Origin and History of The Language Enrichment Program
During my first semester of teaching at Neinas Junior High School in Detroit,
Michigan, I noticed that a very bright girl who sat near the back of the room
was having difficulty keeping up with the rest of her class in the reading
assignments. She did not know how to read silently, and otherwise was a poor
reader. My department head, who also noticed the girl, was planning to remove
her from the class. The seventh grade girl came to me with tears, begging me to
let her remain with her class, for she did not want to be taken away from her
friends and placed in a slow learning group with strange students.
This little girl's tearful plea motivated me to begin to develop some special
reading materials just for her needs. Soon I found other students could benefit
from the individualized instruction I had developed for Andrea. In a week or
less Andrea learned to read silently, and my department head did not bring up
the matter again.
At the close of the semester I was disappointed that several students had to be
given failing grades, despite the fact that they had been in class every day and
were trying to do the work. I did further work in developing a reading skills
file to meet their needs.
The following year (1963) I had a class which was to combine English and reading
instruction for a double period. I found the students were doing fairly well
with reading, but were unable to handle the difficulty of the textbook supplied
for their English instruction. On the day of New Year's Eve, I had some free
time, and decided to try writing some programmed instruction lessons. I had read
about the technique in a then recent book by Shelly Umans, New Trends in Reading
Instruction. I wrote the rough draft on some discarded telephone bill envelopes.
I transferred the draft to some 3x5 cards, placed them in a "Kard Kaddie" metal
file box, and brought the unit to school after Christmas vacation.
I decided to test the program first on my seventh grade honors class students,
figuring they would not be upset if there were some unanticipated difficulties
in the program. I revised the program based on the responses of these first
bright users of the program, Betty, Colleen, and Donita.
I asked volunteers to use the program during homeroom time (to help settle and
quiet them down!), and the students were so interested that they wanted to stay
beyond homeroom time to use the material. I again revised the program in
response to student questions and mistakes. I began using the program with my
English classes. Since there was only one master copy of the program,
handwritten at that, such use began on a rather limited basis, but as more
students worked further into the program, additional students began using it.
In the spring semester of 1964 I conducted the experiment of having the lowest
academic group use the program in addition to their regular work; the second
lowest group was denied its use. The results were remarkable: the lowest group
by the end of that semester showed greater reading gains. In fact, when they
went on to the next teacher, the teacher came to me and said "You must have done
a terrific job with this group. They do just as well as my better classes do."
I was particularly encouraged when Jacqueline, a small but lively black girl who
had been the disciplinary terror of the class, came up to me one day and said "I
want to earn an A in your class. Will you let me take the seat in the corner and
work on the boxes? I promise I won't talk, and I'll earn an A." Before this she
wanted to be the center of attention, could do nothing but recite oral poetry
which she made up herself (she was good at that), but was far behind in reading
and writing skills. I agreed, and the rest of the semester she worked quietly
and diligently on the "boxes." On the day of the reading posttest, I promised to
let the first one or two students who finished the test know the results of
their test immediately. Jacqueline was the first student to finish. I suspected
she had not really read the test, but had just marked in answers. But when I
scored her answer sheet, I was pleased and excited to learn she had advanced
from her pretest score of 5.7 to a post test score of 10.6, a gain of nearly
five years. She was now reading at a level more years ABOVE her grade level than
she had been behind her grade level.
In February of 1967 I spoke at the Michigan Science Teachers Association on the
topic "Programmed Teaching of High School Science." I discussed several of the
commercially available science programs which were in use in the programmed
learning laboratory at Cass Technical High School. I also mentioned my own
experiences with writing a program, and I posted on the chalkboard the post test
scores of the top seven achievers in the two homeroom groups in my informal
study. During the questioning period afterwards, one man stood, announced he was
the principal of Western High School in Detroit, and flatly denied that my
statistics could be true. I invited him to see me afterwards, and I would
furnish him the last names of the students listed, and since the students were
now students at Western High School, he could check up on their progress
himself! Not long after, my principal at Cass received a call from the principal
at Western, asking that I be granted permission to come to his school to hold a
workshop about programmed instruction for his staff, for he wished to establish
just such a learning laboratory at his school.
