Rick Freeze, who specializes in special education at the U of M, developed the program he calls Precision Reading over the past 15 years by studying techniques that help struggling readers. The result is a pair of booklets, first published in 2001, with a second edition last year, outlining his reading program.
Precision Reading takes students out of the classroom for a minimal amount of time, it uses reading material from the student's grade level, and it's purpose is to make students successful at reading.
"It's built around the idea that what we need to do is help children to learn to love to read," says Freeze.
Students who are going through Precision Reading work on the program for five minutes per day, reading passages from their school texts that have been formatted for ease of reading. Reading each passage for 10 of the five-minute sessions, their mistakes and reading speed are charted and in each session they quickly review the words they had trouble with before.
"The students are active participants," says Lucienne Loiselle, a resource teacher at College Louis Riel who has been using Precision Reading with 25 high school students for the past two years. "They see the graph, they see their miscues and errors go down and their reading speed go up."
After 90 to 130 of these short sessions, the average student is able to improve his or her reading by two grade levels.
After working with several Winnipeg teachers over the past few years, Freeze will discuss the program's successes this summer at an international conference in London, England.
Much of the success, says Freeze, comes from focusing on what the children are accomplishing, rather than focusing on patterns of errors.
Many of the students who have used Precision Reading have been in elementary and junior high schools, says Freeze. The group at College Louis Riel showed that the approach works both with older students and in French.
Other schools have had success using the program with students affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, learning disabilities, poverty and family problems.