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ACE Reading — Case Study

I Can Read! — Self Modeling to Help Young Children with Reading

This article clarifies how self modeling methods can be used in the context of teaching young
students with reading difficulties. It begins with a case example to illustrate the procedures of
video self modeling in a remedial reading tutoring program. We define two types of self
modeling and provide examples of media such as print, pictures, audio, and multimedia used in
classroom settings for self modeling. The article ends with suggestions on how self modeling
techniques can be applied in teaching many skills other than reading—such as swimming,
personal safety, and self-control. The appendix includes information on additional resources for
readers to advance their knowledge and skill about topics related to self modeling, media, and
reading disabilities.
Weol Soon Kim-Rupnow, John Anderson, Renee Galbavy, and Peter W. Dowrick
Center on Disability Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Copyright is held by authors, downloadable for personal use, please acknowledge original
“What! Can Gino really read the story, by himself? Yesterday he couldn’t read at all
for me.”

These are the common responses from teachers who first watch their student’s feedforward
video, a type of self modeling, which has been carefully edited to show future potential reading
performance. Teachers then start to ask a series of questions including: “What is self
modeling?”; “Why do you have to edit?”; “How do you make a feedforward videotape?”; “How
do you use it?"; “Can I use other media for self modeling like photos, as described by Lazarus
(1998)?”; and so on. This article addresses these questions, clarifying the self modeling
methodology and providing examples in the context of teaching reading for young students with
reading difficulties.
• Case Example for Video Self Modeling
• What is Self Modeling?
• Media for Self Modeling
• References
• Additional Resources

Case Example for Video Self Modeling

Gino (pseudonym) was a first grade student referred by his classroom teacher as experiencing
reading difficulties. Gino’s reading fluency was at a preprimer level, reading an average of 8
words per minute during our 3-week baseline measurement. His reading was below grade level
on the Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests-Revised (Woodcock, 1987) and at the lower extreme
level, .3 percentile rank, in vocabulary by the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (Kaufman &
Kaufman, 1990). Gino was invited to participate in an individualized tutoring program, which we
call Reading Rescue (see Box 1). Gino responded rapidly to the reading sessions, which involved
the use of repeated passage reading (Tingstrom, Edwards, & Olmi, 1995) and a flashcard
procedure for word recognition with coaching on the beginning sounds. Gino’s tutor, Ruta, the
parent of a child in another class, worked with him daily for half an hour. Ruta and the other
community assistants in our program had previously been trained to follow a specific protocol,
with sessions audiotaped for monitoring purposes.
• ACE Reading is a remedial tutoring program, designed to give students daily one-on-one
reading practice with community assistants. The program emphasizes high levels of
success and uses a personal feedforward videotape to boost confidence, self-esteem, and
• ACE Reading was established in 1996, with support from the Department of Education
Office of Special Education Programs and Pew Charitable Trusts.
• The program has provided tutoring services to over 150 students in grades 1-3 at four
schools in both Philadelphia and Hawaii.
• The participating students are in special education or at-risk for a referral and they have
been referred by their classroom teacher or reading specialist because their reading had
been one or two levels below their respective grade level.
• Many students are from low-income families in a multi-ethnic urban setting, with over
80% eligible for federally subsidized lunches.
• The program has trained over 30 community partners with diverse ethnic backgrounds to
help them to become reliable, effective reading tutors with positive attitudes. The
program evaluate progress and outcomes systematically using curriculum-based
assessment and other behavioral and academic measures.
In the fifth week of Gino’s one-on-one tutoring, we videotaped a regular tutoring session. The
tape was edited into a 2-minute tape to make a feedforward video that eliminated the tutor’s
assistance and illustrated the student independently reading a complete passage and mastering
the sight words. It also showed Gino coping with difficulties such as sounding out the first letter
of unfamiliar words and taking deep breaths to calm himself when frustrated. In the sixth and
seventh weeks, Gino watched his tape daily under Ruta’s supervision at the beginning of his
tutoring session. Gino, who was usually reserved, appeared to be very pleased with himself while
viewing his feedforward video. He looked around with a big smile to see who else was watching.
He looked as if he were about to shout, “Look at me—I can READ!” In the subsequent eighth
through tenth weeks, his video was shown only on request, about twice per week.

