average increase for classroom A was 3.2 and the new average increase for classroom B was 1.6. Although the point difference in classroom B was the same for both trials, individually, the students all increased their overall reading level. Both the students with no change in reading level for the first month had increases in the last month, after the plan was implemented in their classroom. From the data, we were all pleasantly surprised to see that classroom A still continued to succeed, on their own and with no verbal reminders to read, increasing their reading levels. At the end of our study, only five students out of the 12 involved remained below level for reading in the fifth six-week period for first grade. The five were within two levels from reaching the desired reading level. Although Classroom A had higher reading levels than Classroom B in the beginning of our study, our goal was to show the point increase difference for each child individually in their own reading experience, not as a comparison against each other. Our goal was to prove that both classrooms could have the same success even though the plan had not been implemented at the same time. The data are presented in Table 2.

    After seeing our results, we took action in many ways. After seeing the results in classroom A, we knew we could achieve success if we continued the research so we continued the implementation of the study. We also expanded the plan to classroom B after seeing the success in classroom A. We also took action at the school level. We presented the idea to the school principal and vice principal who were both very excited by the results of our study. They decided that they would recognize the success of our study and share our research with the staff members at the next staff member meeting. The members of the first grade team, who were actively involved with the study and always lending an ear or hand while we conducted the research, decided to implement the plan in their own classrooms after seeing the results in our rooms. They, too, have had results that show a positive increase in their students’ reading levels. My hope is that the actions among the teachers in the school will inspire others within the district, state, and nation to participate in this plan to improve reading in their classrooms.

    Throughout this study, we learned a lot. We confirmed our belief that students, who have the opportunity to read silently in their classrooms upon entering the classroom, do indeed increase their reading fluency, level, and comprehension. We were able to identify students’ increase in reading level and fluency through the data and the teacher monitoring as well. As an anecdotal finding, the chaos and ineffective use of the return transition time was greatly decreased and students were able to turn transition time into productive reading time.

    For the future, I have a few recommendations that I feel would increase the effectiveness of the study. First, I feel that this study could and should be expanded to other areas of the reading process. I also believe that it would benefit students if it were expanded to other areas of the curriculum.

    The reading process is composed of multiple parts. For this study, we focused specifically on reading level and fluency. I think this study could be modified to improve student’s comprehension, word work, and other areas of the reading process. The five minutes we spent on every re-entry transition time could be adapted to working on these aspects of the reading process by creating resources that practice these aspects individually.

    This study could also be extended to other areas of the curriculum in any classroom. For example, if a student is lacking in math skills, the teacher could create a resource, such as flashcards or practice problems, for that student to practice every time she comes back into the classroom. The bottom line for this project is that if a student has the opportunity to practice any skill they need to improve, they can achieve a higher level of success. This theory supports the idea of expanding it to other areas of the curriculum.

    Overall this study presents the idea of using ineffective classroom time as silent reading. Our data shows that this plan works as a means to increase reading level and fluency. We were successful in this plan and will continue to use it as a way to increase student learning.

    Table 1: Overall Figures for Classrooms A and B

    Classroom A December Running Record Points March Running Record Points April Running Record Points
    Student A E 5 H 8 L 12
    Student B D 4 F 6 G 7
    Student C F 6 H 8 M 13
    Student D D 4 F 6 I 9
    Student E E 5 G 7 I 9
    Student F G 7 J 10 M 13
    Classroom B            
    Student A B 2 B 2 C 3
    Student B C 3 E 5 F 6
    Student C D 4 D 4 F 6
    Student D F 6 G 7 I 9
    Student E E 5 G 7 H 8
    Student F E 5 G 7 I 9

    Table 2: Overall Point Differences for Classrooms A and B

    Classroom A December Points March Points Point Difference April Points Point Difference TOTAL POINT DIFFERENCE
    Student A 5 8 +3 12 +4 +7
    Student B 4 6 +2 7 +2 +4
    Student C 6 8 +2 13 +5 +7
    Student D 4 6 +2 9 +3 +5
    Student E 5 7 +2 9 +2 +4
    Student F 7 10 +3 13 +3 +6
    Classroom B            
    Student A 2 2 No change 3 +1 +1
    Student B 3 5 +2 6 +1 +3
    Student C 4 4 No change 6 +2 +2
    Student D 6 7 +1 7 +2 +3
    Student E 5 7 +3 8 +1 +4
    Student F 5 7 +3 9 +2 +5