Episode 37 - Word Reading Instruction and Support for Struggling Readers with Katie Pace, Miles, PhD
About Katie Pace Miles, PhD
Katie Pace Miles, PhD, completed her doctorate in Educational Psychology: Learning, Development, and Instruction with a sub-specialization in Research on the Acquisition of Literacy with Dr. Linnea C. Ehri. In her tenure-track faculty line at Brooklyn College, Dr. Miles oversees the graduate and undergraduate development and teaching of literacy courses in the Early Childhood department. As a former early childhood/childhood teacher and learning specialist, she conducted reading and writing assessments of and interventions with students with literacy delays and disabilities. Dr. Miles worked closely with teachers, families, and school psychologists to support student progress.
[00:00:00] Danielle Scorrano: Welcome to READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast, and to remind our new READers and our old READers, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work insights and expertise about current research and best practices in the field of education and child development.
As you all know, I'm your host, Danielle Scorrano. I'm coming to you live with fall, back to school energy. I'm actually recording this episode on the first day of school. And there's truly nothing like the first day of school. I mean, there were smiling new faces. I must have met like five different students that I didn't know, and I'm not even in the classroom. But this back to school feels revitalizing, especially all that we've dealt with in the past couple of years, I am beyond lucky to be with a new colleague, a new friend, maybe with our back to school energy, we're now new classmates, New York city neighbor. I could go on, Dr. Katie Pace Miles. [00:01:00] Dr. Miles, welcome to the READ Podcast.
[00:01:03] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Danielle, I'm so thrilled to be here. That was the best intro I could have imagined on this exciting Thursday that is the first day of school in New York City thanks for having me. Yes. I have two kids. I was just talking about my older child's in first grade and it was back to school for her. So, what a day it is, what a day to be record.
[00:01:23] Danielle Scorrano: I know. What do you remember about your first days of school? Do you have any memorable moments?
[00:01:28] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: I do. I remember my parents making back to school a really big deal, and my grandparents would come over in the morning at a God awful time in the morning and they would be hanging out and waiting for us to get dressed. And it was this big thing about us putting on our new school clothes. As a parent, I really appreciate the formality, the enthusiasm, the importance that was put on this moment of going back to school. I love that I have similar memories.
[00:01:59] Danielle Scorrano: We had [00:02:00] officially met over the summer. I think we talked for well over an hour, and I have to say that speaking of the school theme again, if we had been classmates in school, I would want you as a group member in the group project. I mean, I learned so much from you and it's just been an exciting, I know you've had an exciting end of summer start to the school year. And I want to talk a little bit more about that and your background, but first I'd like to introduce you to our READ listeners.
[00:02:26] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Oh, that's so nice. I'd love to have you at my sitting at my table in first grade, too, Danielle. I think that'd be so fun.
[00:02:31] Danielle Scorrano: Yeah. Let me officially introduce you to our READ listeners who know you and are just being introduced to you during this podcast. So Dr. Katie Pace Miles completed her doctorate in educational psychology, learning development and instruction with a subspecialization in research on the acquisition of literacy with Dr. Linnea Ehri. Now this episode is releasing actually in October for Dyslexia Awareness Month and reading and literacy is something that's so important for the Windward Institute. I'm excited to [00:03:00] talk to you about that. So in Dr. Miles's tenure track faculty line at Brooklyn College, she oversees the graduate and undergraduate development and teaching of literacy courses in the early childhood department. As a former early childhood and childhood teacher and learning specialist, she conducted reading and writing assessments of and interventions with students with literacy delays and disabilities. She worked closely with teachers, families, and school psychologists to support student progress. Now there's so much that we're going to talk about to our READ listeners in terms of your work, Dr. Miles, and research, education, and advocacy in New York City and truly beyond. So I'd like to start with your story and your background. Tell me this through line how you got to where you are today, professionally and personally.
[00:03:45] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Great. So, I was actually fighting, resisting, becoming a teacher. I always like to mention that I knew that it was something I should check in with myself when I was in college, but I kept saying, oh, I'm going to become this, that or the other thing. And I wound up reading the book, Savage [00:04:00] Inequalities, and that's the book that really changed my trajectory. So I read that and I said, no, you know what, I'm going follow this path. And at the same time, I wound up with a part-time job tutoring in college and I thought it was amazing. I taught a young child how to read, and that was my first entry into education. And from there I went on, I was trained as a second grade teacher and then I taught kindergarten and third grade and wound up as a learning specialist for grades three through five.