First, the tutor helps the student read the passage, giving practice and support.
As the student improves her mastery of the passage, we take footage from which to edit her

Frequent praise is an important part of the tutoring process, and is included in her feedforward

The student enjoys watching her video, and is proud showing it to her friends.

In the last week, another video was made. This time Gino was reading 30 words per minute and
had surpassed his previous feedforward mastery. Therefore, the video simply recorded about 3
minutes of his best work for positive self-review, another type of self modeling to promote the
maintenance of the learned skills. This tape was given to him to watch regularly at home over the
next 4 months. If he did not have the opportunity to watch this video at home, he would view it
at school, at least once a month.
During intervention, Gino’s reading fluency was measured twice weekly using passages from a
preprimer reader as probes. Gino’s slope (see graph), which reflected the rate of improvement,
was nearly flat and indicated little improvement through the baseline and tutoring phases (weeks
1-5). During the tutoring plus feedforward phase (weeks 6-10), his rate of progress improved at a
higher rate (2.3 words correct per week) than the rate during tutoring only phase (0.8 words per
week). The results suggest that watching the video of himself reading fluently improved his
sense of self-efficacy and motivation, enabling him to take full advantage of the reading practice
sessions offered to him.

To further illustrate the magnitude of the effect, our data from the other 50 or so students like
Gino, who received tutoring plus video feedforward, indicate that more than 80% improved their
reading skills to a level enough for them to benefit from regular classroom instruction. Not only
did the participants improve reading skills as a result of daily tutoring combined with
personalized feedforward video intervention but the majority of the students also showed
improvement in their social and academic behaviors. One student, in particular, who used to be
absent 2 or 3 days per week began to enjoy coming to school, with a substantial decrease in his
absenteeism and tardiness. He also interacted noticeably better with his classmates and tutors.
The value of the video feedforward process is summarized in a responsive note written by a
teacher who has her two students in Reading Rescue:
“... I have seen so much growth in all areas in Kimo and Chantiel (pseudonyms)... I’m sure you
feel as happy as I do when you see the two of them so interested in reading and learning since
you have provided them with the tools to do so. :) ! I just can’t explain how much I appreciate
About 20% of the students progressed slowly and needed an extension of the tutoring program.
Some also needed specific adaptations in the video and the reading instruction to accommodate
individual needs and personal learning styles.
What is Self Modeling?
In self modeling, individuals learn by observing their own success—even from successes that
have not yet occurred (Dowrick, 1999). And by observing oneself, self-efficacy is improved.
That is, you can boost self-confidence of the students as well as teaching them new skills.
Students begin to believe that reading, or whatever skill you choose to teach using this technique,
is learnable—not just something “other children do” (Bandura, 1997). Therefore, it is very
important to show only adaptive behaviors on video, without presenting any mistakes or
inadequacies, which will add to the students’ disbelief in themselves and can promote errors.
There are two types of self modeling commonly used for teaching skills: feedforward and
positive self-review. Feedforward, contrasting with feedback, shows images of potential future
performance—that is, students see themselves being successful at tasks that are normally too
challenging. This effect is achieved through careful planning and editing of component skills that
are prompted or supported by a coach, as with reading short phrases from a book. This helps the
students to set higher goals and to develop a desire for improvement.
Positive self-review tapes do not create new images so much as capture the best of current
abilities. These positive images can help students to become more consistent in the mastery of
new skills, both to maintain and to generalize the effects. Teachers who make or observe the self
modeling videos often raise their expectations of their students, which in turn benefits the
students’ potential for success, through the Pygmalion effect.
Media for Self Modeling
Video, as presented above in Gino’s example, is the most widely used medium for self modeling
interventions. As indicated by the popularity of TV in everyday life, video is a powerful tool
because it can combine the images, sounds, and contexts of behavior so effectively. Video
editing, sufficient for self modeling, is reasonably easy to learn. But it takes effort and time;
sometimes just the thought of editing discourages school personnel from taking advantage of this
powerful medium.
Although the term “self modeling” originated in video, it really belongs to a much broader class
of interventions (Dowrick, 1999). The self- observation of personal success can be represented in