Such a lab was opened at Western High School for a time, and some of the student
aides who assisted in running the laboratory there were the bright students from
my original seventh grade honors class who were the first students I tried my
initial program with—Betty, Colleen, and Donita.
Not all responses to my using such a program were positive. One day the
assistant principal of Neinas Junior High School observed one of my students
working silently on the little steel "box" of cards in the library. He was
reading over her shoulder, and watched her check an answer "wrong." Well, he was
upset that the answer was counted wrong, for it was the very answer he had come
up with in his own mind!
He took the little box from the Spanish girl, and took it directly to three
other English teachers, who all agreed with the "correctness" of his wrong
answer! Then he came to my room, very much upset—and before the entire class,
told me I had no right to use these students for "guinea pigs" and experiments.
He argued that programmed instruction is useful only for rote memorization, and
the students needed to be taught concepts. Besides, what was this girl doing in
the library doing her lessons without being directly under my supervision? And
my program was incorrect, as three English teachers had just testified. I asked
the assistant principal if he ever read the Harvard Educational Review. He said,
"Yes, I graduated from Harvard." I then referred him to an article by Lauren B.
Resnick, "Programmed Instruction and the Teaching of Complex Intellectual
Skills," Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 30, No. 4, for fall of 1963. I
commented, "The very title of the article runs counter to the statements you
I then said that as for the student's "error," she was the first student to have
made an error on that frame, and I showed him the validation chart with student
names, and the student responses recorded. I said, had you and the three English
teachers you consulted read what came before the frame in question, you would
not have made the mistake. And the fact that so few students have missed that
frame (she was student 17 of 20 on the chart) demonstrates that the program is
working just fine. The assistant principal responded, “I'm going to speak to
your department head about this. Has she given her permission for you to do this
with your students?”
Not long after, the assistant principal asked how a student, a ward of the
court, who had just been enrolled in my reading class, was doing. I explained
that I had given the student my linguistic program, and he was behaving and
doing just fine. Well, the boy had just threatened to beat up the social studies
teacher over an argument about a girl's ring. Could I possibly have James stay
in my class during his social studies period to work in my class? I said that
would be fine. A few days later the assistant principal told me that James had
gotten into a fight with the gym teacher, would I be willing to take him in to
my class that hour also? I said that would be fine.
When the assistant principal observed that difficult students responded well to
my program, and showed remarkable achievement, he no longer was against what I
was doing. He seemed to give high praise for my work, and in other ways became a
I have used the program with elementary school age students, junior high
students, senior high remedial students, and senior high gifted students, with
adult learners in a night school program, with college age friends who needed
assistance with English reading and writing skills, and with business men who
wanted to improve their reading skills, and all seem to have been most
appreciative of the benefits derived from using the program.
Evaluation Of The Language Enrichment Program
The Program in the Classroom
Student use of the original version of the program Writing by Structures (now
called The Language Enrichment Program) was entirely voluntary. No
student was urged to complete the program; the student could continue as far as
the student wished or stop at any time. The program for the greater duration of
this project was in its first validation form: the program was hand written on 3
x 5 index cards. The program occupied about 1400 index cards, assembled in
fourteen "Kard Kaddie" Steelmaster card index files, a file particularly
adaptable to this use.
Since there was only one copy of the program, its use was restricted to the
classroom and the school library. The "Kard Kaddie" file box was counted as a
hall pass to the library by arrangement with the librarian, who permitted
students to use the school library for this work. Students sometimes preferred
to work the program in the library where they would not be disturbed by the
ongoing activities of an English class.
Naturally, having just one copy greatly limited initial class participation
in the use of the program. But as students who began the program first
progressed to later "boxes," new students could begin using the program.
