I nvolving college students in tutoring young children is a long established practice that has recently gained momentum, particularly in light of the establishment of programs such as the America Reads Challenge. In response to the low performance of America's fourth graders on the 1994 NAEP in reading achievement, the America Reads Challenge was launched in 1997. Its primary objective was clear: that "every child read well and independently by the end of the third grade" (USDOE, 1997). Based on a national service model, the America Reads Challenge program was developed in partnership with the Corporation for National Service. Among the groups targeted to join in this effort were the federal work study programs at the nation's colleges and universities. Soon, over 830 institutes of higher education accepted the challenge and implemented programs to send their federal work study students into neighboring schools and communities to tutor young children in reading (Rasco, 1997).
Research on effective tutoring programs supports the use of college-age tutors in early reading interventions (Juel, 1991, 1994 & 1996; Reisner, Petry, & Armitage, 1990; Shanahan, 1998; Wasik, 1998), and guidelines for assisting students learning to read abound (Herrmann, 1994; Johnston, 1998; Morrow & Walker, 1997; Pinnell & Fountas, 1997a, 1997b). In a review of existing programs, Reisner et al. (1990) cite such attributes as clearly defined time commitments from tutors, a systematic screening of tutors, careful matching of tutors to children, thorough training and monitoring of tutors, and close relationships between sponsoring colleges and local school districts as being present in successful tutoring programs.
Wasik (1997) describes effective tutorials as those that rely on reading specialists as facilitators, high-quality training, and structured tutoring sessions, while providing continuous feedback to tutors. Shanahan (1998) argues that tutoring programs with well-trained tutors and a well-structured curriculum can be effective in longer tutoring programs that rely on nonprofessionals. He also suggests that if tutors are carefully supervised in programs where knowledgeable, professional teachers make instructional decisions, tutor training may not be as necessary.
Most of the research on tutoring addresses the organizational aspects of programs, making little mention of the training tutors receive, the materials provided, or the actual tutoring sessions. One exception is Juel's (1994) study of at-risk university students who were paired with at-risk elementary school children. This work provides some insight into the instructional exchanges between college-age tutors and younger children, where successful tutors taught reading through a direct instruction approach, provided visual and auditory support, scaffolded word study skills, and provided a warm and caring environment. Tutors in this program received ongoing training and support through their university course, which was designed specifically for the tutoring program.
However, the research community does not wholeheartedly support such programs for reading instruction, particularly those that rely on volunteer and/or minimally trained tutors for young and emergent readers. In their comprehensive review of the research on preventing reading difficulties, Snow, Burns, and Griffin (1998) acknowledge that volunteer tutors can provide very valuable practice and motivational support for children learning to read, but they stop short of recommending that tutors go any further. Furthermore, Snow et al. (1998) advise against pairing tutors with children who have serious reading problems, suggesting that effective tutoring programs require comprehensive screening procedures and that supervision should be ongoing while tutors work with children.
However, while many agree that tutoring can be effective (Cohen, Kulik, & Kulik, 1982; Shanahan, 1998), particularly if tutors are well-trained and provided with instructional support (Shanahan, 1998; Wasik, 1997), many aspects of tutoring are not documented in the literature. There are no clear descriptions of what training and support look like. Futhermore, even within the research on the effectiveness and implementation of tutoring programs for early reading, there is little discussion of what tutors actually do during one-on-one instructional episodes with an emerging or early reader, or how these activities relate to tutors' training. While Juel's (1994) study provides rich descriptions of how tutors engage children, it is not clear, for example, how much of what they do is reflective of the ongoing training they receive at the university. If programs and training materials are to continue being developed, it is essential that we gain an understanding of how tutors implement their training.
This study takes a look at one America Reads Challenge program where attention was paid to critical aspects of successful tutoring programs. Tutors were trained by reading experts, with supervision on a regular basis, and provided with materials that were developed for nonprofessionals to use in their work with young children learning to read. Furthermore, all efforts were made to pair tutors with children who were least likely to be in need of special education services.
The methods used for this study were qualitative and employed case study strategies (Yin, 1984). Data were collected from September 1997 to April 1998 and included field notes from participant observations of all relevant meetings and tutoring sessions, audiotapes of tutoring sessions, interviews (formal and informal) of tutors and key program staff, tutor surveys, and relevant artifacts. All audiotaped data were transcribed and coded for analysis of the instructional episodes based on key components of the tutoring manual and lesson plans (described later in this report). Drafts of the final report were given to the two tutors who were observed for the year and to the director of the America Reads program for corroboration of facts. All feedback was incorporated into the final draft. A detailed description of each step of the study follows.
This particular study was conducted in response to an invitation to investigate the first year of one university's implementation of an America Reads program. As a result, the participants and school sites were those with which the university was already working. The potential pool of tutors comprised the eighty students hired through the university's federal work study program. Potential school sites included two elementary schools in the program's own middle-class school district; three primary/elementary schools in a nearby high-poverty, low-achieving school district; and one local preschool/kindergarten day care for low-income parents. Because the program's design allowed for two children assigned to each tutor, the potential tutees included more than 160 children. However, as will be described later in this report, the eventual site and participants included in the case study portion of this work were essentially chosen through a simple process of elimination. Clearly the process of site and tutor selection does not in any sense reflect a representative sample of the entire group. However, since the focus of the study was on how tutors implemented their training and used the materials provided, it made sense to work in a site where these data would be available.
In order to address the first goal of the study--that is, whether or not the tutors implemented the training they received--the researcher participated in and kept field notes of all required training sessions and optional meetings for the 1997-98 school year. Since the primary data for this study came from a subset of tutoring dyads, it was necessary to be constantly aware of the ways in which observed tutoring sessions were unique or similar to others within the program. Thus, survey data were collected from the larger group of tutors. The survey (see Appendix) covered three areas: attendance and helpfulness of key training sessions; use of the primary resource manual, Tool Kit for Tutors (Hiebert, Martin, Gillard, & Wixson, 1997/98); and implementation of key elements of the two-day lesson plans for reading instruction. In addition, all meetings for all site supervisors were attended, and field notes were kept for the school year.
A subset of two tutors and their three tutees were followed throughout the year in order to obtain data that would shed light on what can be learned from how tutors implement their training. These data include observations, audiotapes, and field notes of biweekly tutoring sessions collected between November 1997 and April 1998. Because the children had sessions simultaneously and one researcher collected the data, observations were spaced so that each child was observed at least once a week, totaling approximately ten sessions per child. Any interruptions to this schedule were due to absences (tutor, child, and/or researcher) because of illness, business, inclement weather, and/or university or school district calendar breaks.
Ultimately, 31 tutoring sessions of approximately 30-45 minutes apiece were audiotaped. In addition, records were kept of the materials used during tutoring sessions. For the subset of tutoring dyads observed, a number of artifacts were collected and photocopied, including lesson plans for all tutoring sessions and tutee folders containing samples of children's work and assessment instruments. The researcher collected field notes of ongoing in-person and email conversations with the subset of tutors, the America Reads director, the supervisor, and the principal of the school where the observations were carried out. Informal interview data were obtained from the tutors, the school principal, and program staff (director and supervisors); formal interview data were obtained from the two observed tutors. A focused group interview with the America Reads program director, a tutor representative, the principal, and all three first-grade teachers of the school where the observations were done was conducted at the end of the school year.
