Printed from Afterschool Curriculum Choice - Math
Location: http://www.sedl.org/afterschool/guide/math/


Curriculum Details for
Thinking Reader


Program
Description
Practitioner Expert
Review
Content Expert
Review
Thinking Reader
Publication Date: 2004
Grade Level: K–8
Content Focus: Literacy/Language Arts
Costs: $250 - $1000
The costs shown were accurate at the time of the review. Please check the publisher's web site for current prices.
Developer Contact Information
Tom Snyder Productions
100 Talcott Ave
Watertown, MA, 02472
800-342-0236
www.ThinkingReader.com

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Program Description

Design Summary

The primary goal of Thinking Reader is to help struggling readers improve their reading comprehension through the use of reading strategies.  It is a school-based program that can be adapted for afterschool. The curriculum offers built-in reading supports and is multi-sensory.  The books used in Thinking Reader are unabridged versions of nine different award-winning novels – converted to digital text.  The software can read books aloud to students, define words, and give hints and support for text comprehension. A work log is also offered to students, allowing them to track their progress and success.

When students use Thinking Reader, the story stops every three pages or so, and prompts students to connect the book to their own lives and interests.  The curriculum offers five levels of difficulty for each book, requires little knowledge of computers, and is universally accessible to those hearing and visually impaired.

Costs and Staff Training

One computer license for one book costs $250, and with ten additional computer licenses, it costs $1,000.  An Unlimited Site License costs $2,200 per title.  Discounts are available for large volume orders, and the developers have a grant funding guide for those who are interested. 

Training is not required but is available on-site at a cost of $2,000 for a full-day workshop.  Half-day workshops are also available. The teachers guide included with the curriculum has many training related materials.

Staff Qualifications

Formal teaching experience is not required, as the self-directed nature of Thinking Reader allows a child to work on his or her own.  Content expert reviews suggest that knowledge of cognitive and developmental theories, as well as reciprocal teaching approaches and reading comprehension strategies, would increase the effectiveness of the program.  Also needed are basic skills in navigating computer software and setting up databases.

Standards Alignment

  • National: Developers report that the material aligns to national standards, though none are specified.
  • State: Developers report that the material aligns to several state standards, though none are specified.

Research Base

This program is based on reciprocal teaching, using five reading strategies: summarizing, visualizing, predicting, questioning, and clarifying. Thinking Reader added reflecting and feeling. The program is also based on the research at Dr. David Rose’s research at CAST (Center for Applied Special Technologies).

Evaluation Details

CAST's prototype, the basis of Thinking Reader, was evaluated by Dr. Bridget Dalton at the Harvard Graduate School of Education using a standard reading test called the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Achievement Test.

Overall Strengths/Overall Challenges

Strengths:
  • Engaging for students, most are eager to use the program.
  • Teaches fluency, reading strategies, and enthusiasm for reading
  • Can adjust difficulty levels according to student needs and ability.
  • Multiple types of interaction and meaning-making opportunities with the text
  • Opportunities for students and teachers to dialogue together using both written comments through software interface and direct face-to-face interactions.
  • High quality and diverse selection of literature.
Challenges :
  • Students cannot respond and interact dialogically through the software program itself.
  • Strategies for English language learners only cover those who speak Spanish.
  • Writing and speaking are the only modes for students to articulate their thinking.
  • Requires reliable computer network system and in-house tech support.

Practitioner Expert Review

Practitioner Expert Background

This practitioner has been a reading teacher for many years, working primarily with struggling readers.  He has used Thinking Reader since 2003 with students during the school day and during summer programs.  His students are seventh and eighth graders in both suburban and urban schools.  He has used the program on a regular basis with his students, for approximately 30 minutes at a time.  He has found that students’ reading test scores have risen since implementing Thinking Reader.

Logistics

Training
  • Used phone-based support from company representatives when he began using the curriculum.
  • Manual is clear and straightforward.
  • Easy to implement.
  • Has been pleased with the company’s technical support and customer service.
Set-up/preparation
  • Preparation is front-loaded, an hour or two at the beginning to input student information into the computer.
  • Access to computers and a reliable computer network is key.

Student Engagement

  • Students seem to be focused on the program, eager to use it both during class and their free time.  No longer hears “I hate reading” from students.
  • Can apply strategies learned in Thinking Reader to other classes, helps students feel more successful in school.
  • Success and general feedback are delivered appropriately for middle school aged students.
  • Titles of stories are high interest. 
  • Multi-sensory nature of program is appealing to students.
  • Parents reported that their children were always enthusiastic to attend summer school when Thinking Reader was being used.

