Scaffolded Silent Reading: Improving the Conditions of Silent Reading Practice in Classrooms
D. Ray Reutzel
Cindy D. Jones
Terry H. Newman
Research has consistently shown that time spent reading is highly correlated with student reading achievement (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; Hepler & Hickman, 1982; Krashen, 1993; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2000). In an effort to increase the amount of time students spend reading in school classrooms, many teachers allocate a block of time for students to read silently. This type of reading practice has been referred to as Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), Super Quiet Reading Time (SQUIRT), Wonderful Exciting Books (WEB), Daily Independent Reading Time (DIRT), and a variety of other acronyms intended to promote interest in time spent reading (Jarvis, 2003; Jensen & Jensen, 2002; Routman, 1991). During SSR and other similar reading practice routines, students read independently and silently from self-selected texts. Typically, the teacher also reads independently and silently during this time.
Stemming largely from the National Reading Panel report (NRP; NICHD, 2000), independent, silent reading practice routines such as SSR have come under increased critical scrutiny. After the NRP announced that research evidence was insufficient in quantity and quality to offer an unqualified endorsement of independent, silent reading practice routines, many school administrators and classroom teachers began to shy away from providing students with time for practicing reading either independently or silently on a regular basis in classrooms. This recent reticence toward providing independent, silent reading practice is particularly evident in early elementary grades but also exists in intermediate elementary grades and secondary schools. Given the current environment of teacher and student accountability for meeting benchmarks, standards, and growth targets, educators are becoming increasingly leery of educational practices that do not have substantial empirical evidence of effectiveness.
Why then was independent, silent reading found to be less than uniformly effective in classrooms using the conditions and procedures typically associated with SSR and DEAR? Let us consider another situation similar to learning to read in which students must practice a great deal to acquire a critical set of skills. For this example, we turn to the universal learning situation found in many high school settings—learning to drive an automobile in driver's education. Picture for a moment what kind of drivers might emerge from a driver's education course if the practice conditions used in SSR or DEAR were also applied to learning to drive.
Imagine that the instructor of this driver's education class thought it best that when students initially practiced driving they would be allowed to choose any car or truck on any car lot in town to heighten the motivation to learn that is associated with choice. Continue to imagine that student drivers can take this car or truck onto any road, under any traffic or weather conditions they choose for driving practice.
What about the driver's education instructor? Where is he or she during practice? Well, the driver's education instructor is driving his or her own car to model the fact that the instructor can drive and does drive. In fact, to emphasize the value of driving, the instructor and other school personnel all drive at the same time daily to exhibit which cars they choose to drive in a program called Drop Everything and Drive (DEAD). Of course, the DEAD program fails to provide students much in the way of teacher modeling, teacher instruction, or teacher-student interaction about how to drive or guided practice for those learning to drive, especially those who struggle. The expectation is that students would practice driving daily for at least 20 minutes, but there would be no accountability for whether students actually practiced their driving. Students would not receive any feedback, guidance, support, or monitoring from their instructor during practice time to help them become better drivers. The real beauty of this kind of practice for student drivers is they could engage in unsupervised driving practice on a daily basis while their instructor took off driving his or her own car for the same period of time. (Remember how motivating learning to drive is compared with learning to read!)
Reutzel, D., Jones, C.D., & Newman, T.H. (2010).
Scaffolded Silent Reading: Improving the Conditions of Silent Reading Practice in Classrooms.
In E.H. Hiebert, & D. Reutzel (Eds.), Revisiting Silent Reading (pp. 129-150). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.