Components and Purpose
Pedagogical scholars concur that the spiraling curriculum (Bruner, 1977 pp. 52-54) is justly touted as the quintessential construct for maximum student growth. This construct is made tangible through the apt interfacing of scaffolding and repetition. Consequently, to achieve the maximum potential growth available to all students, it is this approach that stands singularly at the forefront of the Bridging the Chasm intragration methodologies. The Bridging the Chasm Literacy Program is designed to bring at-risk and below-grade-level students up to standard par. It also has components designed to raise grade-level-and-above students to higher points of literacy achievement. The program is offered through several texts: Bridging the Chasm; 42 Days to Reading Fluency; Thirty-Six Stars; Vocabulary Power with Connotative Precision; and Flashes of Insight. Its methodologies and crafted materials are not only research-based, but importantly, they are classroom tested and proven. The program consists of several structured application elements. Each one complements the other in the overall goal of actualizing potential student growth. Each demonstrates the intragration philosophy; that is, each is designed to teach several related lessons simultaneously through designed context, sequencing, repetition, and scaffolding.
Structural knowledge (Jonassen, Beissner, & Yacci, 1993)
suggests that all knowledge is connected to all other knowledge. And,
individual schemas are actually complete (simplistic or complex) concepts that
exist in the mind, each being comprised of interrelated facts. Bruner (1977
p.43) suggests that understanding in children is interfered with when focus is
on one item at a time. Then, following the premise that knowledge itself exists
in groups of interrelated facts, veracity is given to this statement:
Interrelated facts should be taught as clusters of meaningful information.
Hence, designed intragrated
methodologies are not only justified they are actually warranted. Such an
approach adds immediate meaning to individual facts that otherwise would have
to be offered as isolated entities requiring individual processing. Thus, when
students learn groups of related facts as components of a whole, the schema that
results is at once meaningful and has its place in long-term memory where
understood information is destined to reside (Estes, 2004).
Teaching Sentence, Paragraph, & Essay Writing
The ability to manipulate sentences is a hallmark ability demonstrated by high-achieving students. According to the doctrine of
structural knowledge (Jonassen, Beissner, & Yacci, 1993), schema exists in the mind as a mental image. Thus, for students to know what sentences, paragraphs, and essays are, all have to exist as composites of knowledge that are related to each other. Bruner (1977 p.31)
said an unconnected set of facts has a pitiably short half-life in memory. Therefore, the Bridging the Chasm methodology of
mimicry writing is shown as a most viable method of teaching writing; for, it teaches through the use of graphic paradigms – using complete sentences to illustrate what complete sentences are. Students learn to write perfect sentences one perfect sentence at a time, the images of the complete sentences themselves being the guiding or instructive elements. Likewise, as sentences can be effectively taught using graphic paradigms and scaffolding processes, so too can complete paragraphs and essays. This program uses a graphic organizing device that serves to guide as well as assess students’ essays, paragraph by paragraph and sentence by sentence. The essays have both their structure and content governed by this writing guide / assessment rubric.
Grammar and Mechanics
Another element of sentence writing is demonstrated in the intragration correction approach in which the students are challenged to recognize and identify every necessary correction in a structured selection. Again, this approach stems from the fact that the schema for grammar and mechanics must exist as a packet (Rumelhart, 1980; Rumelhart & Ortony, 1977 in Jonassen, Beissner, & Yacci, 1993) of interrelated facts or attributes in the mind in
order to hold meaning for the student.
Vocabulary acquisition through structural knowledge and
networking (Meyer, 1985. In Jonassen, Beissner, & Yacci, 1993) is one of
the primary strategies used in the Bridging
the Chasm program. The use of the principle of the Superordinate Idea
(Rewey et al, 1989) is manifest through the use of short narratives with
crafted titles, serving as the superordinate idea under which all other terms
can be networked in plot sequences that flow under a general theme.
Direct instruction (Beck & McGeown, 1991) is also a means
of teaching vocabulary used in this program. Such an instructional technique
increases student knowledge of meaning vocabulary. Because a knowledge of
synonyms is a critical feature in mature vocabulary growth (Nation, 1990), this
approach as well is foundational in the Bridging
the Chasm program.
Semantic Linking and
Through the use of vocabulary words linked or associated
semantically through the use of pre-defined lists and shadow writing, the targeted terms when linked in pairs are also
recalled in pairs (Jonassen, Beissner, & Yacci, 1993). This linking signals
a utility in both the reading and writing processes relative to vocabulary use.
In reading, the targeted term is understood in terms of its simplistic
denotation, causing the passage to be comprehensible; and, in writing, the
simplistic denotation can be readily replaced with the more sophisticated
targeted term, causing the writer’s message to demonstrate semantic
sophistication. According to Dr. D. G. Estes (2004), in order for new
vocabulary to become part of the learners permanent memory it must be exposed
multiple times. The Bridging the Chasm
program has these essential repetitious exposures assured through its intragrated design. Thus, simply
teaching the preconfigured units will assure that the potential learner gets
the maximum number of meaningful exposures to the high-level vocabulary terms.
