General Questions about the Program
Q. Is the New Heights program suited to all kinds of reading difficulties?
- All students, regardless of their challenges, learn to read by reading. All will benefit from using the New Heights program as it provides interesting, supported reading practice at a suitable level of difficulty at which students gain satisfaction and success. Remember that this program is not intended to replace your regular classroom reading program but to work alongside it.
Q. Is there a risk that students will memorize the text so that it’s not a reading activity at all?
- Familiarity with the text is precisely the aim: it builds confidence and encourages students to read easily, without conscious effort. It’s unlikely a student would memorize over 100 words. However, if you believe a student is becoming so familiar with a book that their attention to the print is suffering, then it would be wise to limit the number of times the student is permitted to read the book or listen to the audio support.
Q. What should I do if a student lacks or loses interest in the program?
- Whether the student is reading at a level that’s too hard or too easy for them;
- That the topics interest the student. Allow for more personal choice;
- That the student understands the texts;
- Whether the student needs a change of approach or more variety;
- Whether the student is missing a favorite activity because of their involvement with the New Heights program. If so, reschedule the activity or the time at which the student uses the program.
Q. What if the student’s starting level is lower than New Heights Get Set?
- Because New Heights provides a higher degree of support than other approaches, a student can begin on Get Set books as long as their instructional reading level is not significantly lower than very early grade 1. They’ll probably need more practice with the audio support and activities to bring them up to this level.
Q. What should I do if a student isn’t reading fluently?
- Assess the student’s reading fluency (see pages 32–33). If their fluency is poor, recommend that the student practice more with the audio support, or reading aloud if accuracy is not a problem. When reading independently the student should be advised to read “like the voice on the reading pen.” The student should not be promoted to a new book until they can read the original book independently with good understanding and fluency.
Q. What should I do if a student has read every New Heights title available at the appropriate level but is not yet ready for the next level or for discontinuing the program?
- Whether the student is reading along with the text while listening to the audio support;
- Whether the student is getting plenty of other reading practice;
- Whether the current New Heights stage is really appropriate or whether it’s too difficult. Try:
- Asking the student to reread books in the current set without audio support or with reduced audio support;
- Promoting the student to the next stage, but expect them to need more practice.
Q. What should I do if a student has trouble following the text?
- If you listen closely, it’s usually possible to hear where the audio is up to, or you can ask the student to indicate where they’re up to. Discourage the student from pointing to each word as this interferes with fluency. The student could use a finger of the left hand moving down the left margin of the text as an interim measure. Sliding strips beneath the text tends to inhibit the eyes from moving ahead of the voice, and they should be avoided. If a student is easily distracted, relocating them to a quieter place or using a polling-booth-style divider is recommended.
Using the Audio Support
Q. How many times should students practice with the audio support?
- Students differ considerably with their needs, confidence, and levels of skill. Some will need a lot of support (maybe listening up to 10 times), especially when they’ve just started a new level. Others will feel confident enough to practice independently after listening just once or twice. With encouragement, and as they experience success, students will require less support, especially on books they feel confident reading. Students should be aware that the reading pens are an interim support, and the aim is to have them reading independently (without audio) as soon as possible.
Q. What should I do if a student consistently needs more than 10 practices with the audio support before conference reading is easy?
- That the level is appropriate;
- Whether the student is reading along as well as listening;
- Whether the student is lacking in confidence to initiate a conference. If so, set a limit on the number of practices allowed before conferencing;
- That conference feedback is positive and full of praise;
- Whether the student understands the stories. Initiate discussions that explore the student’s comprehension and make any necessary explanations.
Supporting English Language Learners (ELLs)
Q. What should I do if there is little or no English spoken in the student’s home?
- Students should not be expected to read a book at home unaided unless you know they can read it easily. If no one at home is able to help the student, they can still take home a book that has been conferenced and well-practiced.
Q. I’ve noticed that my English language learners can sometimes be fluent with student titles with little comprehension. How can I deal with this? Do I promote them?
- The main point of reading is to derive meaning and understanding, so these students are not really “reading” but decoding. They shouldn’t be promoted when their comprehension is poor. To improve comprehension, more time will need to be spent orientating the students to books and using some of the suggestions under “Supporting English Language Learners” on the OCP that accompanies each title. Cloze exercises are good for fostering comprehension, as are text-sequencing activities, board games, and writing activities.
Q. Can students work on games and activities together?
- The board game is ideal for students to work on together, but unless they are used to taking turns, it gives them maximum educational advantage to work on the other activities independently. Older students who have been taught peer-tutoring techniques can benefit tremendously from tutoring those who are reading at least two years below their tutor’s level.
Q. How does it work when students are working in a group and all have different books?
A. To achieve maximum acceleration, students need to be working at their own level at a speed that suits them as individuals—hence the recommendation that students all have different books. The group situation fosters independence in students and ensures economical use of teacher time. The initial assessment to gauge a student’s optimal starting level is best carried out individually. After that, it’s not often that more than one student at a time in a group will require assistance from you. When this does happen you can simply suggest that students listen to each other reading, practice independently or complete an activity while they’re waiting.