A study was conducted to determine how children develop reading ability in first and second grade. Approximately 315 children from three school districts in the midwest participated. The study began with the development of a heuristic model that guided data collection on measures of entering student ability, home background, home support, classroom instructional processes, and student performance at the end of each grade level. Linear structural models were developed at both grade levels using LISREL to explain variance in students' reading development. As expected, the study found a relationship between entering ability and achievement at the end of each grade level. At the first-grade level, interplay was found between entry-level student performance and teachers' classroom activities. In addition, classroom activities were found to affect some behaviors at home. Once students brought schoolwork home, parents worked with them on it. At the second-grade level, it was found that teachers continued to be affected by students' entering abilities. Teachers gave more sustained feedback to lower performers, and they emphasized letter sounds and background knowledge interactions with these same students, although these behaviors did not show a relationship to students' end-of-year performance. Teachers' behaviors, unfortunately, were also found to be related to students' home backgrounds. In addition, home support activities were not found to be influenced by home background as they had been in the earlier grades. The results are discussed in terms of eight issues that became clear in the examination of both the first- and second-grade findings. Three of these issues are (a) the diminished effects of home background, (b) positive effects for seatwork, and (c) students' abilities as influences on teachers' instructional practices.
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