Preparing Educators as Leaders
  • Home
  • Cherry Picked - Author shows how teachers can use 'word study' to improve student reading

Author shows how teachers can use 'word study' to improve student reading

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

LAWRENCE — Many secondary education teachers do not receive training in helping students learn to read because the thinking goes that developing reading skills should begin and end in elementary school. A University of Kansas professor has written a book to help secondary teachers use the practice of word study to help students with disabilities, struggling readers and their peers all become better readers without adding to the educators' workload.

Melinda Leko, assistant professor of special education, is the author of “Word Study in the Inclusive Secondary Classroom: Supporting Struggling Readers and Students with Disabilities.” The book is designed to help teachers use practical strategies and ideas on how to add word study in their classrooms.

“The book helps back up a basic level of instruction that I think a lot of secondary teachers didn’t get training in,” Leko said. “Middle school and high school students are generally good at recognizing and understanding monosyllabic words. But when you get into multisyllabic words, that’s when trouble can start, especially for struggling readers and students with disabilities.”

Word study is a practice that integrates decoding and phonics, spelling and vocabulary instruction to help students identify unfamiliar words and improve their reading comprehension. About 10 percent of students enter secondary school with some form of reading difficulty, Leko said, and teachers don’t have time to teach every word that will appear in coursework. The book includes practices such as helping students understand common prefixes, what they mean and how they interact with other parts of speech. Chapters include teaching resources such as sample lesson plans, reproducible teaching tools, web resource lists and tips about technology-based learning tools.

While word study as a practice is useful at all reading levels, Leko’s book provides examples and resources appropriate for specific older age levels and across content areas. Teachers can find ideas on how to use the practice to recognize words they often encounter in their discipline, be it science, English, mathematics, social studies or others.

Among the text’s resources are information on syllable types and how educators can teach rules on how to divide words into smaller parts for easier recognition, as well as in-class assessments to help determine which words students might be struggling with. It also contains measures teachers can use to determine how well the strategies are working and where more attention may need to be paid.

The evolution of language is also considered as the book contains a section on how words and parts of speech have changed over time and how teachers can address slang, which often does not follow the established rules of language. The text also helps educators understand why certain types of mistakes are commonly made and how they can be addressed.

“Why individual students have difficulties can be very different, but how we respond to them as educators can largely be the same,” Leko said. “By helping them understand word parts and recognize patterns and using these strategies and ideas, we should be able to help all of them.”

The book is designed for teachers who already have full workloads. It contains classroom examples and vignettes of situations in which the strategies have been successfully implemented. It also contains illustrations that help present the concepts in a humorous, engaging way.

“Once these strategies are part of the classroom experience, they don’t take any additional time at all,” Leko said.

Leko’s book also illustrates that the practice of word study is not only one that can benefit struggling learners or special education students. It can be applied to a modern, blended classroom in which students of all abilities are learning together and help boost achievement for all.

“I make the argument that this approach can help all students in the classroom,” Leko said. “Even high-achieving students can benefit from taking words apart and understanding ideas such as how prefixes and suffixes work and what they mean.”

10th among public universities for its master’s and doctoral programs
—U.S. News & World Report
#1 public program in nation for special education
—U.S. News & World Report
Assists public schools and other partners in all 105 Kansas counties
$938,377 in scholarship funds awarded to 420+ students
Research expenditures of $36,804,773 for 2011-12
Research from KU’s largest grant, the $24.5 million SWIFT project, assists educators, children, and families across the United States
The award-winning special education faculty published 140 refereed articles, 11 books, and 60 chapters in 2015-16
Students with intellectual disabilities are participating in KU undergraduate programs through a grant-funded KU special education program
Researchers on a $3.5 million grant are collecting data on an innovative reading program designed to teach reading to students with the most significant disabilities in seven Kansas school districts
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
KU Today
Connect with KU School of Education

KU School of Education Facebook page KU School of Education YouTube Channel KU School of Education Twitter Feed KU School of Ed instagram icon KU School of Ed LinkedIn icon