D. G. Estes (2004) has confirmed that emotions activate long-term
memory. The short stories that portray the target terms in contextually
designed formats are also emotive accounts that cause the reader to be able to
easily store the plots, the themes, and the terms that conveyed them in
A study of morphology (Nagy, Diakidoy, & Anderson, 1993;
and Otterman, 1955) is a very useful approach in increasing vocabulary and
thereby reading achievement into high school. This program features this
approach prominently. Through its root word component, access to and
understanding of derivatives and hence a multiplicity of related terms is
Analogies and Context
Among the last strategies that the program uses is analogies
(Jonassen, Beissner, & Yacci, 1993 pp. 93-94). According to research,
analogies are very effective in assessing structural knowledge, because they
map initial or known relationships on to subsequent or new relationships and
Finally, this program takes full advantage of context clue
methodologies (Readence, Bean, and Baldwin, 1998) by using an application of
the general strategy of determining meaning through context clues. This program
uses crafted short stories with embedded general clues and designed contexts to
teach the use of context clues and also to reinforce previously taught and
rehearsed vocabulary. Because context-clue strategies are not completely
reliable (Schatz & Baldwin, 1986), other enabling strategies are used in
Reading and Fluency
Reading Fluency requires
automaticity, the instant / automatic recognition of terms and their meanings, in
information processing [LaBerge and Samuels (1974) in Allington (2001) p.72]. Only efficient and select
reading strategies will bring about this essential skill.
Bridging the Chasm advocates several reading
strategies. By far, one of the most potent is repeated reading (Strickland
& Alverman, 2004). According to the researchers, rereading of familiar
texts shifts the focus of the reader from the printed page to reading for
comprehension. The repeated reading strategy is used to build reading fluency
(Samuels, 1997). It improves a reader’s general performance (Allington, 2001),
revealing voice, attitude, stance, and personality. Engaging children in
repeated reading activities [Samuels, Schermer, & Reinking (1992) in
Allington (2001 p.73)] is particularly effective in fostering reading fluency. In
fact, studies have shown [Dahl, 1977; Herman, 1985; O’Shea, Sindelar, &
O’Shea, 1985; Rashotte & Torgeson, 1985 in Allington, 2001 p.73] that
repeated reading is more effective as a singular approach than listening to
stories repeatedly, than practicing rapid word recognition of passage words on
word lists or flashcards, and providing students with indications of where
phrase boundaries are located in the text they are asked to read.
Assisted vs. Unassisted
Assisted or teacher-modeled and unassisted repeated reading [Dowhower
(1987) and Rasinsky (1990) in Allington (2001 p.73)] showed similar results in
increasing reading fluency. Though, Dowhower suggested that assisted repeated reading
may produce slightly more improvement in intonation and prosody (accentuation
To aid in the comprehensive act, the program advocates the
no-look-back writing of retellings (Strickland & Alverman, 2004) after
silent reading episodes. The readers are made aware that this will be the
process before they read; thus, they read with all necessary diligence,
consciously endeavoring to comprehend and retain every element of every salient
message. According to Tierney and Readence (2000), a purpose of retelling for
classroom assessment is to provide … the teacher with an alternate means of
evaluating students’ understanding of what they’ve read.
Finally, to enhance the reading skills of all students,
struggling as well as grade level, this program uses multiple scaffolding
techniques (Graves and Graves, 1994). The researchers reference scaffolding a reading experience.
Indeed, reading experiences can be scaffolded. The Bridging the Chasm program employs a novel scaffolding methodology
with single sentences through entire full length short stories. It accomplishes
this by directing the students to write shadow sentences or shadow versions of
single page selections or by presenting the students with full length
adaptations of full length short stories. The initial reading of the semantically
simplistic adaptation is followed by scaffolding exercises that will give the
students full access to the semantically sophisticated original selection,
which they will then be able to read fluently.
Word by word reading limits rates of reading and in many
cases has a negative impact on comprehension (Allington, 1983). Reading in phrases [Clay & Imlach,
(1971) in Allington, (2001)] is a strategy that positively impacts fluency and
comprehension in developing or struggling readers. Through a highly novel
approach, the Bridging the Chasm program
teaches phrase recognition, phrase reading, and phrase writing. This gives the
struggling reader a unique opportunity to develop real-time skills in phrase
manipulation. This manipulative skill is one key that unlocks reading and
writing fluencies for every proficient reader and writer.
According to Allington (2001, pp. 93-94), children are most
likely to learn whatever they are taught. Though this observation is
smile-worthy, it points out a fundamental notion which Allington points out
clearly: If you want students to learn to remember, teach them to remember.
Many students, because of a lack of memory capacity, don’t retain enough
information during their reading efforts to be able to answer high-level
questions that require analysis, synthesis, or evaluation. Dr. Roger Taylor
(2003) has noted that memory work itself leads to the building of new synaptic
connections in the brain. In essence, memory work increases I.Q. With these
observations in mind, the Bridging the
Chasm program methodically takes advantage of every opportunity to use
memory work to enhance the Intelligence Quotients of all program users.
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