All tape-recorded tutoring sessions were transcribed and coded based on the five aspects of the instructional episodes in which tutors were trained (ie., Read, Word Study, Reread, Write, and Listen). Before indicating that a key aspect of reading instruction was covered in a tutoring session, coded transcripts were compared with field notes and tutors' lesson plans. Any inconsistencies were checked out with tutors for their interpretation of the session's events.
The specific America Reads program where this study was conducted was one of many launched nationally at the start of the 1997-98 school year. The program operated out of the university's financial aid office in collaboration with the community service program. Both of these offices oversaw the budgetary aspects of the program.
Day-to-day management was left to the director, with advisement from a steering committee that included representatives from the university's financial aid office, faculty from both the university's community service program and the school of education, and community representatives from the two public school districts in the program. The director and five graduate students in education hired after the official start of the program were to provide ongoing field supervision and technical support for tutors at the six sites. General training was provided by the program's director and the retired teacher on the steering committee. Training and materials for reading instruction were provided by the university's school of education literacy faculty.
Because of the proven benefits of early intervention and long-term relationships between tutor and tutee, kindergarten and first grade were the target age groups. The materials developed for the program were not intended for use with preschoolers or with any child identified as requiring the intervention of a specialist; it was believed that any child not reading on grade level by the third grade would have complex issues that would go beyond the capabilities of the tutors and would best be left to the reading specialists at the schools.
However, since all contact between the America Reads director and the six participating schools took place prior to the start of the academic school year for both the schools and the university, only the principals received information on the program goals. Each principal was told that the reading tutorial was designed for kindergarten and first-grade children identified as being likely to benefit from tutoring. Thus, it was up to individual building principals to communicate these goals to classroom teachers. Variations in when and how principals informed their teachers clearly affected which children were identified for the tutoring program. Based on the children who were eventually assigned to tutors, it is clear that there was a breakdown in communication at some point in the process.
As tutors went out to their schools for the first time, problems at different sites began to emerge. Four of the six schools had either not identified children or had named children for tutoring who fell outside the parameters described by the America Reads director. For example, at one school, teachers had not yet been notified by the building principal. At another, tutors had been assigned second graders who were already reading. A third school had assigned tutors to their Head Start program. A similar case emerged for the day care, which assigned tutors to work with their three- & four-year-olds. And at a fifth school, which had no kindergarten, only one of the first-grade teachers was willing to participate, leaving the school with too many tutors. Problems such as these made the choice of the school for the case study portion of this study obvious--it was the only school where things were running smoothly. All tutors had been paired with first graders identified by their teachers as needing additional support.
During the 1997-98 school year, the school where the tutoring dyads were observed enrolled approximately 240 students in grades one through five. For the three years prior to the America Reads program, the school consistently had a student population of 60% or more eligible for free and/or reduced lunch in a state where the average was approximately 31%. In addition, student performance at the satisfactory level on the state's fourth grade reading assessment had dropped significantly below the state average in the past year. The school already had an established focus on reading and provided multiple resources to support reading instruction, including Reading Recovery, Title I, and tutoring provided by Americorps volunteers from another local university. When asked why she decided to bring the America Reads Challenge program to her school, the principal replied that it met an immediate need. She reported having actively investigated other programs during the previous year, but most either did not match their needs or were too expensive. When presented with the America Reads Challenge program that came cost-free to the school, the principal said that she immediately saw a way to ensure that all of her children were "covered" (Field notes, 11/18/98). With the multiple resources available at the school, she argued, any child who needed one-on-one attention would be afforded the opportunity to have it.
The decision to carry out the study at this school was facilitated by the fact that, by the time the tutors were on board and being trained, the school had already taken critical steps to get the program off the ground. First-grade teachers had selected children for one-one-one tutoring, times had been worked out for sessions, and all information had been communicated to the America Reads program so that tutors and children could be matched in time for tutors to begin immediately upon concluding their training. Furthermore, when presented with the proposed research, the school's principal was very interested; she welcomed and facilitated the researcher's entry into the school.
In order to qualify for the program, students had to meet eligibility requirements for federal work study, submit a written application stating their reasons for wanting to tutor, and be interviewed by the America Reads director. Since federal work study funds were being used, it was essential that the program be up and running in time for the start of the 1997-98 school year. Therefore, all students meeting program criteria were accepted until the maximum number allowable under the program's level of funding was reached.
Since all tutors were in the university's work study program, they received wages; consequently, the amount of time that they could be paid for was controlled by federal work study guidelines. There were positive aspects to operating within the context of a federal work study program (e.g., tutors' time would be tied to work study pay, which would assure semester-long commitments), and negative ones (e.g., the number of hours students could be required to work impacted aspects of the program, such as the frequency and duration of training sessions and the screening of prospective students). An arrangement was made to pay tutors for time spent in training and on planning their lessons in addition to the time spent actually tutoring the children. While their transportation was covered, their time in transit was not. The expectation was that tutors were to spend approximately 30 minutes to an hour with each child twice a week. In addition, they were expected to use one hour in preparation for each child every week and attend a one-to two-hour meeting with their supervisors weekly. Most tutors worked with at least two children and spent approximately four hours each week at the schools.
The two tutors who eventually became the focus of the study were chosen by a process of elimination as well. Factors that determined which tutors would be part of the study included who was paired with children who had permission to participate, scheduling issues, tutors' consistency in meeting with their children at designated times and locations, and, finally, their willingness to participate in the study.
Initially, twelve tutors were assigned to the school that had been selected as the observation site. One tutor switched to another school before tutee assignments were made, leaving the remaining eleven to be paired with twenty-six first graders. Six children with signed consent forms were assigned to four of the five tutors who had already consented to be in the study, providing a large enough sample for the one researcher to begin observations. It was expected that the remaining pool of tutors would be tapped if needed. However, of these remaining seven tutors, one tutor rarely saw her tutees one-on-one; she spent most of her time in the classroom providing small group support for the classroom teacher. One tutor was constantly absent and eventually dropped out, and a replacement tutor was not found until the second semester. Another tutor left because of scheduling problems. The four others who met with their children one-on-one were never observed.
The original group of four tutors and their six tutees was reduced to two tutors and three children. One tutor's only child with parental consent transferred out of the school early in the year, so this dyad was dropped from the study. The other tutor dropped was a young man who had erratic attendance and was often difficult to locate when he was in the building. Of the remaining four children, one was dropped from observations; his high level of activity during sessions meant that his tutor spent all of her time trying to get his attention. This final group of two tutors (Maya and Carol)1 and three children (Zane, Krystie, and Tiarra) became the focus of the yearlong observations. No attempt was made to expand the participants in this study for a number of reasons. First, the three dyads were sufficient for only one researcher to follow closely. Second, the children and tutors had become comfortable with the continual presence of the researcher, allowing for as natural a setting as possible when being observed. Third, both the tutors and the children were rarely absent, and tutors were consistently on time. Fourth, and most importantly, the tutors were adhering to the tutoring protocol and using recommended materials, which was the focus of the study. Finally, both tutors were very open to the study and accepted the presence of a researcher with little hesitation.
As previously mentioned, the children in the larger program ranged in age from preschool to second grade, and many selected for tutoring were either receiving or were wait-listed for Reading Recovery interventions at some of the schools. Neither the schools nor the America Reads program had any formal mechanisms for assigning children to the program. Once children were named for participation by their classroom teachers, individual principals provided their names to the America Reads program, and the program supervisors made the matches based only on the mutual times available for children and tutors.
