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I use Stride Ahead with children who can read but do not gain the message or comprehension from the text. It was written as the follow up to the AMAZING toe by toe reading program because this taught the children to read but no understand. Stride ahead follows on with continuing to develop reading skills (longer, trickier words) whilst expecting and demanding a high level of comprehension. It is especially motivating for boys as it is timed and students see their speed and accuracy rise very quickly. It really works and it works FAST.
"Keda Cowling has worked hard, her incredible hard work and dedication to the task of creating Stride Ahead has given me a tool which has not only allowed me to do my job properly (there does not appear to be a similar program out there for my aged students) but most importantly it has given 17 mainly young men a chance to move from the barely able to cope in this world of text to confidence" Jan Johnstone, Telford Rural Polytechnic, New Zealand - May 2009
"He is also reading Stride Ahead. It is indeed a great book. I have found his short term memory to have increased after reading just 1/3rd of the book. It not only is an essential add on for Toe by Toe but also has a very positive effect on comprehension. My son is now more confident, has a very good reading capability, can write emails and essays better and can comprehend much better, JUST BECAUSE of the GREAT Keda Cowling." Dr Unwar Aswan – Medical doctor and parent, Pakistan - Feb. 2009 "...it gives a fantastic foundation in literacy skills. My son came top of his class in reading after going through Stride Ahead" Mrs Shaw (parent), Ayrshire, KA5 6HN
In the late 70's Keda Cowling created a unique syllable division which was incorporated into the reading manual Toe by Toe.
Over the last few years this system has successfully taught thousands of people - dyslexics and non-dyslexics alike - to read (i.e. decode). This success has been due to the application of this easy-to-use syllable division and the structured over-teaching of the phonemes in question. The aim of Stride Ahead is to make these phonemes so familiar to dyslexic students that they become able to recognise them instantaneously and without concentrated mental effort and thus they can get on with the process of understanding the text in front of them. Timing is the key to this process and careful timing forms the essence of the Stride Ahead method.
Stride Ahead F.A.Q.s How old do students need to be before commencing Stride Ahead ? At least 8 years old, but really aimed at older people who have good reading skills with little skills in comprehension.
How old do students need to be before commencing Stride Ahead ? Answer: Stride Ahead is more suitable for older students - usually secondary school students or adults. However, some primary schools also use it in years 5 and 6 (i.e. 10 or 11 years old).
Why is a stopwatch necessary to use with Stride Ahead ? Answer: Our aim is automaticity in the decoding process. Only when this has been achieved can a student focus fully on the meaning of the text. Timed practice is the best way to achieve automaticity. Effectively, Stride Ahead is a structured series of timing targets and the stopwatch is provided to facilitate this process.
How long does it take to complete Stride Ahead ? Answer: The length of time necessary to finish the scheme depends very much on the severity of the students’ reading problem. With (say) 30-minute daily sessions, the average time to complete would be 2-3 months. Why does Stride Ahead have 3 preliminary exercises ? Answer: Older students will often resist being taken back to the absolute basics (letter sounds… etc) so Stride Ahead makes a few assumptions in terms of students’ prior knowledge.
The 3 preliminary exercises are to ensure that the necessary skills are in place before embarking on the exercises. Why are ‘reinforcement pages’ included at the end of each part ? Answer: As is the case with Toe by Toe, reinforcement and over-learning of skills previously covered are essential features of the scheme. What to do if a student looks like he will never achieve the target time ? Answer: It is often a good strategy to provide an example of how the reading task should be approached. Pass the stopwatch to the student, so he/she can time you as you read. They should track along the words and sentences with their finger at the same speed you are reading. This is an opportunity to demonstrate that the timing targets do not require a rushed approach. Read it without haste and as naturally as possible.
The next time the students read there is almost always a huge improvement in both speed and accuracy. To a large extent the timing targets in S.A. are arbitrary. In essence, we have timed a 'normal' person reading the passage at 'normal' speed and then added a few seconds to come up with our target. It does not really matter whether a student is achieving the precise target. The important thing is that they are getting intensive practice in accurate decoding. We are trying to make decoding as 'automatic' as possible.
As Diane McGuinness (a famous reading expert in California) points out: "A good reader is only conscious of meaning. The print on the page is all but invisible. This is the ‘holy grail’ of reading. We are unlikely to get to this point with a severely dyslexic student but we can aim to get as close as possible… Therefore, if a student is struggling to reach a particular target (and showing real signs of frustration in the process), it is perfectly acceptable to do a little discreet 'cheating' to help them get there. You could start the stopwatch a little late or finish a little early. Do whatever it takes to keep the student believing they CAN do this thing.
However, do try to do it discreetly so the student remains unaware that they have 'failed' in any reading task. The important point is to keep the student on board and believing. You are not going to teach anyone to read without their active co-operation... Is it necessary to finish every exercise in Stride Ahead before moving on ? Answer: For motivational purposes, it is essential that students maintain a sense of momentum and progress. (This is especially the case with teenagers). Therefore we cannot allow students to feel that they are getting ‘bogged down’. If a student is really struggling to meet a particular target, move on to the next exercise and come back to the stubborn problem later. Every target should be met but it is not necessary to reach every target time in sequence.
Most important is to make the students feel that they are finally succeeding with what is – to them – a mysteriously difficult skill. As a tutor, you are not going to succeed without the active co-operation of the student so we cannot allow them to lose heart. What are the extension sheets for ? Answer: It is essential that students practice their skills as they near the end of the book. Certainly by the time they have reached the 4th part they should be reading something which matches their interests away from the scheme itself. They should be able to appreciate that reading is not a chore but something to do for entertainment as well as enlightenment. The extension sheets simply provide essential practice in using their new-found skills. It is often a good idea to challenge them to see how many consecutive words they can read perfectly before stumbling. Visit us at Dyslexia-consultants.co.uk
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