In addition to providing Anna with direct instruction in decoding and sight word recognition skills, at the same time, we also provided her with numerous opportunities to apply her skills in the context of shared reading activities. In these shared reading activities, the instructor read part of each sentence and Anna was responsible for decoding a target word or words in the text. We highlighted the target word for Anna in yellow so she knew which word was the one for her to decode.
We did not expect Anna to read the entire book by herself initially. It was still effortful for her to decode words or recognize them by sight. Shared reading activities provided Anna with the opportunity to participate in meaningful reading activities while keeping the learning demands from being too overwhelming initially.
In this task,
- The instructor first introduced the book to Anna
- Then the instructor presented the written sentence with the target word highlighted
- The instructor read the sentence out loud, tracking the written text with her finger and pausing at the target word
- Anna had to read the highlighted word and then
- Say the word or
- Sign the word or
- Point to the picture of the target word from an array of pictures provided.
In order to ensure that Anna was motivated, we used books on topics of interest to her. As she developed her decoding skills and sight word recognition skills, and learned to apply them during book reading, we gradually introduced new topics to extend her language skills and build her background knowledge.
Initially we just targeted one word per sentence, usually at the end of the sentence. We modeled the task for Anna and provided her with guided practice to support her success. Gradually we faded the support until Anna was reading the targeted words independently. As Anna developed her decoding skills and learned to read more words, we gradually increased the number of words that Anna read in each sentence.
In this video, you will see Anna participating in a shared reading activity with a book about Mickey and Minnie Mouse, a favorite topic of hers. This video is after approximately 70 hours of instruction. She is now independently reading most words in each sentence; the instructor helps her read the words that are more complex, the ones that she has not yet learned to decode or recognize by sight. When you watch the video, you will notice the significant gains that Anna has made in her reading skills since she first started instruction. You will also notice the gains that she has made in her speech, language, and communication skills.
We used a wide range of books with Anna during shared reading activities. Initially we developed personalized books for her about her family and her experiences and about her interests (e.g., Mickey Mouse). It was easy to make these books. We either used apps on mobile technology or made simple hard copy books. We just inserted or scanned family photos or downloaded images from the Internet. Then we added simple text using vocabulary and sentence structures that Anna understood and including words that she could decode.
Gradually we introduced a greater range of books so that she was generalizing her skills to a wide range of reading materials. We adapted a range of children’s books, using a highlighter pen to mark words for Anna to decode. If the text was too difficult for Anna, we wrote new text, using short simple sentences with vocabulary that Anna understood.
For more information on shared reading activities with children with complex communication needs like Anna, visit our website on Literacy Instruction.