Selection of children to participate in the study was dependent upon parental permission. Thirteen of the twenty-six children at the selected school had returned signed consent forms by the time the tutors began. Five2 of the eleven work study tutors returned consent forms as well. Matches were made immediately, and all children and tutors with consent forms were scheduled for observation
Maya, a first-year university student, had not declared her major yet, but hoped to go into architecture. She applied for the program because it sounded different and because she loved children. She spoke of previous experiences with young children as a high school student working in day care settings. As an America Reads tutor, she worked with four children at two different schools during the year of the study. Maya had no previous experience with tutoring in reading.
Carol, a third year political science/economics major, also remarked that she applied for the job because it sounded different, noting that the job description was not like the usual positions available to students. The fact that it involved children was not an incentive for her. She reported having baby-sat when she was younger, but not enjoying it. In fact, she said she was the joke of her sorority because everyone knew "she didn't like children" (Field notes, 1/27/97) and she had no prior experience as a tutor. Carol only tutored the two children reported on in this study.
The children eventually selected for inclusion in the study were two girls, Tiarra and Krystie, and one boy, Zane. They were all first graders from three different classrooms. According to information provided by the principal and/or the tutors, the two girls were not in any supplemental reading programs, and the boy was in a variety of pullout programs, one of which was speech therapy. None was in Reading Recovery at the start of the school year. The children were at different places developmentally with regard to their readiness for reading and their developed reading skills. Since there was no preassessment of reading skills prior to being assigned to tutoring, it cannot be said with any certainty what the children's levels were. Any insights into the children's varied abilities can only be derived from evidence obtained during initial tutoring sessions or from the assessment instrument3 administered by the tutors in November and December 1997. Tutees were assessed with both familiar books (leveled books already used in lessons) and unfamiliar books. Table 1a documents the children's performance on specific tasks when prompted to "read"4 independently from a familiar leveled book; Table 1b shows their performance when interviewed by their tutors.
Zane, who was tutored by Maya, was the least ready to read of the three. His knowledge of the letters of the alphabet and their corresponding sounds was limited; he could name all but the letter Q, write twelve, and only give the sound for the letter L. Although he did use letters as opposed to scribbling when he wrote, the only word he could write was his name, and he had not yet developed the concept of a word. Zane's book-handling skills were also underdeveloped. He could find the front and back of a book, but did not go from left to right or top to bottom automatically (Table 1a). It should be noted that at the beginning of the school year, Zane was very playful and was often distracted during the tutoring sessions. This was also the case during the initial assessment.
Tiarra and Krystie, both tutored by Carol, were at similar stages in their reading development. Based on their early assessments, both had book-handling skills, could read a small set of sight words, and had a developing sense of phonemic awareness (Tables 1a and 1b). Both girls were attentive during lessons, and were easily brought back on task when distracted.
While schools were selecting children for tutoring, the America Reads program was putting together its training and materials. Training and program designers included two senior faculty members of the university's school of education literacy program, a graduate student in the Ph.D. program in literacy, and a reading specialist from a neighboring public school district. The tutoring protocol and training sessions reflected a balanced approach to reading instruction (Adams, 1990; Hiebert & Raphael, 1998; Snow et al., 1998) for kindergarten and first-grade children in one-on-one tutoring sessions (Cohen et al., 1982; Juel, 1996; Wasik & Slavin, 1993).
Tutoring was to take place for approximately 30 minutes two times a week during the entire school year, using materials designed to support early and emergent readers. While tutors signed up a semester at a time, it was expected that they would stay with their tutees for at least one full school year and two if needed, thus allowing time for relationships between tutors and tutees to develop and thereby increasing their potential impact on reading achievement. However, there was never any expectation that the tutoring alone might be credited with any child's success.
Materials for tutoring were identified, and a tutoring manual containing sample lesson plans was developed to support emergent (Teale & Sulzby, 1986) and early (Hiebert & Raphael, 1998) readers, reflecting a developmental philosophy which maintains that learning to read is achieved through multiple means and at varying rates for individual children (Snow et al., 1998). The program director either led or facilitated all meetings, and special sessions were led by either the retired public school teacher or a senior faculty member of the university's literacy program. The retired teacher provided an insider view on the local school districts and on issues related to classroom teachers, and led the training sessions on assessment and behavior. The faculty member contributed to the development of the tutoring guidelines, and provided all of the training on reading instruction and use of the materials for tutoring.
For the first two months of the program, the entire group met weekly, meeting again as a group one final time at the end of the semester. During the second semester, there were fewer large group meetings. Most business was handled in small sessions with supervisors. Ultimately, after the first introductory meeting, there were three required large group training sessions during the first semester, one at the end of the second semester, and two optional sessions (both early in the second semester). Two of the required sessions covered the reading instruction and materials; and two covered the assessment instrument. The optional sessions were in response to tutors' expressed needs; one dealt with behavior and the other with preschool children. If tutors were unable to attend the final assessment training, they were required to meet in a small group or individually with a supervisor. Only the training sessions for reading instruction are relevant to this study and are discussed below.
The first formal meeting on September 9, 1997, dealt primarily with procedural issues and paperwork completion, but also served as an introduction to some aspects of tutoring. In particular, the retired teacher directed tutors to establish relationships with key personnel at their individual schools--to make initial contact with principals, and then with classroom teachers. Tutors were advised to
talk to classroom teachers and have contact off and on. Check with the teacher if he or she is seeing a difference in a kid, and let teachers know what the kids have done. They'll fill you in on what a child can do. . . In some buildings, a special education teacher may be the liaison and, if so, then that's the person you should go to. If it's not clear who you should report to, go to the principal; if that doesn't work, let the America Reads director know. The America Reads supervisor will come from the America Reads office. (Field notes, 9/12/97)
Kids don't talk much. . . . Talk is critical to reading and writing. Many kids are not read to and are unfamiliar with books and language of books. . . . [and] there are more poor kids, with low reading scores. . . . These children have limited vocabularies when not read to, and this affects reading. A lot of families don't eat dinner together, so there's no talk. (Field notes, 9/12/97)
The actual training for tutoring in reading took place during the next two half-day sessions (September 19th and 26th) and was led by the literacy faculty member. During the two sessions, tutors were provided with information on reading instruction, given opportunities to practice working in pairs through role playing, and introduced to the materials to be used. Learning to read was presented as a developmental process that is facilitated by a balanced approach to instruction (Adams, 1990; Hiebert & Raphael, 1998; Snow et al; 1998) and the tutors were told that good readers use
six ways to read [as a basic set of strategies]: pictures, remembering, sounding out, expecting what's next, writing, and making sense of what you read. If you overemphasize letters, you can lose the notion of making sense, getting an author's message or being able to communicate. [Furthermore,] there is rarely an exact point [when learning to read is achieved; rather it is] a developmental process. [And experiences with] environmental print or being read to [can lead to] differential experiences [among children]. (Field notes, 9/12/97)
The faculty trainer introduced key aspects of early reading instruction with video clips of an experienced teacher working one-one-one with a kindergartner and a first grader, and encouraged the tutors to share memories of their own experiences learning to read. The tutors recalled a wide range of such experiences both in school and at home. They listed activities such as sharing time, round robin reading, reading circles, worksheets, and sounding words out. They also remembered specific events, such as pizza parties at school or being guided by a mom in reading recipes for a meal preparation. One commented that "reading just happened" (Field notes, 9/19/97).
a lot of traditional reading instruction is boring. Kids who have been in worksheet-based programs come to think of reading as a worksheet. We want to keep it interesting, keep it moving. You have to ask yourself about the children. What is the source of difficulty from their experiences? Don't attach labels. Kids don't operate in the same worlds that we do. [Consider, for example, if] you read about the beach, and some kids have never been to the beach. (Field notes, 9/19/97)
During both training sessions, tutors were encouraged to ask questions. At the fourth whole group meeting, when all tutors had been to their schools and met their tutees, the faculty trainer was available for problem solving and/or further information on reading instruction or materials. However, there was little discussion of implementation at this meeting due to the multiple problems tutors were encountering at their schools, as previously discussed.
