Sunday, October 18, 2015

How to Pinpoint and Prioritize Part 2

Several years ago I began working with a first grader who was almost on grade level, but wasn't decoding accurately.  We began tutoring sessions in May and worked throughout the summer on decoding. We used the Break It Blend It Cards (cards that help children see where to break the words so they can practice breaking words aprart and blending them back together-ch art, ch arm, sh ark,
sh arp).  Another area of focus for the tutoring sessions was increasing her high frequency word vocabulary. As her vocabulary grew, so did her confidence.

Second grade began and she continued to work very hard at learning new words and practicing breaking and blending words.  She also developed very strong comprehension skills using context clues, picture clues, and predicting.  She made it through second grade without too much difficulty.

Then came third grade with longer and more complex texts and she hit a wall. When she looked at the longer texts with fewer pictures and more complex decoding patterns, she really began to struggle.  This was a diligent reader who never gave up.  However, the reading required for social studies, science, and math combined with language arts overwhelmed her.

Obviously, she had more going on than confusions or not understanding patterns.  Testing confirmed that she did, so we had to find a way for her to still be a successful reader.  She had developed a large sight word vocabulary and learning words was easier for her than decoding.  This was a strength for her and an effecitve way to overcome her weakness.

We assessed the words she knew and very carefully chose words she needed to learn immediately to be successful by combining words for reading, math, and the content areas. She knew what she had to do to be successful and felt empowered.

Developing a large sight word vocabulary can help readers who can't decode effectively.  
If the river current is too strong to swim across, find a boat or build a bridge.

Learning to read is very complex.  There are many different reasons children struggle to become effective readers. Start by looking for gaps in early reading behaviors. Often, they just have confusions or gaps.

Teaching Tip
Some of you may ask why we didn't test her earlier for this decoding difficulty.  With young children the "normal range" is huge because young children develop at different rates and the results would not have shown a discrepency.  Most learning disablities can't be diagnosed until around third grade.  

Keep calm and teach on!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Struggling Readers- How to Pinpoint and Prioritize

I read with a struggling fourth grader who was  having difficulty with comprehension. There are several reasons for this; decoding, fluency, vocabulary, lack of comprehension skills.   Or it could be all of the above.  First,  determine which skills are not mastered.  Then, prioritize which to teach first and have a specific focus to achieve accelerated progress.

I picked an easy book that I love to use. It's one of my testing books from Reading Recovery,(RR Level 8 GR Level E).  It's an easy, short book; but one that's full of opportunities for me discover if the child is decoding left to right.

Obviously, it was an easy book for the child, but there were some errors that gave insight on how he processes visual information.  For example, the errors  wanted/went, board/bar, scrap/soap demonstrated that the reader isn't decoding left to right through words.
Reading Intervention Binder

The beginning and endings of these words are the same.  The middle parts are different.
I wrote the words on a piece of paper and asked: how are these words the same? How are they different?  I asked the child to verbalize the difference so I knew he was looking carefully at the words.

Then I had him read a beginning third grade passage.  He made the same kinds of decoding errors, but he noticed his errors when it didn't make sense and reread and self-corrected.  However, with all of that rereading and self-correcting, he was working way too hard.  This has a negative impact on comprehension.

The priority with this reader is to give him some practice at the word level; comparing words that have the same beginning and ending sounds but different vowels.  For example, get/got/gut; let/lot/lit.  Then, I would work on words like fat/fast/fit/fist, let/left/lit/lift/list.  Show him examples where he has to look carefully left to right.  Some more examples are back/black/beak/bleak......

The decoding has to be addressed first because it's a crack in his foundation. Providing reading passages at an easy level will then give him the opportunity to practice decoding quickly and accurately and build his confidence.

If a reader doesn't improve decoding skills after 3-4 weeks of explicit decoding instruction, then another intervention might be necessary and you should talk with your reading specialist or special education coordinator.

Teacher Tip

Toward the middle of first grade, readers look at the beginning and ending of words and "guess and go".  This is effective at this level and a good strategy. As they continue to develop their reading skills, most children discover that they have to look at the middle of words and begin to decode left to right through words.  However, there are some students who continue to "guess and go" while ignoring the middle parts of words which becomes a bad habit that has to be broken.

For instance, read the following sentences and think how the meaning of the sentence changes.  Now imagine a third or fourth grade text with multiple paragraphs. 

The wise old uncle smiled at the small, proud mouse.

The wise old uncle smelled at the small, proud mouse.

Once I had a third grade student who read smelled for smiled and asked me why the wise old uncle smelled at him- didn't he take a bath? :)

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Whole Group Word Study Lessons

As a Reading Specialist, I completely support differentiated instruction to meet children's needs, but I'm concerned that struggling students are only being taught at their level and not being exposed to grade level standards.

It's important to provide scaffolding and support for our struggling learners, as well as, challenge our advanced learners. However,  it's also imperative that we teach our grade level material as well.

I created Power Points for Whole Group Word Study Lessons that can also be used for small group instruction or with individual students and added explicit instructions in the note sections. Please use these with your class to teach the spelling patterns that are required by your school districts.

When you pull small groups, you can review the grade level standards or use them to differentiate based on your children's needs.

These Power Points have been placed in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store,
They are FREE from today through October 7th as a treat for you! I'm also having a store-wide sale.  It's October, time for treats!  Look for sales all month long!

If you need help with math, check out Ashley Benoit's Teachers Pay Teacher's store, The Teachers Treasure Chest, for amazing resources!

Happy October!