Precision Teaching Case Study Series Part 4 of 5: Teaching Word Meanings to a Developmentally Delayed Adolescent


This is the fourth of a series of 5 blogs on teaching reading skills to a developmentally delayed adolescent:

  1. Teaching Sounds and Sound Combinations to a Developmentally Delayed Adolescent
  2. Teaching Word Lists to a Developmentally Delayed Adolescent
  3. Teaching Story Reading to a Developmentally Delayed Adolescent
  4. Teaching Word Meanings to a Developmentally Delayed Adolescent
  5. So Why Don’t Schools Use Precision Teaching???

The Student

The student is a twelve year old diagnosed as being developmentally delayed. He lives in the U.S., although his first language is not English. He was enrolled in an academic tutorial program to prepare him for school entry. His program includes language, reading (decoding), reading comprehension, math, spelling, cursive and creative writing. In the beginning, attention was focused on developing fluent language skills, basic decoding skills and counting skills as a starting point for arithmetic.

The Tutor(s)

This student has had two tutors so far. His first tutor was a beginning primary elementary school teacher just about to start her first job. She taught him through June, July and part of August. His second tutor was a homeschooling mother who had successfully homeschooled her four children.

Both tutors were trained in the Maloney Method by me using Skype, email and fax. I have yet to meet face to face with the tutors, the student or the parents involved.

The Program

The program includes:

  • All three levels of the Direct Instruction Language program created by Engelmann and Osborne. (450 lessons @ approximately 20 min./lesson)
  • Both levels of the ToolBox Series for Literacy and the final 2 levels of Teach Your Children To Read Well series created by Maloney, Brearley & Preece. (240 lessons @ 30 min/lesson)
  • Counting Skills created by Michael Maloney (50 lessons @ 15-20 min/day)
  • All 8 modules of the Corrective Mathematics program created by Engelmann and Silbert (500 lessons @ 30 minutes /lesson)
  • Corrective Spelling through Morphographs created by Engelmann and Dixon (140 lessons @ 30 min./lesson)
  • All 4 levels of the Corrective Reading (Comprehension) Series created by Engelmann and (335 lessons @ 30 minutes /lesson)
  • Quickwrite for creating a creative story draft in 8 minutes (daily lessons).

The Results

Since June, this student has completed:

  • All 450 lessons of the Distar Language programs
  • All 50 lessons of the Counting Skills program.
  • All 120 lessons of the Toolbox Series for Literacy.
  • 130 lessons of the Addition and Subtraction modules of Corrective Mathematics

He is about to begin

The Measurement Process

At the end of each lesson the student does a series of timed measurements. Four of these measurements relate to his decoding skills, These fluency checks test the student’s fluency with:

  • Sounds and sound combinations up to and including that lesson.
  • Word lists of words taught to that point in the program.
  • Story reading of a story constructed completely of words taught in the program to this point.
  • Vocabulary meanings of words already learned.

The Standard Celeration Chart Data

This student completed all 60 lessons of the program in 9 weeks, usually working for three hours, 4-5 times per week. Approximately one hour of each session was dedicated to reading.

At the beginning of his second reading program,  The ToolBox for Literacy Series, Level 2, the student was presented with six new vocabulary words as part of each lesson. These words were written as flashcards, with the term on one side and a short definition on the back side. The student would practice providing the correct definition for each term. With each lesson, 6 more cards were added to the set. As soon as he could give definitions for a minimum of 15 terms in one minute, those cards would be removed from the set and put in a separate “completed” pile. This pile was reviewed once every week.

These data show that the student could quickly and easily could retain the information even as the pile became larger.  In all, by the end of the program there were 360 definitions to be learned. As the pile grew larger, a set of approximately 100 was selected randomly from this larger set and used for a 30 second measure to determine if he still knew these terms after a period without practice. It is interesting to note that he actually continued to get faster as the lessons continued. There is only data for 7 weeks because it took a couple of weeks to develop a reasonably sized set of terms that he knew well.

In the next two levels of his reading program, This student will continue to be presented with a total of 720 more definitions to be learned to fluent levels. Given that English is not his mother tongue, this increase in his vocabulary of more than 1000 words will better prepare him for school.

In the next installment, I will present K’s data for story reading. The materials used in this case study are available on this website. Free training on the system and the first 10 lessons of each of the levels of reading program are available for free.

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