The primary materials intended for tutoring sessions included the tutoring manual Tool Kit for Tutors (Hiebert et al., 1997/98), intended for use as a reference (Table 2), and the two-day lesson plan (Table 3) which offered a protocol to follow. The Tool Kit, a twenty-six page spiral-bound booklet, contained information on becoming a reader and included a phonics pattern chart for 500 common English words (Wylie & Durrell, 1970), a list of 25 common sight words, and explicit information on key terms for lessons (Read, Word Study, Reread, Write, and Listen). The lesson plans, back-to-back single sheets which were provided at each school for all children tutored, served as both a means of communication with classroom teachers and field supervisors and as documentation for work study compensation. As a communication tool, tutors were directed to write
what really happened, thinking about only something [that] did or did not work. [They were told] not [to] . . . focus on what's wrong, but what was going on. Lesson plans are not a prescription; if [you feel] comfortable [it's] okay to modify, kids will like some things and not others. (Field notes, 9/29/97)
The faculty trainer repeatedly told tutors that it was important to cover each lesson component (Read, Word Study, Reread, Write, and Listen) in a week's time, but that there were no "hard and fast rules [as to when they covered each]. . . . There is also nothing sacred about the order of things, but over the course of two days every week you should get to every element" (Field notes, 9/29/97).
Tutors were directed to vary the strategies they used and to avoid worksheet approaches to the sessions. The use of strategies such as multisensory approaches, repetition, concentrating on beginning and ending sounds, and tracking were constantly stressed during training.
Information on whether or not tutors carried out the recommended lessons as presented to them in their training and materials and on what can be learned from the tutoring sessions was obtained primarily from the yearlong observations of the three tutoring dyads and secondarily from participant observation of the program meetings and tutor surveys. Issues related to the training and materials (including attendance and usage of the Tool Kit and two-day lesson plans) are discussed first. This is followed by a presentation of findings on the specific elements implemented in the weekly tutoring sessions and other attributes of the tutoring sessions observed.
Data obtained from the tutor survey and from meetings with the director and supervisors provide some insights into whether the tutoring reflected the training and whether the tutors used the materials provided. Tutors were surveyed on their attendance at training sessions, usage of materials, and implementation of key elements of the two-day lesson plans (see Appendix). Of the original 80 distributed, 41 (51%) surveys were returned; these 41 supply the data reported on here. Information on attendance at and helpfulness of training sessions, implementation of the Tool Kit and two-day lesson plans, and key lesson elements covered with tutees are presented below.
As mentioned previously, there were six formal training sessions during the school year. Four were mandatory; the two on reading instruction and material use took place in September as the program was getting started, one on assessment was held in October, and the other assessment session took place at the end of the second semestser. Two other meetings (on behavior and preschool children) during the second semester were optional. In addition to the large group meetings, follow-up small group sessions were scheduled weekly during the first semester.
All of the required large group meetings were well attended. Attendance at the small group meetings, where tutors could get more individual attention, varied. Some supervisors reported never seeing some of their tutors after their initial meeting, while other tutors came to every possible meeting. However, when tutors did attend these small group meetings, they were primarily concerned about programmatic matters (e.g., disbursement of paychecks, car pooling). In fact, in the second semester of the program, most of the supervisors opted for electronic mail as a means to communicate with the tutors rather than in-person meetings. The supervisor for the focus of the study indicated that programmatic issues continued to dominate, with virtually no mention of instructional or reading issues.
Two-day lesson plans (9/19/97 & 9/26/97)
Tips on behavior
When surveyed on the meetings that had a particular focus (e.g., reading instruction, assessment, behavior, preschool children), tutors responded that they found them to be generally helpful. Of the 39 tutors who responded to questions about the training sessions for the two-day lesson plan and assessment (Table 4), 7.7% reported that they did not attend either session. The majority of those in attendance found the sessions either helpful or somewhat helpful, with the session on assessment rated higher. Eighteen percent of the 39 reported not attending the optional session on behavior; half of the group reported not attending the optional session on preschool children. Most of the tutors responding to questions about the usefulness of the optional sessions found them to be helpful or somewhat helpful. Based on these data, the least helpful sessions were those on the two-day lesson plans, with almost a fifth of these students reporting that these sessions were not helpful at all (Table 4). Both of the observed tutors attended all required and both optional training sessions. In addition, both tutors usually made it to the small group meetings that were held weekly during the first semester. Thus the two observed tutors apparently had the benefit of all possible training provided by the program.
The Tool Kit was the only written resource on reading instruction made available to the tutors.5 While this study only focuses on three tutoring dyads, it is interesting to note what tutors reported on the survey with regard to usage of the Tool Kit (Table 5). Thirty-eight tutors responded to the request to indicate the frequency with which they referred to the Tool Kit during the first semester. Approximately 45% referred to the Tool Kit for every lesson (18.4 %) or once a week (26.3%); approximately 39% referred to it three or four times during the semester; and 16% never referred to it (Table 5). There was a considerable shift in Tool Kit usage by the second semester, during which the majority of the survey respondents--51.3%--reported not using it at all (Table 5).
the training and materials were helpful, and that the lesson plans were a good jumping off point . . . [but that] they were vague and, you know, like what we were supposed to do, because each kid is different and you have to adjust to the kids, there's no strict `you have to do this, this, and this,' you have to adjust for each kid. So, yeah they did help in giving a basic outline" (Interview, 4/27/98)
Carol, on the other hand, referred to the Tool Kit for every lesson during the first semester and three or four times during the second. She admitted, however, that individual variations among the children required her to be flexible and adjust lessons. Carol wrote,
training was helpful for the first month. However, I think most of what I learned was through getting to know my student and through trial and error. Every child is different, so training may not apply to every student in the same way (Survey, 4/98).
Responses to the open-ended portion of the survey indicate that other tutors may have shared Carol's and Maya's points of view. One of the common threads throughout the survey responses was the individuality of children. Comments such as "sometimes you need to improvise," and "I learned to shape the program around the personality of the child" were not uncommon. Given this sense of individuality, it is not surprising that tutors relied less and less on the tutoring guide as the year progressed. One tutor wrote that, due to the dynamic nature of tutoring and the need to "be able to go with the flow, more training would have been detrimental" (Survey 4/98).
