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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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A “Gifted” Reading Program for All

If you have read any of my previous posts~ you know I am a huge advocate of incorporating gifted best practices into mainstream education.
Im going to share another model~ designed by gifted education researchers~ that could make a big difference in your reading instruction~ and subsequently~ students reading scores

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The program is called SEM-R and was designed by Dr. Sally Weis and other researchers from the University of Connecticut. SEM-R has been tried and tested in classrooms and has proven effective in improving reading scores and performance. After recently attending a SEM-R training~ I am convinced that this reading program should be woven into the fabric of general education classrooms everywhere.

Perhaps what I like best about SEM-R is that one of its main goals is to foster a love of reading in children. That all-important goal is often forgotten in reading programs that rely heavily on basal readers and other methods. The program is also differentiation at its finest since it personalizes instruction be helping students find the just right book and coaches them through individualized conferences.

While SEM-R aims to push higherlevel readers~ with a little adjustment~ it can be geared toward struggling readers as well. I highly recommend you attend a formal training in SEM-R if offered by your school district. Reis has also written a book about the model called Joyful Reading. In the meantime~ let me provide you with a summary of the mechanics of SEM-R and hopefully it will convince you of its merit~ not just with gifted children~ but with all children.

PHASE 1:
In phase one~ teachers provide book hooks to engage and excite students about reading and to expose them to a variety of genres and literary work. During the brief presentations~ teachers read a portion of a book with passion and excitement and utilize a particular reading skill as their focus (example: Id like you to pay attention to how the main character is portrayed and to think about some words to describe that character). Students can then check out books that interest them from the classroom or schools media center.

PHASE 2:
During phase two~ students independently read their chosen books~ recording their thoughts or answering questions in journals or other mediums selected by the teacher (remember~ SEM-R is a framework~ which means teachers can adjust the model to fit their needs and the needs of their students). At the same time~ teachers conduct individual conferences with students to check fluency~ comprehension~ and other skills and to assist the student in determining the appropriate challenge book.

PHASE 3:
In this phase~ students are provided choices for enrichment that further develop their reading~ writing~ and research skills. For instance~ a teacher might allow students to work in literature circles~ research historical information to better understand their chosen book~ or complete creativity exercises. Its also a time when students can dive into small group or individual research projects that involve studying a topic and developing a product for a particular audience. Maybe a student is reading about bridges and wants to try and design a working bridge that would be tested and demonstrated in front of classmates.

The three phases work together to increase a students reading ability as well as develop other related skills~ including research~ planning~ and self-regulation. In regards to scheduling~ SEM-R can be worked into existing reading blocks~ and teachers decide how much time to spend on any of the phases.

For more information~ visit www.gifted.uconn.edu/SEMR/
Wishing you success~
Steve