Tag Archive | struggling readers

Fieldwork Reflection #4 With Picture!

Dates: Monday, April 22, Wednesday, April 24, and Friday, April 26, 2013
Site:
St. Paul Lutheran School, All day kindergarten
Cooperating Teacher: Mrs. Novak
Total hours together:
4 hours 5 mins     Total for EDU344: 13 hrs 45 mins out of 20 hrs

For Monday, I performed the second mini-lesson that I had devised for my mini-unit. First I used flashcards that looked like train cars to see if Luc had any knowledge of vowels with a final e, vowels preceded or proceeded by an r, and vowel diagraphs. I made a mark on a sheet for each word he struggled with and also gave him tips how he might sound them out.

After he read each word, Luc organized these “train cars” behind a cut-out train engine according to their vowel patterns. Each word group made a “word train.” The groups were as follows:

“Er” words: Fern River Paper Herd Under

“Or” words: Work Horn  Storm Corn

“oo” words:Took Look Book Roof Good

“ee” and “ea” words: Feet Need Dear Meet Read

“A” words with a final “e“: Came Fame Same Game Name

Of the preceding words, Luc missed or struggled with need, dear, under, river, storm, herd, corn, fame and paper. Some of them I expected, since they were multi-syllabic words, and the kindergarteners for the most part have only been learning one-syllable words. We talked about ways to recall proper decoding, such as remeluc with x boxmbering the “silent e” on fame. Luc told me his mother had been working on the “silent e” as well, which pleased me to know they were doing some English education at home. He seemed to really enjoy the lesson, despite the fact that I was drilling him quite extensively.

Later that week the school was celebrating “Grandparents’ Day.” Luc didn’t have any special person visiting him, so I did activities with him instead. We worked on a Search and Find puzzle that was made up of his classmate’s names. He struggled to find the words, so I had to give him plenty of hints. He also had to write about a happy memory in his journal. He couldn’t think of anything, so I gave him a few suggestions. He decided to draw a picture of his X-Box 360. I helped him write out this word at the top of his page. As we worked, he told me about his family, and how he had recently visited his grandparents in France. I asked him in my best French accent, “Parle vous Francais?” To which he replied, “Yeah.” He told me he also was learning Chinese and proceeded to recite the Chinese alphabet to me.

Luc is a very bright boy, who seems to have a knack for picking up languages. I have no doubt that his English will improve provided he continues to get adequate practice.

Fieldwork Reflection #3

DatesWednesday, April 17 and Friday, April 19, 2013

SiteSt. Paul Lutheran School, All day kindergarten

Cooperating TeacherMrs. Novak

Total hours together3 hours 5 mins      Total for EDU344: 9 hrs 40 mins out of 20 hours

On Wednesday, I practiced a Miscue Analysis/IRI on Luc. I used copies from the Qualitative Reading Analysis (5th ed.)  book from Pearson. First I asked him to read the words from the Pre-Primer 1 list, which included a bunch of sight words that the kindergarteners had previously learned. Luc did really well on reading this list automatically, missing just two words (can and was) and being able to self-correct the word can on his own. This put him at Independent level for this list. Then we moved on to Pre-Primer 2/3, which also include a lot of sight words but more complicated ones. Luc did not do so well on this list. He missed nine out of twenty words and was only able to self-correct one of those: the word some. I noticed that he struggled with words that had a final silent on them, as well as words that featured the letter r either before or after a vowel.

Next we moved on to Pre-Primer 1 level stories, the first called “I Can.” First I asked the concept questions to get a look at his background knowledge. The questions were basic, like “what does it mean to jump, hop, sleep, and dream? Luc couldn’t offer precise definition for any of the questions, and for the jump question he used the word in his definition. His comprehension was about 50%. He predicted that the story would be about hopping and skipping, even though skipping wasn’t one of the words.

For some reason, I had not copied the first page of the story, which said, “I can jump. See me jump.” So we started with the second page. Luc did well on the story. He misread can again, but he self-corrected. He also misread lunch and self-corrected and inverted two words, but also corrected them. This meant that the story was at his instructional level, which is good. For the retelling portion, he remembered 5 out of 10 points, so his comprehension/memory was at 50%. Despite not remembering key points, he did make some inferences based on the pictures. For the comprehension questions, he missed the last one. I asked him what the boy can do while he is sleeping, and Luc said the exact opposite of what a person does when he is asleep. He said the boy was awake and reading books, which was very puzzling to me. Did he not understand the English I was speaking?

I also would have been surprised by the lack of comprehension, except that Mrs. Novak had told me in a previous week that the majority of the students are still working on developing their comprehension skills.