Furthermore, neither Carol nor Maya sought advice on tutoring or information on reading instruction from their tutee's classroom teachers, their supervisors, or any others who could have provided specific information on tutoring in reading. In spite of their differing usage of the Tool Kit, over the course of the year both Maya and Carol did record all of their tutoring sessions on the "two-day lesson plans." In fact, lesson plan completion was high for all tutors, since they were required for work study compensation. Lesson plans were also intended to communicate children's tutoring activities to their classroom teachers and the program supervisors. However, the three first-grade teachers of the observed children reported that they never looked at the lesson plans during the school year. In addition, the school's supervisor said that, while she tried to look at them, she rarely had time to provide tutors with comments and/or suggestions. On the survey administered at the end of the year, one tutor wrote that
doing the two-day lesson plans every week began to get boring. . . . I thought of some other things to do, but I thought different materials could have made things more different for them. For example, illustrations which they could color and write a story about (for older children) or games to play (Survey, 4/98).
Other comments written on the survey ranged from those that were personal in nature (e.g., stating that the training helped settle their anxieties and gave them a sense of being prepared at the beginning) to those that offered opinions of the training. Another tutor expressed concern that the training did not match the children's needs: "I had to start with the basics (colors, numbers)"6 (Survey, 4/98). Other comments expressed desires for more hands-on training, guidance on motivation, and additional materials.
While it is important to have a sense of whether or not tutors attended sessions and made use of the materials, it is far more significant to identify what tutors actually did with their tutees during the biweekly sessions. The findings elaborated in the next section provide the data from which we may begin to understand tutor implementation of training and materials. The following section considers implementation as it relates to each of the key elements of the two-day lesson plan mentioned above.
For this section, observations of tutoring sessions and the activities reported on weekly lesson plans provide the primary source of information for each component. Survey data on the frequency with which tutors report on implementation are also included. Information on how tutors engaged their tutees provides insights into their understandings of tutoring young children in reading. A discussion of each of these instructional components follows.
For the Read portion of the lesson plan, leveled books were provided. During weekly sessions, a new leveled book was to be introduced with warm-up and book talk activities. Warm-up referred to a tutee's rereading of a leveled book that had already successfully been completed and with which the child was comfortable. Book talk referred to a discussion of book parts (e.g., title, author) and picture walk-throughs.
Tool Kit Category 10
Because of their age-appropriate story content, repeated patterns, and controlled vocabulary, Ready Readers (Englebretson, Hiebert, & Juel, 1996) were used as the primary materials. Each school received one set of Stage Zero (49 books)7 at the beginning of the school year and a complete set of Stage Two (50 books) by the end of the first semester.
A basic premise for using the leveled books was the assumption that if the children worked with these books on a regular basis they would be provided with multiple opportunities to practice the essential skills needed for learning to read. Table 6 provides information from the 41 survey respondents who reported working one-on-one with 46 children. Of these, tutors reported 65% of their tutees reading a familiar book at least once a week (16 children at every lesson and 14 every week), with 30% (14) reading at least every other week; two children never read. Tutors also reported finding that the leveled books helped their children feel successful. One tutor wrote that she liked the leveled books because they were easy enough for her tutees to read, but challenging enough that they learned something new with each book.
Table 7 sums up the types of activities that each child engaged in throughout the year. Overall, the children read a large number of leveled books, and the number of books each child read aloud independently from cover to cover during these lessons was high as well. However, book talk did not occur frequently. For example, only 8 of Zane's 35 lessons included book talk; for Krystie it was 7 out of 25, and for Tiarra, 3 out of 27 (Table 7). Finally, the tutors reported liking the leveled readers. Maya reported that they were easy and that the children she worked with liked to draw and color pictures in the take-home books. Carol found them good to work with because of their "colorful, fun pictures" and "the level of progression from one to fifty in Stage Zero" (Survey, 4/98). She also liked the fact that children "could figure out the words from the pictures" and "loved the accompanying take-home books" (Survey 4/98). However, until Carol obtained Stage Two books, she often complained that the leveled readers were too easy and led to Krystie's boredom. It should be noted that the two tutors generally chose leveled books for lessons based on whether or not they thought the children would like the story line or pictures. Their choices did not reflect any attention to instructional elements (e.g., onset consonants or rhyming phonograms) of the books.
However, neither the reports of the number of children who read from a familiar book nor the tutors' expressed views is sufficient to determine whether the use of the leveled books facilitated the practicing of reading skills. Thus, data from these three dyads simply provide insights into what actually took place when tutor and child used the leveled books. Examples are provided in the following sections.
Word Study refers to building vocabulary and skills with rhyming phonograms, onset consonants and vowels, and the sight vocabulary provided in the leveled readers. Vocabulary introduced in each of the leveled books served as the basis for the word study; premade and blank cards were provided in pockets at the back of all books. In addition, each tutor was provided with blank index cards for children to build their own word banks. The Tool Kit provided charts with both high-frequency sight words and word families that the children could be expected to learn. However, there were no lists of sight vocabulary and word families in the leveled readers made available to the tutors.
Tutors responding to the survey reported on word study activities with 48 children. Half of these children engaged in word study activities at least every week, and approximately 30% did word study at least once every other week (Table 6). Approximately 20% of the children never engaged in word study. However, the number of children who kept word banks was significantly lower. Only 30% of the children worked with a word bank at least every week and 26% every other week, leaving approximately 43% of the children never working with word banks (Table 6).
Activities for word study and word banks varied for the observed children (Table 7). Sixty percent of Zane's lessons contained word study and 40% involved work bank activities. Tiarra engaged in word study during 63% of her lessons, and in word bank activities during 55% of them. Finally, Krystie spent 56% of her lessons on word study and 40% on word bank activities. Additionally, when word study activities occurred, they were not limited to any one particular element of the lesson cycle. They were observed during episodes that involved reading (both leveled and trade books); writing (in general, with plastic alphabet letters, and in take-home books); and working with word banks (personal and leveled-book cards).
Episodes containing word study provide insights to the tutor's ability to guide the children in a variety of skills. Table 8 provides information on the pool of word study skills and phonics the children used based on the different leveled books each of the observed children read during their sessions. This included the words they collected in their individual word banks during the year.
Zane, who read from 10 different Stage Zero books (Table 7), had the potential to practice five onset consonants, four rhyming phonograms, and no vowels (Table 8). For the most part, the words in his word bank came from the leveled books, but only one of the words used a rhyming phonogram from the books read. In fact, his word bank shows little evidence of any vocabulary development using either the onset consonants or rhyming phonograms presented in the leveled books he read for the year.
Tiarra, who read from 14 Stage Zero books (Table 7), had the potential to practice 12 onset consonants, five rhyming phonograms, and no vowels (Table 8). Her word bank included words and phrases from the leveled books and personal names. However, similar to Zane, Tiarra's word bank did not reflect any vocabulary development with onset consonants and rhyming phonograms. Hers was simply a collection of words or phrases (Table 8) from stories read.
Word Bank: Personal Words 13
Krystie, who read ten different Stage Zero and five different Stage Two books, had many opportunities to practice for onset consonants. She also practiced a number of rhyming phonograms and several vowels, including the short A, E, I, and U (Table 8). Her personal word bank included words and phrases from the leveled and trade books she read, as well as her own name. Again, her word bank does not reflect vocabulary development based on phonetic elements introduced in the leveled readers (Table 8). However, until Stage Two books became available, Krystie did a lot of reading from trade books developed for early readers.