While I was doing that, I started as a learning specialist. I started working on my master's and I went into educational psychology instead of going in and getting a master's in education. And that's because I became obsessed with how children develop the ability to read. And at the time I was really interested in what goes right and what doesn't, what isn't clicking for some kiddos. And I really couldn't explain it more than that in that moment. When I was learning specialist for grade three through five, [00:05:00] my caseload was full of students who I think the majority of them wound up being like curriculum casualties. They just didn't get the instruction they needed at the point in time that they needed it. And then they were put on this path where they needed separate instruction from a specialist, when really they just needed high quality tier one instruction. There were students who were diagnosed with reading disabilities and those students were able to get the interventions they needed. From there. I wound up seeking out Dr. Linnea Ehri's research, and I was very fortunate to get a fellowship to work with her for my PhD. And it was the most incredible career move ever. It was amazing.
[00:05:38] Danielle Scorrano: So you are working with these students and then all of a sudden you're like, I just need to learn more from Linnea Ehri. Like how did that work to get into the research realm and the way that you are now?
[00:05:48] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Yeah. So while I was in my master's, we were doing some projects where we could pick a topic and then seek out the research on that. No one really guided me to Linnea's work. I just started going down a [00:06:00] rabbit hole as so many of us who are passionate about the development of literacy do. I started going down a rabbit hole and eventually found to work. Now I have to say this is years before what's happening now with Emily Hanford and Facebook. And so all of this social media around it, I kind of stumbled into what is known as the science of reading. And it really resonated with me.
I had been trained in a let's just say non-science of reading curriculum that I needed to implement. But when I was a specialist, I was using all what are now considered research based science based approaches without me really even knowing that I was aligned. So when I came upon Linnea's work, I said, this is exactly what I've been waiting for and what I needed. I wound up applying and then having some conversations with Linnea, and again was just really fortunate to wind up with a fellowship. I was out in Colorado, too, I'm from the east coast, but I was out in Colorado. And so when I received this fellowship, it [00:07:00] was a major life changing moment where I had to move with my husband, we came to New York so I could work with Linnea.
[00:07:08] Danielle Scorrano: That's really interesting. And so I love how you talked about your early career and how it influenced you. And then when you came upon the science of reading, I love what you said too about when you were working with students, you saw what work that clicked and what didn't click, and then unfortunately seeing these kids that were the curriculum casualties, right. I love to highlight some of those things that you said. And so now that you're here in your work as Dr. Miles, what is the primary focus of the research that you're doing and how does this research intersect with classroom practice?
[00:07:44] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: So the primary focus of my research has been on the instructional application of Dr. Linnea Ehri's theory of orthographic mapping. I'm really interested in translating that theory into practice [00:08:00] as widely as we can, and to come up with evidence based approaches for it's primarily catered to and so I've done some work, I've run some experiments where I applied this to high frequency words. We analyzed how best to go about learning of high frequency words. We had some interesting findings there, and I also do a lot of intervention work now where I've looked at intervention programs. I also wrote an intervention program where the theory of orthographic mapping is the north star, as I would say.
And while that's the north star, in one of the programs I'm primarily focused on, ensuring students have this lift off into word reading through word analysis and whatnot, the other program needs to be more extensive. But I want to make sure and by more extensive, I mean that it interweaves the five essential components of literacy, but I want to make sure that orthographic mapping again is our guiding light. We're making sure that that's a through line in the intervention [00:09:00] program.
[00:09:00] Danielle Scorrano: Hmm. And I want to get to, I want us to break down what orthographic mapping is and you talked about high frequency words and for our readers at that point, I think they should have some notebooks to write down some notes as we're learning from you. But I want to start with our why and the reason why is because I've been reading a lot about, obviously you talked about the social media and a lot of the work from Emily Hanford, and from the scientific community at large, truly for decades, right has pushed the science of reading for a reason. And the reason is, is getting back to supporting the students and particularly the students that need this type of instruction most, the research based instruction. And I say this because, you know, we are releasing this podcast during dyslexia awareness month in October. And this extends beyond students with the dyslexia, students that are struggling readers that may not be diagnosed with dyslexia ,students from vulnerable populations, the students that you work with. And [00:10:00] you are professor, you are a neighbor in New York City. You've done extensive work supporting struggling readers and teachers throughout New York. And I want to start by highlighting the why focusing on New York City DOE. We know that the DOE has reached national news among other cities and I think recently San Francisco in reading discourse for its push to comprehensively address reading education in the city, supporting children with dyslexia and other vulnerable learners.