Sometimes students had to wait several days before they could work the next
section of the program, for they had to wait their turn. The programs were kept
on the teacher's desk in a small corrugated cardboard box, and students were
free to use them at any time. Students could elect to use the program instead of
doing the regular classroom work, or could use it when they finished the regular
No class instruction about the program or its content was given beyond a few
introductory remarks regarding the intended purpose of the program and some
brief directions about how to use it. Beyond this, the students and program were
on their own, and the class proceeded with its normal work in reading
Students were eager to begin the program, and once a student began the
program the student nearly always continued working on it until it was
completed. There generally was quite a scramble to get the boxes from the desk
before the start of class, and students were so eager to use the program that at
times there was an extensive written waiting list of students who wanted to be
next to start the program.
Pupils were encouraged to consult the teacher immediately whenever they
encountered difficulty or otherwise had a question. In this way the program was
subjected to an editing procedure for each pupil who utilized it, for frames
were frequently rewritten or additional frames were added to and even within a
sequence to clear up difficulties at the very time the pupils asked the
questions. Generally these interruptions did not occur often enough to disrupt
the normal procedure for the rest of the class. As the program was successively
revised, the number of questions asked by the additional pupils using the
program was reduced.
It did not take long to observe that the simplest way to occupy a disruptive
pupil was to permit that pupil to use the program. Students who would not read
and could not write became unmanageable for the two hours they were present each
day until they were given the program to use. Once started upon the program
these normally very disruptive pupils would sit quietly the whole two hours
working the program. The 1400 frames kept them avidly engaged for the remainder
of the semester. Not only that, but the students gained so much confidence in
their academic progress that they began to do the regular classroom work in
addition to working the program, and in the end did more work, and showed more
improvement, than the rest of the class.
Results in the Classroom
What does the program accomplish? Though its original title (Writing by
Structures) clearly indicates it was not designed to teach reading, in the
classes where it has been used there is evidence to suggest that it teaches
reading more successfully to slow learning seventh graders than the reading
materials used during regular classroom instruction. At least that is the
conclusion drawn when, for example, students who were successful with remedial
materials on the second grade reading difficulty level were unable to do
materials on the third grade level. These students were then allowed to work on
the program, and did so successfully. They then asked if they could also do the
work with the rest of the class. By this time the class was using materials of
fifth grade difficulty, and students who worked the program were able to use the
fifth grade materials with no difficulty.
It appears to be generally known that the use of programmed instructional
materials leads to improvement in reading, even when the programs involved in
the instruction do not relate specifically to reading instruction. This study
lends support to this general finding to a degree somewhat greater than studies
of this effect commonly report.
The two seventh grade classes participating in this study were grouped
homogeneously according to intelligence and general achievement by the
administration. The reading—language arts classes in this study constituted the
bottom two groups of a total of seven homeroom groupings in the seventh grade
(7A) at the Neinas Junior High School in February, 1964. Students in these two
classes all had reading achievement test scores (as measured by the Stanford
Achievement Tests) two or more years below grade level. While not "inner city"
by strict geographical location, a consideration of such factors as the
educational level of parents, family income level, and the amount of reading
material in the home, would lead one to conclude that these students are
definitely academically disadvantaged.
The two classes received exactly the same instruction, used the same reading
materials, worked through the same units in the same order. The only difference
in instructional technique was to permit the bottom homeroom group to use the
program Writing by Structures (now titled The Language Enrichment Program) under
the conditions previously described. On June 11, 1964, both classes were given
the same form of the Stanford Achievement Tests in Reading. Below is a list of
the reading scores (paragraph comprehension) obtained by the top seven achievers
in each group:
FINAL READING SCORES OF THE BOTTOM (OF SEVEN ABILITY GROUPS) HOMEROOM 7A 310:
TOP SEVEN OF 39 STUDENTS.
