“4th Grade Slump”, a term coined by education psychologist and literacy researcher Jeanne Chall in the 90’s, is a term used to describe the phenomenon where previously high-performing 9- or 10-year-olds students suddenly lose interest in reading and schoolwork. This inevitably leads to a sharp, sometimes permanent, dip in performance.
This decline occurs because this is the age where, according to Chall, students go from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”. The focus is no longer, let’s practice reading passages with familiar syntax and vocabulary, but we need to read this text to learn a new skill. Obviously, the latter is the more challenging task, and can hit students who are already underperforming particularly hard.
Readorium is well-aware of this issue, and our Rising Reader program, catered to grades 3-5, includes many features that help combat the problem of 4th Grade Slump.
1) Keeping Reading Interesting: While we focus on accurate, scientific content, we strive to make our texts as compelling as possible. Students learn science through real world issues that allow them to make concrete connections They aren’t just reading about combustion reactions and astronomical units, they’re reading about how fireworks explode, and missions to Mars. Our content also includes animation and songs that teach specific reading skills, and we’re even expanding to include text-based games (Check out our free titles “Cell City Mystery” and “The Atomic Dating Game”).
2) Focusing on vocabulary: A big impediment to reading more serious texts is the heightened vocabulary that comes with the material, and this can deter readers who have a more limited familiarity with words found in texts. Readorium places special emphasis on vocabulary: we highlight challenging words in our text, provide vocab cards that provide explanations coupled with multimedia examples of meaning, and test students at the end of texts on specific words.
3) Automatically Adjusting Reading Levels: Especially for students who may be developmentally behind their peers in terms of literacy, plunging into confusing texts that feature perplexing syntax can be disheartening. Our system detects students’ who are having difficulty or those who read easily. Then we automatically adjust the text for that individual student to ensure that each student is learning with text that they are comfortable with.
4) Targeting Specific Subject Areas: An incomplete mastery of core subject knowledge is detrimental to future learning. A text on cell biology, for example, is incomprehensible to a student who does not yet understand the concept of a living cell. Readorium aims to introduce students to specialized scientific topics at a young age, so that students are armed with solid background knowledge when tackling heavier subjects later on in their scholastic career.
5) Positive Reinforcement: Rather than punishing students who perform poorly or don’t do the assigned reading, we encourage students to read more by offering incentives. The more students read (and we test for comprehension, not reading-speed), the more games, media and special magazine articles they’ll be able to unlock within Readorium. This way, students want to read more.
It’s important to address the “4th Grade Slump” early, before it becomes a serious problem. We strive to do just that at Readorium.
For More on the 4th Grade Slump:
Research Says… / Don’t Wait Until 4th Grade to Address the Slump, Bryan Goodwin, Educational Leadership (April 2011)
What is the 4th Grade Slump?, Pam Withers, keenreaders.org