An analysis of the types of prompts tutors used when engaged in word study is interesting. Prompts such as those listed on Table 9 permeated lessons during reading, writing, and working with word banks. However, the majority of the prompts deal with onset consonants (e.g., "What sound does N make?"). Although children had opportunities to work with rhyming phonograms presented in the leveled books they were reading and all of the tutors knew their children had difficulty in rhyming, prompts and activities dealing with rhyming phonograms (e.g., "So, how are all these words the same?") were few. They also encouraged the children to sound words out (e.g., "Put the sounds together") but never gave prompts specifically for medial vowels. Sometimes prompts gave mixed messages. For example, tutors often asked questions like "What words end in the same letters?" when probing for rhyming phonograms, such as hat and cat. But children did not always see the rhyming phonograms, focusing on final letters only, such as the T in hat and cat. Also, when tutors did present sets of rhyming phonograms, such as rat and bat, they prompted children to focus on the spelling and not the rhyming. Tutors frequently engaged in modeling to their children. Modeling almost always involved blending or putting sounds together, as when Carol asked Tiarra, "Do you want some help? /j/, /a/, /r/, /s/," sounding the word out for her tutee.
Reread refers to the tutees' second read-aloud of the new leveled book introduced during the same session. The faculty trainer continually reiterated to tutors the importance of repetition in learning to read: "Read the little books over and over again; kids love this" (Field notes, 9/26/97).
Zane, Tiarra, and Krystie each reread a previously introduced leveled book during their lessons (Table 7). Zane, who read only 10 Stage Zero leveled books, reread them a total of 33 different times. Tiarra reread her initial 14 Stage Zero leveled books 15 times, while Krystie, who read 10 Stage Zero and 5 Stage Two leveled books, reread them 13 times. It should be noted that Krystie, who also read trade books as part of her instruction, reread many books over and over again. Some of these came from the Little Bear (Minarik, 1961) series of books. However, these are not reflected in the data presented here.
Writing during lessons occurred in a number of ways, including on paper, in the take-home books that accompanied each leveled book, in journals brought from classrooms, or with plastic alphabet letters or on dry erase boards which were provided at each school. Photocopies of the take-home books were expected to be the primary resource for writing. These take-home books continued the patterned text, vocabulary, and phonics in each leveled book. When folded in half, the letter-sized copies created a four-page booklet with a title page, short incomplete sentences on the remaining pages for children to complete, and space for drawing pictures. These "books" stayed with the children, who were encouraged to read them to their teachers and family members. Tutors reported on 49 children for the Write category on the survey (Table 6). Of this group of children, 71% wrote at least every week (14, every lesson, and 21, every week) and 16% (8 children) at least once every other week, with 12% (6 children) never writing.
While the number of lessons where children wrote is reported on Table 6 for the entire group and on Table 7 for the three tutoring dyads, these numbers do not accurately reveal the amount of time the children spent writing. For example, Tiarra (who wrote for 18 of her lessons) and Krystie (who wrote for 10) did most of their writing near the end of the school year, spending some entire sessions engaged in writing. This was particularly true when they had lessons in the teachers' lounge, which is where a large dry erase board was mounted on a wall. They enjoyed using the markers and the space the board provided them. Carol often dictated words or created a cloze activity using vocabulary and phrases from the leveled books they had just read. Zane (who wrote for 15 of his lessons) generally did his writing activities with the take-home books or on sheets of novelty notepaper that Maya kept with her personal supplies. Zane's writing tended to be less connected to the leveled books. (An example is described in a later section of this report.)
Listen refers to the portion of the lesson cycle where tutors read aloud from trade books. These were the only materials not provided by the program. Tutors were advised to rely on school libraries, the public library, or their own collections of children's literature for this portion of the lesson. In addition, tutors were advised to choose a variety of genres, such as "fiction, nonfiction, and tales from different cultures to broaden . . . [the children's] knowledge base; [and to include] poetry, [and books with] rhyming [such as those by Dr. Seuss]" (Field notes, 9/26/97).
Of the 44 children covered in this category on the tutor surveys, 66% were read to at least once a week and approximately 32% at least once every other week, with less than 1% never being read to (Table 6). Table 7 provides information on the frequency of the observed tutors reading to their tutees. Maya read to Zane from fiction and nonfiction trade books 20 times for his 35 recorded sessions. Carol read to Tiarra 15 times of her 27 recorded lessons from fiction trade books. Carol also read to Krystie, but more often than not Krystie read the books herself or they did paired readings. As previously mentioned, Carol often used trade books with Krystie, which Krystie preferred. By the end of the school year, Krystie had become quite proficient with the Little Bear series. She either read alone, listened to Carol, or read with Carol 30 times during 25 recorded lessons.
Most of the trade books the tutors read to their children were fiction. Occasionally, nonfiction books were used, such as books about the circus or animals. However, in their selection of books, tutors did not consider genre; instead, they chose books that they thought would be interesting or that they thought the children would like. Carol soon learned of Krystie's love of the Little Bear books, and often pulled one to be included in their lessons along with other selections. She did the same with Tiarra. However, the variations in books often depended on the room in which they were working. Because the school did not have an assigned room for tutoring, they moved often, using whatever space was available on a particular day. There was a supply of pop-up books in the reading resource room that both girls enjoyed, and for a short period of time, there was a collection of nursery rhyme books in the teachers' lounge, which Tiarra enjoyed. Maya made a point of selecting Dr. Seuss books when Dr. Seuss's birthday was announced at an America Reads meeting in the spring. Except for these occasions, tutors generally chose their books based on what they found in the school's library, and the books rarely varied in genre.
Finally, tutors supported reading skills during episodes in which children were reading from leveled books or listening to trade books. Table 10 lists the elements during which such support was identified. These were (a) book talk, which included conversation about the title page, the parts of a book, and pictures; (b) word study, which was a general probe for word meanings; and, (c) read and/or reread activities, during which there were invitations to read, prompts to recall or retell a story, checks for meaning/understanding, connections made to personal experience, predictions, evaluation/opinions of a story, and praise for a good reading of a story.
While neither their training nor the Tool Kit discussed specific times when reading skills could be practiced, the data available allows for this distinction of when (pre-, during, or postreading) skills were practiced and with which materials (with the leveled readers, which were explicitly intended for instruction, or with the trade books, which were not ). Table 10 shows that these probes occurred while using both leveled readers and trade books. However, a greater variety of prompts occurred when trade books were read. For example, prior to reading a leveled reader, tutors only engaged children with two prompts: an invitation to read and recall, and/or a prompt to retell the story if it had been read before. In contrast to this, before reading trade books, tutors offered opinions and/or evaluations of the book; there were invitations to read extended, a recalling/retelling of stories previously read, predictions made, and connections to personal experience discussed. It is also interesting to note that very little word study occurred during the readings; when it did, it was generally limited to checking whether a tutee knew what a word meant. Tutors continued modeling strategic reading even when they were not working with leveled books. Table 10 provides examples of the prompts they used.
Finally, not all of the attributes of the tutoring sessions were based exclusively on the lesson plan protocols. Gven all the data available from the observed lessons, interactions that demonstrate other ways in which tutors supported their tutees were noted as well. Personal exchanges between tutors and their tutees provided opportunities to strengthen the instructional aspects of the lessons. These connections between adult and child were exhibited through the comfort levels they displayed with one another. In addition, tutors rarely gave up; they persisted with their tutees even when there were signs of resistance.