FINAL READING SCORES OF THE SIXTH (FROM TOP) HOMEROOM 7A 205: TOP SEVEN OF 32
The class earning the higher scores used the program. The probability that they
should evidence greater reading achievement should have been less since they
were the bottom of seven ability groups. Besides a greater overall improvement
for the class using the program, all students who showed a gain of three or more
years in reading achievement came from this group. Two students, who at the
beginning had scores below the fourth grade, achieved a tenth grade reading
level on the paragraph comprehension post test. This improvement occurred in the
space of one twenty week semester.
Those pupils showing considerable reading improvement, the students now
reading above grade level, were transferred by their counselors to the next to
the top ability group in their grade, and for the remainder of their junior high
school years were kept in that group and achieved average or better grades.
In January of 1965 I was transferred to teach English at Cass Technical High
School. I also helped to supervise the new programmed instruction laboratory
there. I put the linguistic program in a cardboard carton in my apartment walk
in closet, and went on to other things.
After perhaps a year of teaching at Cass, a visitor to the programmed
instruction laboratory heard about the success I had with my own teacher written
programmed learning. She asked if the program was available for use. I explained
that it was not currently in use. "Where is it?" she asked. I told her it was in
a box somewhere at the bottom of a pile of boxes in my apartment closet. She
asked that I make it available to her for use in the "Continuing Education for
I then began rewriting, revalidating, and extending the program for use on
the high school level. I used it with my English classes at Cass. I permitted
students to check individual chapters out for voluntary homework overnight once
extra copies became available. Students generally seemed to like the program. A
few years later, I was more than once stopped in the hall by counselors and the
school principal, who commented that in their interviews with students who had
completed their freshman year at college, I was one of the most frequently
mentioned teachers who had "helped them most" in college preparation. This was
considered most unusual, since most of these students had my class when they
were in the tenth grade. Students generally tend to mention teachers they had in
the twelfth grade.
I also used the program when I taught night school at Cass. Many of these
students were adults returning to earn their high school diploma. I was told by
the principal that my class had the best attendance of any in the night school
at that time—and he was especially surprised one stormy winter night to see I
had a full class, despite the inclement weather. I especially recall one
student, a Roman Catholic nun, who completed all the units of my program, and
went on to successfully work a college level program in transformational
In 1974 I took a leave of absence to assist a friend of mine from college
days, Carl George, who had a private school in Gainesville, Florida. He was
eager for my assistance to set up a reading program in his school to help those
students transferring in from public schools. Such students were far behind the
private school pupils in their reading level, and found it hard to compete with
them in academic work. Also, the school was very high in its science and math
achievement scores, but not in the reading scores. The students of the school
used my program for the one semester I was there (in spring of 1974). The entire
school rose dramatically in reading achievement that semester. While there I
wrote ten additional units for the linguistic program to help students in my
sixth grade class understand the concepts presented in the program.
In the fall of 1974 I returned to teaching in Detroit, and was placed in the
social studies department at Southeastern High School, where I taught world and
American history. In January of 1975 I began treating my history classes as
reading classes, and introduced my linguistic program into my history classes to
boost the reading scores of the students. The students made remarkable progress
in reading, many students showing from one to five years improvement in reading
achievement in a single semester of work.
In 1981 I was transferred to the English department, and made a reading
specialist, in charge of teaching the Article 3 reading program.
Below is a list of the students from my sixth hour, eleventh grade, English
class, showing pre and post test scores for reading comprehension, and the gain
(or loss) achieved (Stanford Achievement Test in Reading, Form JM, KM):
|| Lee, T.
The mean pretest score for the class was 5.6; the post test mean was 7.694;
class mean score gain is therefore 2 years, for an eighteen week semester. The
test score gains using the Stanford JM and KM achievement tests may be less than
modern tests would show; I noticed at the time that the pre to post test gains
on the California Achievement Test were much greater, student number 6 I
distinctly recall achieved a 12.6 score in reading comprehension on the C.A.T.
Other classes of students I have taught since this class showed very similar
reading gains to those of the class detailed above, but teacher time being at
the premium that it is, I did not compile any more classroom charts like the one