Specialist Teaching- Reading Tutor Program

Children who have failed to learn to read in the first few years of schooling need intensive, systematic reading instruction if they are not to fall further behind, or even become complete non-readers. Research shows that the most effective program of reading instruction for low progress or dyslexic readers involves intensive, systematic instructions in three main areas:

  • Phonics or word attack skills
  • Sight words recognition
  • Supported book reading in a one to one context.

Teachers and parents opting for remedial instruction that incorporates these three elements are far more likely to be satisfied with the progress their children will make.

PECM’s MULTILIT Reading Tutor Program incorporates all three key features:

  • MULTILIT Word Attack Skills
  • MULTILIT Sight Words
  • MULTILIT Reinforced Reading

The MULTILIT Reading Tutor Program is the product of a continuing program of research and development by a specialist team of academic researchers and special educators into more effective ways of teaching low progress students experiencing difficulties in learning literacy skills. This research initiative into “Making Up For Lost Time In Literacy” (or MULTILIT for short) is led by Emeritus Professor Kelvin Wheldall and Dr Robyn Wheldall, Director and Deputy Director respectively, of the MULTILIT Research Unit at Macquarie University in Australia.

When teaching students with learning difficulties to become independent readers, teaching phonic word attack skills is an essential component of any literacy Intervention program. These skills help students to decode text by associating sounds with letters or groups of letters.

The American Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children To Read (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 2000; The Roles Report in the United Kingdom (Rose 2006) and the Australian National Inquiry into the teaching of literacy ( Department of Education Science and Training 2005) all strongly advocate the systemic teaching of phonemic awareness along with letter-sound correspondence as the best approach to reading instruction for both students who are at risk of reading failure at the beginning stages of reading and for older low progress readers.

As Coltheart and Prior 2007 summarized it: All three inquiries have thus reached the same conclusion: systemic instruction in phonics is an essential component of any effective method of teaching reading.

The MULTILIT Word Attack Skills (WAS) has been developed specifically for teaching low progress readers in year 2 and above or reading at a level considerably below what might be expected for their age.

MULTILIT caters with students who have not acquired the basic skills needed to become functional readers. The program is designed to be used with individual students on a one-to-one basis by teachers.

A placement test is used to determine the appropriate starting point in the program. This test includes a nonsense words to ensure that a student’s decoding skills as against slight word knowledge, are being tested.

A specific sequence is adhered to and is presented in hierarchical order of difficulty where essential pre-skills knowledge is taken into consideration. For example, a selection of single letter sounds is taught followed by whole words using that group of specific sounds. This is known as a synthetic approach to phonics instruction. Each level contains a cumulative review element which tests for maintenance  of all previously learned skills. Distracters are inserted at each skill level to prevent over generalization of of a phonic structure.

The National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 2000) and its analysis of 52 studies in the success of teaching phonemic awareness skills found that the both younger beginning readers and older low progress readers were likely to benefit from the instruction in this area.  More importantly The National Reading Panel found that students benefit most if only two skills were taught. Given that oral blending and oral segmenting are the two skills that mostly closely parallel reading, Multilit provides supplementary exercises for students who require this instruction. MULTILIT Word Attack Skills (WAS) does not provide separate instruction in phonological awareness activities per se, as we have found that instruction in a number of combined phonological activities does not yield greater results when using the MULTILIT reading tutor program (Porgorzelski & Wheldall, 2002,2005; Wheldall & Porgorzelski 2003)

It should be noted that the teaching intervention used in MULTILIT Word Attack Skills is explicit and systematic, but also takes a synthetic approach. This is important, as it is a generative approach that focuses on teaching students sounds that they can then build into words. It is contrary to a more analytical approach that teachers patterns in words after examining the whole word first.

The program is based on the principle of “test first, then teach” with at least a day in between testing. This method evaluates the student longer term memory for the material he or she is learning as opposed to “teach before tests” which may assess only short-term memory for the components apparently learned. It also eliminates spending time unnecessarily on teaching skills already acquire.

The three components of MULTILIT Word Attack Skills are accuracy, fluency and spelling these components incorporate teaching decoding skills, achieving automaticity of those decoding skills and putting these skills into written practice since, as Chall and Jacobs (1983) emphasized, “Research indicates the children’s achievement in reading and writing are generally quite strongly and positively related.” Coltheart and Prior (2007) have also recently emphasized the role of spelling in the development of reading skills, stating that “Reading and spelling are symbiotic and hence should be taught together.” Teaching session should ideally occur daily, but no fewer than four times per week.

At the conclusion of each MULTILIT Word Attack Skills level, stories are provided. These  stories allow children to generalize and to transfer newly acquired skills into a meaningful context. The stories are carefully written to include as many examples as possible, within a short section of text of the sub-skills recently taught to allow further practice in reading the new words learned.