And I was just reading an article. That was published September 1st, the New Yorker article. I'm sure you read it as well that even quoted that as of 2019, 47% of the city students in grade three through eight were considered proficient in reading, according to these state exams, and that only 35% of black students, and less than 37% of Hispanic students were proficient in reading.
So that's starting with our why, that we're not reaching every kid. And so I want to start with the work that you've been doing in New York City, like Reading Ready and Reading Rescue. What is that type of work [00:11:00] that you've been doing to support our struggling readers?
[00:11:02] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Sure. Yes, and Danielle, I just want to say those statistics, we just all have to refuse to accept that those statistics are sufficient for a long time in the city. Those numbers would come out and that we just keep going along without changing our methods without getting rid of the curriculum that wasn't working for certain populations of students and is truly unacceptable. So thank you for mentioning that. I'd love to tell you about the work that we've been doing during COVID. So in the fall of 2020, I wound up going, back into the semester with my students and they had 30 hours of field work that they needed to complete on the development of literacy. I also, I live in Brooklyn and there were students all over New York City whose school buildings had been closed and were continued to be closed whose teachers were totally overwhelmed with trying to figure out in person and remote instruction.
There was [00:12:00] simply not enough supports for these emergent readers. As someone who knows the development of literacy, the way I do and the way my colleagues do it was again, an unacceptable situation. These students needed more support. What I could do to help out was I trained all of the students who were enrolled in my grad and undergrad courses at Brooklyn college in a program that is evidence based it's an intervention program called Reading Rescue. It's been used around New York city for quite some time. We trained up the students at the university. We sent them a box of materials. We gave them 12 hours of training, and then I worked closely with my colleague at DOE central Andrew Fletcher, who helped us pair these university students with striving first and second grade readers in a high need school and underserved school in New York City.
These were schools that have high economic need and low ELA proficiency scores. These are, we worked with families, predominantly students in [00:13:00] families who overwhelmingly would not have been able to afford a private tutor. What was also going on during COVID was that families who could afford it were hiring private pod teachers, private tutors paying for private school, if they can. And I don't disparage any of that. I just wanted to acknowledge though that we could not have this inequity can be exacerbated during COVID in the way that it was. And so we did all of this tutoring remotely. These university students were providing these free tutoring sessions three to five days a week. That means it was high dosage using it in evidence based program. They, the university students were getting really good training on how to actually implement research based methods. And the students were getting and the families were getting what they needed. So we started that in the fall of 2020, and I just thought it was gonna be part of my coursework and it was beautiful and it was a real [00:14:00] coming together.
Our CUNY students come from many of these schools that we were serving. And so they felt really passionate about doing this work and giving back then the program wound up growing and, uh, CUNY central university Dean Ashleigh Thompson said we could expand this to more pre-service teachers.
And so just last year we wound up growing the program to the point where we trained 650 pre-service teachers. Those are university students enrolled in a school of education. We trained them in either reading rescue or a program that I wrote called reading ready. We give all the programs out for free. We do all of this service for free through grant work and we wound up serving 650 pre-service teachers. We wound up serving over a thousand New York city students from underserved communities.
[00:14:53] Danielle Scorrano: Wow.
And it's been incredible. We're going to grow the initiative this year to 800 pre-service teachers, because we just see the [00:15:00] value for the pre-service teachers and we're going to try and serve over 2000 students this coming school year. Schools have been really receptive to the work.
So I want to go back to 2020 and what you've done here is amazing. And so we're thinking even pre pandemic, the literacy rates being unacceptable and the pandemic happens. What was your rationale in using this research based program with your pre-service students two to three times a week? Why two to three times a week? What were the benefits and using that rationale, and what benefits did you get then using the pre-service university students pairing them with these elementary first and second grade students in New York city schools?
