Archived Information

Tools for Schools - April 1998

Talent Development Middle School
Student Team Literature Program

What Is It?

The Talent Development Middle School Student Team Literature program is a model for teaching reading, English, and language arts in the middle school grades. It changes both the instructional processes and the curriculum in middle grades reading and language arts to create a motivational climate and to further students' reading comprehension and understanding of good literature.

The model couples a demanding, standards-driven curriculum provided to all students in 90 minute heterogeneous classes with an "double dose" computer-based reading/language arts curriculum for those students who need extra help to succeed in reading and language arts. The core Student Team Literature program includes:

Because of the challenging nature of the curriculum, many students need extra help to succeed. Students needing extra help receive an accelerated learning class in addition to their regular 1 hour reading and language arts class. The "double dose" class replaces an elective course or gym for at least one quarter of each year.

How Did It Get Started?

The Talent Development Middle School Student Team Literature program is the reading and language arts component of the Talent Development Middle School whole school reform model. It was first implemented in a Philadelphia middle school serving a significant number of students placed at risk in September 1995. The Student Team Literature program is an elaboration and adaptation of the Student Team Reading program, which provides greater variety in curricular materials, instructional practices and processes aimed at producing more higher level thinking, better comprehension, and preventing monotony. The program is designed to enact the philosophy that all students can learn challenging materials if the right types of supportive environments and conditions are fostered.

How Does It Work?

In the Student Team Literature program, reading instruction is meaningful because students read good literature of high interest to them. The teacher prepares the students to read the book by introducing the author and relevant background material, and introducing new vocabulary words. One of the distinctive features of a Student Team Literature class is the structured and systematic way students work together. Students work in cooperative learning teams of four to five students who represent the diversity spectrum of the class in terms of ethnicity, levels or achievement, and gender. They also work with partners, reading to each other, and assessing and supporting each others' learning. Specific activities that students engage in daily include the following.

Partner Reading and Discussion

Students read part of a book, first silently, than orally with partners. Oral and repeated reading practice is designed to build fluency, ease in decoding and comprehension. Through the use of partner guides, students are given challenging high-level questions that encourage them to think about and discuss analytically the material they have been reading.
 

Story Retelling and Story-Related Essay

At the end of a book, partners ask each other to summarize the story in their own words. Students are given prompts that require them to respond with a written essay to what they have read. These are followed by peer review, revision, editing and publication.
 

Direct Instruction by the Teacher

The Student Team Literature program also includes daily direct instruction on vocabulary, whole- class discussion of essential points from literature selections, and reading aloud by the teacher to build listening comprehension.
 

Computer and Team Assisted Reading, English and Language Arts Acceleration

Students needing extra help receive an accelerated learning class daily in addition to their regular Student Team Literature class. Because students only go to this class for one quarter of the year, large numbers of students in a school can be served each year. Computer and Team Assisted Reading, English and Language Arts Acceleration is not a pullout program so students do not miss the regular math class. It relies upon computer programs to provide targeted instruction to partners who take turns answering questions.

What Are The Costs?

Costs for Talent Development Student Team Literature program include the costs of novels (if a school is not already using good novels), the cost of the curriculum materials (ranging on average about $150 per classroom of 25 students) and the cost of professional development (average of 5 days per school per year at $800 per day).

The costs of running the Computer and Team Assisted Reading, English and Language Arts Acceleration classroom for 20 students includes the cost of 10 multi-media computers with CD Rom (about $2,000 each if the school does not already have these in a computer lab), the cost of software (about $500), and the cost of a teacher for the period. Professional development for Computer and Team Assisted Acceleration is usually conducted in conjunction with the Student Team Literature program professional development.

How Is The Model Implemented In A School?

Implementation of the Student Team Literature program begins with an initial 2 day professional development session in the summer before the program is implemented. Up to 5 days per year of professional development are delivered by Talent Development trainers on site to teachers at a school.

As the school or school district develops its own cadre of trainers, the training can be done by district or school staff. Modeling of practices by trainers, as well as follow-up coaching and mentoring throughout the year are also part of the implementation of the program. An effective strategy for Student Team Literature implementation is to engage staff of successful, experienced schools in training and follow up in new schools.

What Is The Evidence That The Model Is Successful?

Based on preliminary studies that control for prior reading achievement, students in Talent Development Middle School Student Team Literature program classes displayed significantly better reading comprehension after the first year of implementation. Although the impact of participating in the Student Team Literature program on students' reading comprehension is sizable for students across the entire prior achievement spectrum, students with the strongest prior reading skills especially benefit. In addition, peer assistance is more frequent and more productive in Student Team Literature classes than in comparison classes. These findings are based on studies conducted on 21 Talent Development Middle School Student Team Literature classes and 25 comparison classes in a closely matched control school.

Where Can I See It?

The Talent Development Student Team Literature program can be seen at several middle schools in Philadelphia. Contact the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk to learn about sites where the program is being implemented.

Whom Do I Contact?

Talent Development Middle School Student Team Literature Program
Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk
Johns Hopkins University
3003 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21218
Telephone: 410-516-8800; Fax: 410-516-8890
E-mail: dmaciver@scov.csos.jhu.edu; Website: http://scov.csos.jhu.edu/crespar/index.htm

The Research Base

The Talent Development Middle School Student Team Literature Program has been designed around existing research indicating that in order to create an environment in which every middle school student achieves a high level of intellectual proficiency, four aspects of the social organization of learning need to be improved: the curriculum, instructional and peer assistance strategies, assessment and professional development.

The Student Team Literature curriculum eschews tracking of students, and presents all students in the school with systematic and organized challenging material. The program draws on several instructional strategies that have shown promise in delivering high-level instruction to heterogeneous classrooms, including reciprocal teaching, class-wide peer tutoring, and several variations of cooperative learning. In assessment, the program has instituted a number of innovative classroom assessment approaches in which students provide each other with continual corrective feedback. The model's professional development approach involves all reading and language arts teachers in the school in a focused and collaborative effort to improve teaching and learning. Additionally, continual assistance and follow up is provided throughout the school year.
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