While not a focus of this study, these individuals' humanity was often expressed in their interactions with one another. For example, Zane was very playful, and early in the year he would often ask to return early to class. If Maya was unable to get him back to the lesson at hand, she would relent and allow him to return. However, she soon found a way to respond to his playful nature. She taught Zane how to juggle with nylon scarves, an activity he looked forward to and even begged to do from time to time. He often brought things to the lessons with which she allowed him to play briefly before they got started. Sometimes she invited him to tell stories about the objects he brought. Maya always accepted his stories and expressed interest in what he had to say. As the year progressed, and as Zane became more capable of participating in the lessons, his ability to stay on task for longer periods of time grew.
The tutors exhibited a significant amount of respect and caring. A particularly revealing episode occurred in mid-February, soon after Zane and Maya arrived into the music room to begin their lesson. They entered talking about the scarves Maya often brought with her. When she opened her plastic box where she kept personal supplies for the lessons, his interest shifted from the scarves to the pad of colored paper in the box. Maya prompted him with, "You write a letter and then you can read it to me." Zane became immediately quiet and got busy writing with his head on the table. When he finished, he had written on both sides of the paper. On the front, he had written
Maya asked him to read his story aloud. Tracking the print, he read, "The beetle was dead and a peanut was in a jar." As soon as he finished reading, Maya moved him directly into the day's lesson and said no more about it. Had she not returned soon after walking him back to his classroom at the end of the lesson, I would not have known that she had paid any attention to this story. She came back to the room before getting her next tutee so she could explain the story. She wanted me to know that it was true since she feared that I might think he was "crazy" (her word). She said that when she picked him up earlier he showed her his bug in a bottle. He had caught the bug at home the day before and brought it to school. Unfortunately, the bug died.
Lessons for all the dyads were frequently permeated with humor and free flowing conversation. Krystie and Carol often joked with one another in a very teasing manner. To an outsider, it would often appear as if Krystie was angry with Carol, and at times she appeared to be almost defiant, but it was actually the way they connected. From the very beginning Krystie always sat on Carol's lap no matter where they were--on the floor, or at a child-sized table and chair. Tiarra, who was very social, was always eager to learn whether Carol had a boyfriend, or if she thought one of the Americorps tutors was cute. They even shared tips on make-up. No matter how far off task they got in these brief personal encounters, the tutors always brought the children back on task.
The obvious comfort level between each tutor and her tutee(s) created a very relaxed atmosphere. Children were not afraid to be wrong; tutors never used words that would shame them. In fact, children were given many choices in what would occur during lessons. They were often invited to choose from among a variety of leveled and trade books to read, activities to do, and even times to return to their classrooms. This was particularly the case for Tiarra and Krystie. Whenever they appeared bored or tired, Carol would ask if they wanted to return, but they rarely opted to leave the tutoring sessions early. Sometimes Tiarra would worry about missing art or computers while she was in the tutoring sessions, but Carol would always assure her that she would end the lesson in time for these favored activities, and she always did. Maya was always conscious of Zane's comfort level. In fact, she kept me from audiotaping him during the first semester, fearing that it would be too distracting to him while he was trying to read.
Throughout the year, both tutors gently pushed their children to stick with it. The following example comes from a session between Maya and Zane, while they were reading from a leveled book. Zane had substituted a familiar word that matched the picture on the page rather than attending to the letters and sounding them out--a mistake he had made countless times. Nevertheless, Maya did not display any frustration and persisted in helping him work it out on his own. Even when Zane insisted that he did not know what sound M made, she refused to accept his response. The result was a successful lesson.
Another example of persistence comes from a session between Carol and Krystie. Krystie would often refuse to do an activity, but Carol rarely accepted these refusals, and Krystie would eventually come around. The following episode occurred when Krystie was reading from a leveled book.
These episodes where tutors persisted almost always resulted in successful lessons. It was rare for any of the three children in this study to give up. When children appeared tired and repeatedly refused to work, Maya and Carol often switched the activity they were doing. These types of episodes were revealing for the tutors as well. One of the things Carol often remarked on was her discovery of her ability to be patient. In fact, Carol was not alone. On the tutor surveys, many wrote that they had learned the importance of patience when working with young children.
The two tutors also frequently validated the children's knowledge. The following example is taken from an episode near the end of the school year. Zane was reading to Maya from a Stage Zero book. He had just recently begun to associate letters with sounds and to read words that he had practiced for the entire year. There was an excitement in his voice when he "discovered" the D in dog. Maya acknowledged this and pursued it, acknowledging Zane's accomplishment with "Did you read the word? . . . That's how you knew."
The tutors also helped their children by being positive, rather than negative. Children often made obvious mistakes, but both Maya and Carol turned these into opportunities to instruct. The following exchange between Carol and Tiarra is an example of one of these episodes:
Lessons were reciprocal in nature, with the children sometimes taking on the role of explaining or demonstrating their knowledge to their tutors. Sometimes, however, they got their terms confused. In one such episode, Tiarra was reading from a leveled reader. In the middle of her reading, she stopped.
Not only did Maya respond to Zane's surprise over finding so many N's in spite of the fact that it interrupted his reading, but she continued the discussion of the letter N. She eventually worked in some practice on the sound N makes.
Yet another example took place when Carol was reading to Krystie, who was sitting on her lap as usual and looking at the book as Carol read. Carol had been reading, and suddenly Krystie interrupted her to ask a question:
Krystie often followed along as Carol read to her. At times she would suddenly take up the reading, giving the impression that they had been reading together for years. On this particular occasion, Krystie had become puzzled as to why Carol pronounced phooey with an F sound. Carol had gone ahead in the story before Krystie interrupted her with the question. But Carol, who was used to Krystie's style, knew right away what she meant.
Maya wrote, "It's hard! I don't remember struggling like many of these kids" (Survey, 4/98). And Carol wrote, "I have learned that there is no one way to learn. Everyone learns in different ways. Through learning this, I have become more patient and understanding" (Survey, 4/98).
In light of factors such as the national mandate that children achieve success in early reading by the third grade,the introduction of the America Reads Challenge program, and concerns for the effectiveness of minimally trained and inexperienced tutors, it was felt important to investigate tutoring sessions in relationship to the training provided from one program's inaugural year of implementation. The program paired university work study students with young children in tutoring dyads intended to support children's learning to read. To reiterate, the two questions posed at the outset of the study were:
Before discussing the findings, it should be clearly stated that this study alone cannot provide any conclusive evidence regarding what federal work study tutors do when engaged in tutoring sessions with young emergent and early readers. The subset of tutoring dyads was small, and only half of the large group of tutors turned in surveys. However, the data that were obtained are significant for two reasons. First, the tutors who were observed participated fully in the program training and implemented all key elements of reading instruction as recommended. Second, qualitative and case study strategies allowed for in-depth profiles of each of the tutoring dyads observed. Analyses of the findings in this study provide insights into the relevance of training and material implementation when inexperienced college-age tutors work one-on-one with young children learning to read. Each of the research questions are discussed below.
For the most part, the answer to this question is yes. Since most tutors did attend the required training sessions, they had access to the information presented on teaching children to read in kindergarten and first grade. All tutors also received resource materials and were able to practice using them at these training sessions. Furthermore, based on survey responses and the observations of tutoring dyads, tutors generally followed the recommended lesson plans and implemented key elements of reading instruction.