[00:15:44] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Sure. So the benefits of high dosage tutoring, meaning that the tutoring is received by the students three to five days a week. That is an evidence base that has been built up there that it's not just tutoring once a week. That moves the [00:16:00] needles for striving emergent readers. It has to be high dosage, and that takes a real commitment from the tutor. That's very difficult to schedule. And what we did is we just broke out of the preexisting notions of what field work needed to look like in the university setting. So those of us who are teachers we've all done field work as part of a course. And you might have gone into a school. You might have sat in the back of the classroom, observed a child. You might have done a read aloud or whatnot. In COVID, everything was so urgent. There was no time to be wasted. And we all know it was all hands on deck in education.
And I felt like I was looking through a zoom at all of these individuals that had skills that needed to be improved. And simultaneously they had a skillset that could be leveraged to support students in our communities around Brooklyn and elsewhere in New York city. And it was just the coming together of those [00:17:00] two things. Wait, I could improve outcomes for pre-service teachers and grow the field that way. That's what I do it as a professor in the schools of education I'm trying to build capacity and improve skill sets of our future teachers. But at the same time I could go in and support students one on one instead of just having, university students watch videos during COVID because we're accepting university students into their zoom rooms or whatnot. So there was a lot of video watching for pre-service teachers. That was the best many of us could do. I just made this opportunity that I was able to find a way to do this other and leverage the field work in a different. I think it's paved a way forward for not just my courses, but some other courses at CUNY and at other universities who are now replicating this model of taking interventions and training their university students in it, and then executing in their communities.
[00:17:59] Danielle Scorrano: I love that. And [00:18:00] I there's been quite a few episodes. I've recorded one with Dr. Louise Spear-Swerling, talking about that importance of the field work with evidence-based programs. And when you talk about evidence-based interventions, anyone who's listened to this podcast and have read your work is familiar with those components of interventions, but I'd like to just focus more on the orthographic mapping piece. You talked about it at the beginning of this podcast, and I remember watching you in preparing for this interview, I watched you on a recent webinar. I think you recorded it this year, where you said that it may appear that our children learn whole words, but that is not true. And despite all the work and the research that's being put into this and how much it's being reported, I think it's still valid and still, there's such a value in continuing to explain why children don't learn whole words and how they actually learn to read. And [00:19:00] so I want to actually talk about the way that children learn to read by understanding your work on orthographic mapping. So what do you mean when you talk about orthographic mapping?
So all the credit for orthographic mapping goes to Dr. Linnea Ehri, she's the theorist behind orthographic mapping. And she has decades of research that demonstrated, and that actually fed this theory and what she found over years, decades. And what other researchers then were able to replicate was that students most effectively learned new words when they were analyzing letter sound relationships in the words and when the meaning of the word was also available. So orthographic mapping is the process of securely storing words in memory, by bonding the spelling, pronunciation, and meaning of specific words.
[00:19:55] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: So you're analyzing that specific word. It may take [00:20:00] multiple exposures until amalgamous as Ehri talks about it, as at this amalgam is stored and students will need varying amounts of exposures, right? So some students may need, this is David Share's, self teaching hypothesis. Some students may need four interactions for exposures to that word. Other students who we've all worked with may need 50 exposures to that word before it is securely stored in memory. And when Dr. Ehri explains securely stored in memory, what she means by that is that.
At some point you see the word and the word is automatically retrieved that amalgam is there and ready to be used. It's automatically retrieved so that you say the word. You see it and you say the word. So I actually think it's quite understandable where the confusion has come in, where practitioners think individuals read or we learn best when we memorize whole word, because it looks like proficient [00:21:00] readers are reading whole words that they have memorized.
But eye tracking research, incredible research by Dr. Stanley Dehaene has showed that we actually parallel process as proficient word reading. We parallel process all of the letters in the word. And that's what we're lifting off, but we're, we are attending to all the letters in the word. That's how we know that the word slim is different than the word slit or something where there's a one letter difference in the word it's because we are paying attention to all those letter sound relationships.
[00:21:35] Danielle Scorrano: Yeah. So when you talk about letter sound relationships, and again, with words, what are the skills that students need to be able to do to enact this orthographic mapping on the word level?
