Empower Reading is a program designed to teach struggling readers a set of valuable strategies that they can use to decode words. By using these strategies ...
Category: Language / Reading
Grade Level: • Grades 2 to 5.
• Those with reading or learning disabilities
• Those with low or high average cognitive abilities
• English language learners
1. What is the purpose of Empower Reading? Empower Reading is a program designed to teach struggling readers a set of valuable strategies that they can use to decode words. By using these strategies students will experience success in reading and thus gain confidence in their reading skills. Empower Reading will equip students with multiple word attack strategies that will aid them on their way to becoming independent readers.
2. With whom can it be used? Empower reading was designed to be used with children in grades 2 through 5. It is meant to be used with children who are struggling to read and having difficulty acquiring age appropriate reading skills. It can be used with students who speak English as a first language as well as English language learners. Adaptations of Empower have also been implemented to support high school students struggling with reading.
3. What is the format of Empower Reading? The Empower Reading program formerly known as the Phonological and Strategy Training Program (PHAST), consists of 110 lessons that teach and develop the 5 Empower decoding strategies in sequence.
The strategies are then practiced cumulatively throughout the course of the program. Empower uses scaffolding to teach the following 5 decoding strategies and gradually reduces teacher involvement to allow children to become self-sufficient in their use of strategies. The strategies are as follows:
□ Sounding Out Strategy -This strategy teaches students the phonological skills and letter-sound knowledge that is necessary for accurate word reading -Taught in a structured format using lessons from the Teacher Presentation Manual -There is a list of specific sounds that are taught in the program. They are included in the students’ Resource folder as a reference.
□ Rhyming Strategy -This strategy teaches students to look for spelling patterns in a new unfamiliar word that they can match to a key word with the same spelling pattern. They can then use rhyming to read the new word. For example; when students see the word brand they will recognize that it has the same spelling pattern as the word and; they can use this information to read the new word because they know that words with the same spelling pattern usually rhyme. -Within the Rhyming Strategy students are taught concepts of same, different, beginning, middle, and end. As well as a body of keywords (that represent the highest frequency patterns in the English language, e.g. and, it) are taught in addition to the rhyming rules, and rhyming skills. -A copy of the list of keywords taught is also kept within the students’ Resource folder
□ Peeling Off Strategy -This strategy teaches students how to identify prefixes and suffixes -When students encounter a difficult word they will identify if the word has a prefix or suffix and if so they will peel it off (eliminate it) in order to break the word down to its smaller and more manageable root. -A magnetic Peeling Off Tree with prefix and suffix leaves is used within the program to demonstrate this concept. -As well a list of the specific prefixes and suffixes taught within the program (e.g. un, re, ing, er) is kept in the students’ Resource folder
□ Vowel Alert Strategy -Students are taught the different sounds that an individual vowel can make (e.g. i as in it versus i as in ice) -Throughout the teaching of this strategy the different sounds for all of the vowels, as well as sounds for various vowel combinations are demonstrated. A list of these concepts is kept in the students’ Resource folder for reference. -This strategy teaches students to be alert to the various decoding difficulties that can occur when vowels are encountered, and attempt different pronunciations of vowels in difficult words until the correct word is identified. -Within the program this strategy is illustrated through a Vowel Alert Stoplight with various inserts. The student stops at the vowel when they are unsure (red), carefully tries both vowel sounds (yellow), and gets the correct word (green).
□ Spy Strategy -Teaches students to use their expanding word knowledge to recognize small words or word parts within longer unknown words. -Students learn to break down longer unknown words into more manageable parts. -This strategy works especially well with compound words (e.g. bookmark, raincoat).
Students are taught that using Game plan and decoding strategies are like playing a sport. To excel at reading, just like a sport, practice is needed, strategies are used, and coaches or teachers help learners to succeed.
o Game Plan (1)Choose- students first decide which strategies to use and in what order (2)Use – students implement their strategies (3) Check- students check whether the strategy was used properly and the appropriateness of their strategy choice for the word (4) Score/Re-choose – students ‘score’ when the strategies reveal the correct word. If the word is not discovered students are encouraged not to give up and to start over at step 1
Students are taught that using Game plan and decoding strategies are like playing a sport. To excel at reading, just like a sport, practice is needed, strategies are used, and coaches or teachers help learners to succeed
4. What teaching procedures are used with Empower Reading? Empower Reading is a reading remediation program that should be implemented 1 hour per day, 5 days a week. The program is scheduled outside of the regular literacy block. The total program is completed within 110 hours.
The strategies are taught in sequence and build upon one another throughout the 110 lessons of the program. Each strategy is initially presented with an introductory lesson and training of the pre-skills students will require to successfully use the strategy. The strategy is then taught and developed through the use of strategy dialogue training (self-talk), sample lessons, multi levelled worksheets, stories, and a variety of learning activities.
In terms of the Game Plan portion of the program, a teacher is compared to a coach. Their job is to help students learn and practice new skills, and provide assistance when necessary.
Teachers who instruct Empower Reading must be trained by attending 5 full day in-service workshops. In addition each new Empower Reading trained teacher will be assigned a teacher mentor who will visit the class a minimum of 4 times to offer feedback and support. All teaching materials for the program are provided.
5. In what types of settings should Empower Reading be used? Empower Reading was originally developed and used with struggling readers in the Learning Disabilities Research Program laboratory classroom at the Hospital for Sick Children. It has now been piloted in 100 schools in 6 school boards throughout Southern Ontario. It is recommended that a teacher works with a small group of 4 to 8 students when implementing the Empower Reading program. The teacher will require a dedicated space for instruction as there are a number of support materials that will need to be posted.
6. To what extent has research shown Empower Reading to be useful? Both metacognitive decoding strategies and direct instruction strategies have been individually proven effective in increasing word identification and comprehension in struggling readers. In combination, as used in the Empower program, these strategies are an even more effective intervention
The development of Empower Reading is supported by decades of research completed by the Learning Disabilities Research Program (LDRP) at the Hospital for Sick Children. For over 25 years they have worked to better understand the core learning problems of children and adolescents with severe reading disabilities. Empower Reading is the result of everything the LDRP has learned from a series of remediation studies that began in 1980. The program includes what they have found to yield the best long- term outcomes for struggling readers.
The Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) was one of the first to pilot the Empower Reading Program in their schools; 10 schools in 2006/2007 and an additional 8 schools in 2007/2008. A study was conducted that measured students reading skills prior to the Empower Reading Program, after 55 lessons, and after completion of the program (110 lessons). It was found that students made significant gains in various reading skills, such as; Letter Word Identification, Word Attack, and Letter Sound Identification among others. It was also found that students progressed along the DRA (Diagnostic Reading Assessment) continuum, with some students reaching their spring benchmark. Further, teachers, parents and students all reported that students showed increased confidence and more positive attitudes towards reading. As more schools are adopting the program ongoing monitoring and research is occurring.
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Woehrle, T., & Edwards, E. (2009) Empower reading program: A collaborative approach to the implementation of an empirically supported reading intervention in schools. Poster presented at the 2009 Ontario Education Research Symposium. Retrieved October 15, 2009, from http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/e- best/pdfs/Empower%20Poster%20for%20OERP%20Symposium%202%203.pdf
Reviewed by: Danielle Di Nanno Marcia Vickar