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Frequently Asked Questions about Cracking the Code (CTC)
By Rick McAtee, Developer of Cracking the Code
Are there any reading recommendations that accompany the materials? If not, how is additional practice accomplished?
CTC includes four books that tell a story about why those combinations exist in our language. These books are written at a 5th grade readability level. Students are asked to read them fluently (requires multiple readings of the same material) so they can be read correctly for younger children. This can be done by recording the books on a CD and sending the book and CD home with a child. Our website explains how this was done with inmates.
CTC recommends independent reading take place on a daily basis to allow the students to come across words that have the combinations they are learning. This can be done by using the newspaper, magazines, leveled books, or the books included with CTC intervention. The additional practice is also built into the program in section B. Other books would be books that are written on or below their reading level. Since this is independent reading, they need to be able to successfully read the story. Fluency is built through reading material over and over. A plan for why they should reread is critical.
CTC doesn’t approach the pronunciation of words until the middle of the program - What are the reasons for this?
CTC does not ask readers to pronounce words until they reach the “R” level for two reasons:
CTC is an intervention program, intended to help students who have been taught phonics, but are unable to apply what they have learned. CTC is not intended to be used in isolation. It is targeted to help the reader who is spending so much time decoding that they are unable to comprehend and to help the reader break the habit of looking at one letter, one sound. It directs them to look at the word and find the correct combinations of letters to use when pronouncing the unknown word. It also gives students confidence by allowing them to successfully decode quickly and correctly. That is why the program is designed for grades 3 and above. It is not meant to be the first introduction to phonics. CTC should only be used once students have been taught letters and sounds.
How does CTC work for students who have dyslexia?
The recommendations from various institutes and centers for Dyslexia outline an appropriate treatment plan to help with a reading deficit. The treatment plan should include the following:
· Focus on strengthening the weakness while utilizing the strengths: CTC begins with using the student’s priorknowledge to build student confidence and belief in their ability to succeed. For most students with dyslexreading is perceived as frustrating and unattainable. Additionally, the language and patterns used throughout the program are consistent, allowing the students to experience success from the beginning and maintain that success all the way through the program.
· Use a systematic approach to phonics: CTC is a systematic and intentional approach to help students use thephonics information they have previously learned but are unable to apply. CTC replaces the need toremember various exceptions to rules with an order that remains constant and identifies, without exceptions,the correct way to decode unknown words.
·An approach designed to help all senses work together efficiently and that requires the reader to hear, see, say and do something: This is the direct approach used by CTC. The instructor models by telling and showing the patterns, students identify the patterns and then mark the patterns in the words to demonstrate their understanding. In addition this approach is done whole group, small group and then independently.
· The reader needs to be taught compensation and coping skills: CTC provides the reader with a tool that allows them to decode unknown words and also to spell words. The system gives them a method that allows them to mark words they are trying to write to determine if they are spelled correctly. They are able to visually determine if the sound they are trying to produce is represented by the letters they used.
How does CTC address the five components of literacy?
Research has identified five components that must be taught and mastered for students to become successful readers. Many schools are now purchasing only those programs that contain the five components. The research is also clear that when students are identified as having difficulty with one of the components, intervention is required to explicitly address that component. The intervention needs to be direct, assessed throughout the intervention to show it is working and delivered in 12 weeks. Cracking the Code meets those requirements and is an intervention for the phonics component for older students. These students have low tests scores in comprehension. For many, this low score is the direct result of being unable to read the words due to an issue with decoding. (See the study by Dr. Brunderman, Cracking the Code: Decoding Really Does Influence Comprehension) Cracking the Code supports the current reading program by targeting and remediating the identified weakness.
What are the applications to the ELL learner?
Advanced beginners and intermediate level ELL students benefit from CTC because it teaches them, up front, what to look for as they begin to read the English language. The time involved is longer for the high beginning level. We have found it takes an additional 3-4 weeks to complete. For the advanced groups, we have found they are finished in 10 weeks.
How is CTC used differently with adult students?
It is recommended that adults be told exactly what will be done throughout the program. One way to do this would be as follows:
“This program is designed to help you decode any unknown word you encounter when reading. To be successful, you will need to complete 12 levels. Each level will give you a letter combination to look for and a marking pattern to use to mark the word. The beginning levels will be a review of what you already know. The remaining levels will be new information that you must know. Think of it as a video game. You must successfully complete each level to move forward and you will need to use the information from the previous level to complete the next level.”
Older readers tend to move through the program in less time. They do not need to meet 4 times a week but can do it in 2 sessions a week. Each session would cover 2 lessons.
What students have the most success with CTC?
The students who have the most success with CTC are older students who have a good speaking vocabulary but are reading two or more years below grade level. They have learned many sight words, but when they come across a word they don't know, they simply skip it. They also will take a great deal of time to read a passage and when they have finished, they are unable to tell you what they read. Yet, if you read the same passage to them, they can give you the answers to the questions. In addition to the large discrepancy in oral vocabulary versus reading vocabulary is their inability to spell words correctly. They do not know what to do with the word when they are told it is incorrect. Most will avoid writing altogether or copy what they see. We have found as these types of students progress through the grades, the discrepancy becomes more dramatic. Students in grades 3 and 4 benefit from the program because it prevents what would be a serious deficit later on in school. The data from Shakopee Jr. High shows how the program raised the word recognition/vocabulary scores of students who were identified as more than 2 years below grade level, advanced beginners or intermediate ELL, Special Ed - IQ above 80, autistic, ADD/ADHD, and various speech and language issues.
It is recommended that students use CTC for 30 minutes, 4-5 days a week. Since Adult Ed programs do not meet that often, what is recommended for these students?
We have adult learners that have used the program 2 times a week and used Section B as practice prior to the next meeting. ABE sessions tend to be longer than half an hour. This makes it possible to do 2 lessons in one session. The same basic requirement remains - you only move on once the learner shows mastery of the level. Adults tend to remember the patterns from week to week without the need for daily practice. However, using Section B as “homework” ensured the learners retained the patterns.
What is the relationship between CTC and learning phonics?
CTC is an intervention for students who have had phonics instruction but are unable to apply the rules or identify the sounds that various combinations make. Readers come across over 4 million words a year and can easily detect the various patterns found in our language. A non-reader or low reader will come across less than 200,000 words a year and is unable to distinguish the exceptions from the norm. This confusion has caused many struggling readers to feel phonics does not work. CTC explicitly teaches them the combinations and gives them an order to use to identify what combinations to use for each word.
Who would not benefit from the use of CTC?
The time it takes for students to read a passage and their spelling are the signs to look for with older students. An example of a student who would not be a candidate for this program: one who reads words fluently, quickly decodes unknown words - but still is unable to answer comprehension questions.
What are the applications of CTC for those who are learning disabled?
CTC has been used with students who have autism, ADD and ADHD, low IQs. (75 was the lowest and the program took much longer to complete.), hard of hearing (hearing impaired - the terms are varying depending on where we go), and processing issues (the consistency of the patterns help them retain information).