Content

Adaptability to instructor needs
  • Adaptable to a teacher’s needs.  Thinking Reader allows students to work at their own pace, read as fast or slowly as they need to. 
  • Can switch the pace and level of program as needed.  Easy for students to log in and immediately begin working.
  • Can be used in different settings: with a few students in the back of the classroom, before school, after school, and most other settings.
General skills taught
  • Reading strategies and fluency
  • Test-taking skills
  • Builds enthusiasm and positive attitudes toward reading
  • Cooperation
Addressing diverse student needs
  • Characters in the stories are of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
  • Stories pull from different cultural traditions. 
  • Can address different learning styles by changing the voice, color, font, etc.

Strengths and Challenges

Strengths
  • Teaches fluency and reading strategies effectively
  • Engaging for students
  • Adaptable to students’ needs
Challenges
  • Strategies for English language learners only apply to those who speak Spanish.
  • Requires reliable computer network system and in-house tech support.

Content Expert Review

Content Expert Reviewer

John Bishop
John Bishop is an advanced doctoral student at the University of Georgia in the Department of Language and Literacy Education. His research includes examining literacy practices in afterschool web-based youth communities.

Content

  • This review is based upon the Thinking Reader curriculum for Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
  • Students can interact with the software in various ways, creating compelling structures through which learners can engage the content.
  • Students can interact and dialogue with teachers through the software.

Skills

Academic Skills
  • Reading comprehension skills
  • Seven strategies: summarizing, questioning, clarifying, predicting, visualizing, feeling, and reflecting
Study Skills
  • Use of “work log” to track progress
Non-Academic Skills
  • Computer navigation
  • Social and peer skills (through teacher-student conferencing, peer interaction, and whole group discussions)
  • Self-reflection and self-assessment

Alignment to Standards

Learning objectives for this title were aligned with four IRA/NCTE (National Council for Teachers of English) Standards for English Language Arts (Standards 1, 2, 3, and 11). The curriculum covers the first three most thoroughly.

Assessment

  • Student work logs demonstrate progression of student thinking. Rubrics for these logs allow teachers to assess progress on the seven specific comprehension strategies.
  • Using results of comprehension quizzes, teachers can assess student recall of information and adjust individual leveling within the program.
  • Student-teacher conferencing, where teachers discuss various questions encourage students to reflect on their own progress.

Structure

  • Thinking Reader is a moderately structured curriculum.  For example, a student has to perform on a certain level on information recall quizzes in order to move to higher-order thinking questions.
  • There are multiple opportunities for teachers and students to flexibly direct student learning towards individual needs.
  • Structure can range from a student-managed approach to a teacher-led facilitation of the program.
  • Students can dictate their own areas of strength and weakness.
  • Content is somewhat pre-defined. There are opportunities to respond in many different ways to the literature, and to evaluate which strategies each student should focus on.

Addressing Diverse Student Needs

Adaptability
  • Teachers can choose appropriate levels for students to engage with the software.
  • Opportunity to foreground numerous strategies that scaffold cognitive development in a variety of ways.
  • Physical needs of students can be met by increasing font size, speed of reading, and contrast of text.
Developmental level
  • Well tailored to the developmental needs of the middle school age group.
  • Skills developed are appropriate for age level.
Learning Styles Addressed
  • Interpersonal learning: Teacher conferencing, peer conferencing, and other group work opportunities.
  • Artistic learning: Opportunities for students to respond to literature using illustration.
Multiculturalism
  • Several ethnic perspectives and time periods are represented in the selection of literature offered.
  • Opportunities for students to respond and share personal reactions and connections with literature provide chances to foster a diverse learning community.
  • Software can translate materials for native Spanish speakers.

Strengths and Challenges

Strongest Features
  • Can adjust difficulty levels according to student needs and ability.
  • Multiple types of interaction and meaning-making opportunities with the text
  • Opportunities for students and teachers to dialogue together using both written comments through software interface and direct face-to-face interactions.
  • High quality and diverse selection of literature.
Challenges and Drawbacks
  • Students cannot respond and interact dialogically through the software program itself.
  • Writing and speaking are the only modes for students to articulate their thinking.

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