[00:21:47] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: So this actually takes in the emergent literacy years. So I'm talking, pre-K to second grade, even before students are informal pre-K, even before they're in the enrolled in a four year old [00:22:00] preschool program, there needs to be lots of work with phonological awareness to the point where then they're using their phonemic awareness skills. So orthographic mapping is reliant upon students, phoneme segmentation skills, as well as their letter sound skills. So that's just not alphabet knowledge- alphabet knowledge, as you know, that A makes these sounds and B makes those sounds. English, as you know, it has a sophisticated orthography where different combinations of letters also make one sound or whatnot and so you need extensive phonics knowledge in order to be successful with orthographic mapping, and then you can never neglect the meaning part of this especially if you're working with emergent bilinguals, second language learners of English. You have to make sure that the students have meaning context for that word. Is that a word where the meaning is held within it? Like it is a content word, like the word house, or is it a function word where [00:23:00] its syntactical use is really important to storing that word in memory? Like the word up. That's a part of this as well, right?
[00:23:08] Danielle Scorrano: So to clarify, if I'm thinking about I'm the teacher in the classroom, my students need to know their letter sounds. They need to know how they operate and say like word parts, like syllables and then. Bringing in that mapping those syllables into a word are also important in terms of like phonics and understanding word, meaning as it's placed syntactically in language is also important.
[00:23:31] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: That's right. Great summary. And I forgot one though. That was three, but there's a fourth one, which is that you need multiple opportunities to analyze that specific word. So this sometimes gets confused with, you already mentioned letter sound knowledge. Yes. You can have general phonics letter sound knowledge. We in research, we call it graphing phoneme correspondence knowledge, but that will only get you so far in spelling the word rain. Rain could [00:24:00] be spelled R A N E. It could be spelled R A Y N or it could be spelled the way it's spelled R a I N. So phonics knowledge gives you, and I could go on with different ways to spell long a but phonics knowledge gives you these options. It's orthographic mapping of that word. So it's this moment when you spend time analyzing that individual word, that's another part of what's needed in order to do the larger concept of orthographically mapping words.
[00:24:29] Danielle Scorrano: Mm it's so fascinating. I love to think about in my head right now, I can think of like all these different ways to spell rain, for example. It's just so interesting to study. You talked about misconceptions of children reading is this whole word reading. We know that's not true when it comes to orthographic mapping and its implications for instruction. What are some top misconceptions that you see researchers or even educators, families making when they think of something like orthographic mapping?[00:25:00]
[00:25:00] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: I think when people learn about orthographic mapping, there's an assumption phonics in and of itself will cure, solve, mitigate, it's what you know is needed to solve all of our literacy problems or whatnot, or that is what we'll do it for emergent reader. And while of course, a phonics program, really strong phonics program, which I'm very excited that New York city is moving in this direction, while that's an important part it is not going to address everything that needs to be addressed when it comes to the development of literacy. The development of literacy is very sophisticated, very complex. And so phonics is one part of the orthographic mapping situation that we need to deal with. There are other things that need to come into play.
Each phonics program needs to be critiqued for how well it [00:26:00] supports orthographic mapping. Again, I said like just learning letter sound relationships in and of themselves, may not be enough for a lot of students to actually automatize large corpuses of words. Once you automatize a large corpus of words, then you're able to read more fluently when you're able to read more fluently.
It leads to stronger comprehension, but all the way along there too, we could spend all this time just talking about comprehension and what is needed from the field of reading science to support comprehension. So I think the orthographic mapping is critical to understanding emergent word reading. Emergent word reading is one part of a very large puzzle.
[00:26:42] Danielle Scorrano: Right! I mean, I'm a big advocate. I was trying to think of a richer word to talk about the level of advocacy and how passionate I feel about how reading instruction also needs to be language rich. I think we talked about this in our meeting about a month ago, about how we often underestimate [00:27:00] the power of language, not just like oral language or even written language, the instructional language that a teacher is using, right? If a teacher has difficulty understanding the implications of orthographic mapping or helping children even break down the letter sound knowledge and provide the feedback and the questioning, you need someone who is trained to deliver a type of program like that as you are doing with the countless pre-service teachers that you're working with in the intervention program.
[00:27:31] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Absolutely, training is so important. Fidelity checking. We do all kinds of fidelity checking with our pre-service teachers. We provide all kinds of opportunity for feedback. And that's the same thing with in-service teachers who are new to learning about orthographic mapping to new program implementation. Absolutely. That is a huge part of it. You mentioned language. Instruction. And I just want to say one of the things about English is that it's a morphophonemic [00:28:00] language, and that oftentimes once we learn about, we get excited about orthographic mapping and we should be very excited about it and we get phonics going. We have to also critique our programs to say, well, are they addressing morphology? Are they acknowledging the morpho phonemic connections between words that emergent readers are learning? And how can we leverage morphology to expand vocabulary for emergent readers?