It is clear from the data gathered while observing the two tutors that they did implement all components of the lessons as they were instructed (Table 7). Thus, it can be said that the children they tutored received constant practice throughout the year in reading, word study, rereading, writing, and listening. While the implementation of various lesson components varied, the tutors did, for the most part, include all components.
However, this implementation was uneven. For example, word study was intended to be covered at least once a week, but in the survey, tutors reported never doing word study with 21% of their tutees and never keeping a word bank with 43% (Table 6). Even when tutors did provide children with practice in word study, as did the two observed tutors, the activities were limited in scope. For example, none of the three observed tutees' word banks reflected any vocabulary development that made use of the rhyming phonograms, vowels, or onset consonants introduced by the leveled readers (Table 8). Because the leveled readers' text structure was never spelled out for the tutors, and because they did not have access to the teacher's manuals, they really had no way to know what was specifically intended to be emphasized. This lack of information did not seem to impede their tutoring, but it is reasonable to assume that the information could have strengthened the work they did with their tutees.
Also, the text choices tutors made limited the amount of structured text to which their tutees were exposed. Tutors always chose leveled books based on two criteria: if it had been read before, and if it looked like a fun book to read. Thus, direct instruction on specific ways to choose materials and scaffold the tutoring episodes may also have increased the opportunities for children to learn. This was especially the case for Krystie, who lacked structured practice in word study skills because much of her reading came from trade books.
The same is true for lesson plans. In general, tutors followed their guidelines, used them to report activities completed with the children, and turned them in on a weekly basis. However, tutors began to see these as mere routines, and in some cases found them confining. The elements of biweekly lessons lost their significance as the lesson plans began to seem more like forms to be filled out. Also, references to the Tool Kit dropped significantly during the second semester. Tutors did not see the need to refer to it once they had established routines with their tutees. Also, there were other tutors who did work one-on-one, but did not follow the protocol as developed for tutoring.
It should be noted, however, that there were problems beyond the tutors' control that contributed to their not implementing their training and materials. These ranged from tutors being placed with children for whom the materials were inappropriate, such as three- and four-year-olds, or with classroom teachers who assigned tutors to work with small groups in classroom settings.
Nevertheless, we can conclude that the tutors who attended the training and relied on the materials provided were likely to have provided their tutees with regular structured practice in key elements of early reading instruction. However, claims as to the effectiveness of the training and materials cannot be made, since there is no way to know what their tutoring might have looked like without access to either or both.
A number of conclusions can be drawn, based on data obtained primarily from the three tutoring dyads followed for the year. First of all, while the tutors did use the provided materials and for the most part followed the lesson plans, they often drew from their own understandings instead of seeking out professional help. In spite of the strong recommendation made at the beginning of the year that tutors get to know their children's teachers, the two observed tutors and the others in their school failed to do so, with the exception of the single tutor at the study's site who worked in the classroom. In addition, tutors rarely sought advice on reading from their supervisors. Thus, their information on tutoring and reading instruction came primarily from their initial training sessions at the beginning of the school year before they started tutoring.
Tutors reported learning a lot about reading and learners through this experience. Most significantly, they reported on the diversity among the children in learning to read. It is this diversity that led some tutors to emphasize the need to be patient and flexible when tutoring. While these are valid and positive discoveries, it is not clear how they impacted day-to-day interactions with the children. On some level, these discoveries may have contributed to the tutors' willingness to try new things. However, they may have also contributed to their tendency not to seek help from classroom teachers, supervisors, and/or the Tool Kit when searching for appropriate ways to respond to diversity. For the most part, tutors relied on their own intuition. Ironically, some of the things they did were supportive, such as when Maya taught Zane to juggle. She saw this as a way to motivate, and make the sessions fun, but what she was not able to see was how it provided him practice in eye-hand coordination and concentration, both of which would facilitate his emerging reading skills.
It should be made very clear, however, that there was never any expectation that these tutors should become experts in teaching children to read. The fact that they did not seek help for reading instruction, however, may reveal underlying assumptions tutors had about reading. These assumptions may have been derived from their own personal experiences as readers. Since during their training tutors had lively discussions about shared memories of experiences in learning to read, there may have been a level of familiarity with reading that gave them a false sense of knowing what it was all about. Why did they virtually ignore the Tool Kit by second semester? Why did they only bring up programmatic matters when meeting and/or talking with their supervisors? Why did some tutors never have any contact with the children's teachers regarding the reading lessons? These questions should not be interpreted as critical of the tutors, particularly not the two young women followed in this study. They carried out their tutoring sessions with attention to their children's needs in a number of ways. They were attentive to reading skills, such as when Carol persisted in helping Tiarra understand rhyming or when Maya pursued a teachable moment to help Zane with his phonemic awareness. They never gave up, continually keeping their children on task and constantly asking probing questions.
The manner in which tutors implemented the lesson components demonstrated aspects of one-on-one tutoring that went beyond teaching children to read. Tutors established good working relationships with the children they tutored, and these relationships allowed them to keep children on task. Tutors supported their tutees efforts, and when things were not going as planned, tutors were flexible.
This study corroborates previous research that supports the use of college students in tutoring programs for children learning to read. In particular, it provides insights into the the relationship between training and implementation of tutoring sessions for relatively inexperienced tutors. These tutors were able to carry out fairly decent tutoring with minimal training. The training they did receive was from experts in the field, and they were provided with materials that, when used correctly, could support the children in learning to read. These tutors engaged their tutees in meaningful and positive interactions based on sound reading instruction. They were perceptive and saw the diversity among their tutees, but they trusted their own knowledge instead of seeking expert advice. Yet there is room for improvement. Based on this study, three recommendations were suggested to the America Reads program involved in the study:
Finally, given that the number of tutoring programs for beginning readers is growing, we must better understand the nature of the tutoring sessions if we truly intend to support reading instruction. The tutors in this study did more than read to children and provide opportunities for oral practice. Ignoring the instructional role that tutors may play does not benefit anyone. More needs to be learned about how these tutors understand their training and carry out what they learn through tutoring sessions with emerging and early readers. In the end, the critical and only factor with which we should be concerned is whether the children are served in positive and meaningful ways. Clearly, more studies are needed if we are to better understand the nature of programs like the America Reads Challenge Program, which rely on relatively inexperienced tutors to work with struggling readers.
1. At the beginning of the fall term you were introduced to the Tool Kit for Tutors, a guide for preparing and teaching your lessons. Please place a check in the box that best approximates your use of the Tool Kit and feel free to add any comments you'd like to make.
2. The Tool Kit refers to a "Weekly Two-Day Lesson Plan." Instead of a check mark, write in the number of children you did each of the activities with for FREQUENCY and HELPFULNESS. Please note, there are two possible responses for each row. PLEASE COMPLETE: The total number of children I tutored was________.
3. The following chart refers to the training sessions over the two semesters. Please check the box that most appropriately represents your response with regard to your working with your child/children.
Juel, C. (1994). At-risk university students tutoring at-risk elementary school children: What factors make it effective. In E. H. Hiebert & B. M. Taylor (Eds.), Getting reading right from the start (pp. 39-61). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
10. Survey question asked tutors to respond for each child with which a given activity was done. Some tutors reported working with small groups of children instead of one-on-one, and these data are not included in this table.