print, (still) pictures, audio, the student’s imagination, and in combinations of these formats. We
present below some examples of media for school age children that can be effective for self
modeling, depending on individual students’ characteristics and needs.
Print. For example, Mr. Lee, a third grade teacher, uses self-in-print effectively to teach his
students to get home safely from school. He has engaging story books that illustrate such skills
as crossing the street, knowing where to find a door key, and calling 911 in case of an
emergency. These books have __________ in place of the character’s names, where the children
can write in their own or family members’ names. Studies show that the personalized, adaptive
texts improve children's comprehension 90%, and this technique is equally effective with older
children learning to reduce aggression and violence (Embry, 1995).
Pictures. As a medium for self modeling, selected photos--called “picture prompts” (Steel &
Lutzker, 1997)— can serve well. Mrs. Doi took a photograph of Tom, who often skipped words
while reading, as he was pointing his finger on a word in the book with a big grin on his face.
She discussed the picture with Tom, “Look! You point at the words on the book as you read, so
you won’t miss any words. Good job! Look at your big smile, too. It seems you can enjoy
reading very much!” Then she laminated the photo and mounted it on Tom’s desk to remind him
of pointing and enjoying his reading. A number of articles offer guidelines for using personal
photographs as an inexpensive but effective way to promote positive self-images of students and
learning desired behaviors in various settings, including recent a lead article in this magazine
(Lazarus, 1998).
Audio. Mr. Green used audiotaping to help June, a second grader who had difficulties reading
fluently, to read her favorite story book. He asked June to read after he did, phrase by phrase. To
minimize the editing, Mr. Green pressed the pause button while he was modeling, then released
it while June was reading. The end result was an audio tape of June reading her favorite story
fluently on her own. June’s face lit up, indicating she was very pleased to hear her own voice.
She listened to it over and over, at her own initiation, 3 - 10 times a day. She was taught to point
at the words as she heard them from the audiotape, and also to flip the pages after the last word
on the right-hand page. In about one month, she was able to read the story without listening to
the audiotape and she could identify more than 80% of the words without the picture book
context. The use of audio for self modeling is advantageous because of its affordability and ease
of editing compared with video.
Multimedia. Miss Young used a computer multimedia authoring program to create a template of
an animated story book, then personalized the story book for each of her students by adding
digitized photographs and voices for the student’s choice of the characters in the story, personal
drawings, or short video clips, and so on. All students received a paper copy of their own book
with their autograph on the title page. The students expressed their sense of authorship and
accomplishment for their book and devoted more time and effort on literacy related activities.
The examples described above are a few among many ways to use print, pictures, audio and
video tapes, and computerized multimedia segments as media for self modeling. Also, self
modeling techniques can be applied in teaching many skills other than reading and in various
settings. Examples of effective skill training with self modeling documented in the literature
(Dowrick, 1999) include: physical skills (walking, swimming, feeding, dressing);
communication skills (job interviews, personal safety, sign language, overcoming selective
mutism and stuttering); and social skills (parenting, behavioral self-control, overcoming shyness,
thumb-sucking, and anxiety).
• Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.
• Blum, N.J., Kell, R.S., Starr, H.L., Lender, W.L., Bradley-Klug, K.L., Osborne, M.L., &
Dowrick, P.W. (1998). Case study: Audio feedforward treatment of selective mutism.
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 31, 40-43.
• Dowrick, P.W. (1999). A review of self modeling and related interventions. Applied &
Preventive Psychology, 8, 23-39.
• Tingstrom, D.H., Edwards, R.P., & Olmi, D.J. (1995). Listening previewing in reading to
read: Relative effects on oral reading fluency. Psychology in the Schools, 32, 318-327.
• Embry, D. (1995, November). Using cognitive social competence research for a large
scale approach to reduce youth violence. Paper presented at the annual convention of the
Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy, Washington, DC.
• Kaufman, A.S., & Kaufman, N.L. (1990). K-BIT: Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test.
Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.
• Lazarus, B.D. (1998). Say cheese! Using personal photographs as prompts. Teaching
Exceptional Children, 30 (6), 4-7.
• McKenzie, B.K. (1996). Photography and the curriculum: More focus on learning.
School Library Media Activities Monthly, 13(2), 32-33, 39, 43.
• Woodcock, R. W. (1987). Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests - Revised. Circle Pines,
MN: American Guidance Service