[00:28:28] Danielle Scorrano: Yeah, absolutely. So it requires this all encompassing, integrated approach. Speaking of morphology, I know you've done a lot of work with high frequency word lists. I found some of your research through some of the collaborative work you've done with Dr. Devin Kearns, who's a long time friend of Windward as well. So when you think of something like the Dolsh and Frey or high frequency word lists, you mentioned function versus content words. What's the use of these types of word lists for teachers?
[00:28:58] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: These types of word lists, just a [00:29:00] shout out to Devin, he's amazing. Devin's just so incredible. And he's done wonderful analyses and he's supported me in my interests on analyzing high frequency word lists. The value of these high frequency word lists are that they are putting together a list of words that students are going to come in contact with while they're reading texts. Most often, that was the purpose of these lists back in the day. They are truly what what it says, high frequency. That means you're going to see these words a lot. And it's just a list of words. These lists of words were never really intended for instruction in the way that they're being used or at least like way back in the day- this idea that we would be having emergent readers memorize these lists of words, and we would that we would be memorizing them in the order it's they're appearing.
My advice for, and again, I work primarily with kindergarten to second grade teachers. My advice is break out of [00:30:00] the constraints that you feel with these lists, take these lists and bucket the words into, these words have letter sound relationships that I've already taught, or the students mastered in the previous year. Those are all words that are now decodable for for my students, they can decode, they can segment out the sounds and blend those words back together. These words have letter sound relationships that I still need to teach, but once I teach them these words are decodable. And then there will be words that are permanently irregularly spelled. And you should also analyze those words, but that is not the majority of the list of words. Devin and I were looking at a subset of high frequency word lists, and we found it was about 16%, but I've learned even more since I did. I ran that analysis, and when you teach more phonetic elements, The subset of words that are permanently irregularly spelled becomes a [00:31:00] lot less, it becomes smaller.
And so I'm working, um, with Denise Eide who has done a lot of work on the logic of English, that's her, her book, and her company's called Logic of English where she's analyzed these high frequency word lists and says, in fact, 98-99% of the words on these lists are regularly spelled or decodable if you know all of the rules. I do want say, I think teachers may or may not want all of the knowledge or teach all of the knowledge that gets you to that 98-99%. But it's important to acknowledge that knowledge is available. And it's important for teachers to not think of all of these words as we have to memorize them all.
[00:31:42] Danielle Scorrano: And I think it's interesting what you're talking about because when we think of these high frequency word lists, again, they are a resource that are available to teachers. But you're speaking, I think to the importance of the systematic teaching of English, right? When you look at these words [00:32:00] and they're may not be in the, or I haven't seen them recently, but I don't know what order it is or at any type of word list, that if you are actually decoding these words, there's a system and there's a rule that's governing our language. English is a rule governing language. And you talked about how when you analyze these words, 16% of them are irregular. That means that 84% of the words that are on these high frequency words lists have a regular pattern that you can decode these words.
And I'm getting excited because I think I told you this last month when I was teaching a few years ago, I was teaching fifth grade and I went to an IDA conference, International Dyslexia Association conference. And I heard that statistic and I, of course, was the quirky research loving teacher that went back to my students and probably did some sort of like proportions showing them that 84% of words in these wordless were found to be regular. And that I think was empowering to me as a teacher to think, okay, I need to make sure that [00:33:00] I'm teaching these types of rules, because if the students are learning the systematic way of decoding English, they can become much more proficient in again, the orthographic mapping of words. And so then as you are talking about the systematic code, how should educators then approach the regularity of language in its rules? Should we be, so I guess you talked about it, but should we be so curious in the way that we're approaching language? What resources are needed then for teachers to understand the way of teaching language in this way?
[00:33:29] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: I love this question. I think it's very important for teachers who are working with emergent readers or older striving readers, or striving readers at any age to become inquisitive about the English language.
And I want to be careful here because while there are researchers who believe that all of the English rule based knowledge that the teacher acquires needs to be translated to the child who's learning. I think that there's a developmental [00:34:00] point at which you can transfer all of this knowledge, but I know personally, and I know with my graduate students, that as soon as they start receiving some of this information about the regularity of English beyond, you know, the typical these letters make these sounds, their whole approach to teaching word reading changes. They are so much more inclined when a student is struggling with a word to tell the child, let's take a look at that word. Let's look to see what letter sound relationships we see. Oh, did you know that this group of letters makes this sound? And it's not that we need to blow out our phonics curriculum to a point where it feels unbearable. We do need to critique our phonics curriculum to make sure that it is encompassing enough to have robust, decoding supports built into it. We do need to rethink how these high frequency words are not a protected class of words that [00:35:00] need to be other than our phonics curriculum. And we even need to take those permanently irregularly spelled word and analyze the reliable letter sound relationships in those words. So I do think for teachers, you don't need to take a linguistics course either, I don't want anything to feel daunting for teachers right now. They've gone through so much with it. They're amazing. Everyone who is teaching in a classroom right now is absolutely, absolutely heroic with coming back and serving students. So I don't want them to feel this burden. I want them to be excited that it actually will translate into stronger word reading skills for your students and fun with word work, for sure. . And I just think a more enjoyment in the classroom around reading.
[00:35:47] Danielle Scorrano: Yeah. I appreciate you saying that. I think really it's about empowering teachers you're write, word work can be fun and also empowering them with the resources, the training and the knowledge [00:36:00] that they can go back and say, okay, here's the systematic way that we can teach these words to our students and showing them how that can be sequenced.
I mean, we use the term ESSLI at The Windward Institute, explicit, systematic, sequential literacy instruction. The sequence and the systematic piece of it are really important.
[00:36:20] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Definitely.
[00:36:21] Danielle Scorrano: I love getting really into the nitty gritty and then communicating it in a way that people can under like how we, what does that look like in the classroom? That's really fascinating.
[00:36:30] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: That's right.
[00:36:30] Danielle Scorrano: I know we're almost out of time. We're nearly out of time, but I have to ask you, in summarizing your work and your career, what are a couple of things that you'd like to leave people with? What do you wish more people knew or what is your hope in the opportunity that lies ahead for supporting readers in New York, as well as truly all readers across the country and the world? Maybe we won't get into the world. We don't have enough time, but maybe New York in looking at your work, New York City and beyond.
[00:36:56] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: I'm really excited about what's happening in New York City right now. [00:37:00] I'm energized by it.. I know that it's going to be an uphill climb, but I think we are perfectly positioned to do this. It is overdue. And so I would actually just leave by thanking the teachers who are on the front lines of doing this work, who are going in and being retrained. I want to give a shout out to the teachers who knew all along that the program they were using wasn't effective and no one was really listening to those teacher. I just want to give them a shout out. I've talked to many of those teachers over the years. I want to also state what I mentioned earlier, which is that teaching a child how to read, especially in the emergent years, or if it's a striving older reader is complex and it takes a level of sophisticated knowledge of the tutor or the instructor that I think is often unacknowledged [00:38:00] by people who want to simplify the work that we do. I think there are policies that come along and for those of us who actually sit with children and teach them how to read, this is so complex. It is so idiosyncratic to the skillset that that child is bringing to you and the skillset that you have and the interaction with the program that's in front of you.
And so we in the research, we call them student by treatment interactions. There's also instructor by treatment by student interactions. And that is something teachers experience every single day and they make these micro adjustments in the moment. They're absolutely brilliant. And I believe that is the important work that I think often goes unacknowledged. And so I just, I love that. I just wanna give a shout out to all of the instructors out there.
[00:38:53] Danielle Scorrano: I love that. That's such a great, powerful way to end this episode, Dr. Katie Pace Miles. Last final question. [00:39:00] Where can we learn more from you? How can we learn more from your work? How can we learn about all the work that you're doing in New York city and beyond?
[00:39:08] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Oh, that's so nice you're asking. I will be giving more talks at conferences coming up. So I'll be talking at some conferences that I can share with you, Danielle. Also, I want to let you know that I opened up some new coursework at Brooklyn College, and so I just developed a course, actually in partnership with AIM Institute on reading intervention. So I've been doing all of this work during COVID on reading interventions, and I'm really proud that we're able to put this coursework forward and we even have some scholarships for teachers to come and do the coursework. So I would love to have more students over in my courses that would be the best way to be in touch.
And other than that, I also have a website that I promise I will be better at updating with talks and things like that. So you can find me at katiepacemilesphd.com.
[00:39:57] Danielle Scorrano: I love it. You are just full of resources and you know what? [00:40:00] I'm no longer a colleague. I'm going to be a student. I love to learn from you more.
[00:40:03] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: Oh, I'd love to have you in class. Oh my gosh. We, Danielle, we could co-teach it that's.
[00:40:08] Danielle Scorrano: I would, no, I would be asking, I'd be the person in like the front row or in the zoom, like constantly with my hand up. So I'll try not to monopolize the conversation and the questions.
[00:40:17] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: It would be awesome. I would love it.
[00:40:19] Danielle Scorrano: Dr. Miles, thank you so much for being on the READ Podcast.
[00:40:22] Dr. Katie Pace Miles: This has been such a pleasure and an honor to be a part of your podcast. Thank you for the opportunity.
[00:40:28] Danielle Scorrano: Thank you.
Katie Pace Miles, PhD, joins the READ Podcast to discuss the foundations of word level reading instruction. Dr. Miles explains orthographic mapping, a fundamental strategy for literacy development, in which readers map out letter patterns, sounds, spelling, and meaning to learn words. She discusses the essential building blocks for orthographic mapping, demonstrating to READers that children do not learn to read by memorizing whole words. Dr. Miles discusses her current work of training pre-service teachers to deliver high-quality interventions to struggling readers in New York City. This episode is timely for Dyslexia Awareness Month as Dr. Miles discusses essential instructional practices to support students with dyslexia that are effective for all emerging readers.
Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.”
1. Orthographic Mapping
Listen to 19:07 – 21:35 to learn more.
Orthographic mapping involves the mapping out of letter patterns and sounds, spelling, and meaning to learn words. Orthographic mapping enables readers to secure newly learned words into memory to build automaticity.
Did you know? The root, ortho- means correct and -graphy means process of writing.
Orthographic mapping is not whole word reading. Whole word reading is NOT the way children’s brains learn to read.
“I actually think it's quite understandable where the confusion has come in – where practitioners think individuals read or we learn best when we memorize whole words – because it looks like proficient readers are reading whole words that they have memorized… But we are actually paying attention to all the letters in a word and the letter sound relationships.”
2. Skills needed for orthographic mapping
Listen to 21:40 – 24:29 to learn more.
Students need multiple exposures using explicit, systematic instruction to use orthographic mapping in order to build automaticity, and the number of exposures differs based on the child.
“English has a sophisticated orthography where different combinations of letters can make one sound, and so you need extensive phonics knowledge in order to be successful with orthographic mapping.”
To build word reading automaticity, emergent readers need the knowledge and skills in phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, letter-sound relationships, and phoneme segmentation.
Read more about orthographic mapping:
Orthographic Mapping Facilitates Sights Word Memory
Miles, K. P., & Ehri, L. C. (2019)
Reading development and difficulties: Bridging the gap between research and practice (pp. 63-82)
3. Intervention work in New York City
Listen to 11:27 – 15:05 to learn more.
As the pandemic unfolded, Dr. Miles sought to address the needs of preservice teachers and students in local communities who were not receiving enough literacy support.
“There were simply not enough supports for these emergent readers. As someone who knows the development of literacy the way I do and the way my colleagues do, it was an unacceptable situation.”
Dr. Miles aligned her university field work programs with high frequency remote tutoring to ensure preservice teachers received training in evidence-based interventions, and the participating emerging readers received these interventions to build their literacy skills.
“I felt like I was looking through a zoom at all these individuals that had skills that needed to be improved. And simultaneously they had a skillset that could be leveraged to support students in our communities around Brooklyn and elsewhere in New York City.”
Since the program began, Dr. Miles and her team have worked with 650 preservice teachers and over 1,000 students in underserved communities throughout New York City. This year, their goal is to serve over 800 teachers and 2,000 students.
“We broke out of the preexisting notions of what field work needed to look like in the university setting.”
Learn more from Dr. Katie Pace Miles Connect with Dr. Miles on Twitter
Learn more about word level reading instruction from past READ experts:
Episode 28 with Dr. Louise-Spear Swerling Episode 34 with Dr. Carolyn Strom
Or, download READ Podcast using your favorite podcast platform with direct links below:
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READ Podcast is produced by The Windward School and The Windward Institute. READ is hosted by Danielle Scorrano.
About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.
Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests and does not constitute an endorsement by The Windward Institute or The Windward School.