Because he was at instructional level, I decided to have Luc read another story at the Pre-Primer 1 level. This story was called, “I See.” The concept questions were “what is a frog, what is a bug, and what is a pig? Luc was able to give 2-point answers, listing characteristics of each of the animals. He was also able to predict that the story would be about a frog and a pig. His prior knowledge was higher for this story, at 67%.

During the reading, he misread ant as nut, but he corrected himself. He also switched the order of two words, though he self-corrected. And he misread doing as logging. Doing was one of the words he had gotten wrong on the word list as well. Because there were fewer words in this story and he had one more miscue than the previous story, his level was at frustrational this time.

Interestingly enough, his memory for this story was way more accurate. He got 10 out of 10 ideas right in the retelling. He got all of the questions correct, too, including understanding some implicit ideas. He also figured out that the story rhymed even though this was not part of the assessment and I didn’t prompt him at all. He pointed out each of the rhyming words for me, and I praised him for figuring that out.

The only explanation I can think of for why his decoding and comprehension skills did not match up is his lack of understanding of the English language. Maybe both his reading and his listening skills can be affected by his language barrier.

After I analyzed his reading, we returned to the classroom where Luc was able to participate in a letter game with the other children before lunch time. The children had to pull items out of a box and figure out whether the figure started with a or or neither. If the items didn’t start with the feature letters, they started and/or ended with or x, which were the next letters the students were going to learn about; so it was a pre-assessment to see if the children already knew these letters. I thought it was a really clever idea, and I would totally implement that exercise if I ended up in a kindergarten classroom.

After reviewing the miscue analysis at home, I noticed Luc especially struggles with his vowels. While he can read words with the CVC pattern—that is, consonant, vowel, consonant—he gets confused when we add a finale marker to a word, when the vowel is preceded or proceeded by an r, or when the word has a vowel diagraph—two letters sitting next to each that create a distinct vowel sound. Because of this boy’s struggles, I decided we should focus on vowel sounds,

We started the lesson, by playing the Say, Move it game, where a student moves tokens below the designated line for every sound in a word. I started with easy CVC words, such as “cat, dog, hat,” etc. before moving on to more complicated words like “boat, tail, book, rain,” etc. I was doing this to assess whether Luc understood phonemes and graphemes or not.

After the exercise, I explained how some words have more letters than sounds. I showed the word rain as an example. There are three sounds, but four letters, because there is an extra vowel in the word. I demonstrated this for him, using little print-out blocks that had the letters of the alphabet on them and spelled a few words that had more letters than corresponding sounds. I then showed Luc how to change the word by exchanging or adding letters. For instance, rain becomes train, train becomes trail , trail becomes tail, and tail becomes pail. The teacher will explain as she is changing the words, how the vowel sounds also change depending on the word. Rain is a long /a/ sound, while pail is closer to a short /a/ with a hint of a short /i/ sound.

We then worked together to do the following other word building lists, explaining about the different sounds the vowels make, depending on the words:

  • Dome
  • Home
  • Come
  • Some
  • Same
  • Came
  • Cane
  • Pane

And the list:

  • Book
  • Look
  • Took
  • Tool
  • Pool
  • Cool
  • Fool
  • Food
  • Good

During this exercise, I would periodically pause and ask the student to find a letter to add to the beginning or the end of the word to change it. For example, during the first list, after changing the word to same, I asked Luc to grab a letter and change the word. And he selected g, to create game. By the end of the exercise, Luc made five words of his own.

After we went through these word lists, I had him play the Say it, Move it game again, this time sounding out words like book and then counting out the letters. He saw that these specific words had a difference in letters and sounds, thanks to the vowel diagraphs in each of the selected words.

Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties: Chapter Eleven

Given the fact that Chapter Eleven is over forty pages long, it is safe to surmise that comprehension is one of the most important factors in reading. According to Gunning, comprehension requires at least five basic processing abilities: activating schema, “understanding key details at a literal level, integrating text across sentences and paragraphs, making inferences, and monitoring for meaning” (353). What good is it to decode the words in front of you, if you don’t understand a word you just read? Reading without comprehension is like looking at these words: blahnina tooook, rick-rick-rowilow and pfft-haha, and being able to decode them. Kudos to you if you can (and extra nerd points if you recognized the language as Simlish), but it doesn’t do you any good in the long run. You still don’t understand what concept is being explained, what story is being told, or what emotion is being expressed. Fortunately, Gunning has a plethora of techniques we educators can implement to teach comprehension to struggling and emergent readers. While I could summarize the entire chapter (which would show my ability to comprehend, as, according to page 362, summarization is “the most effective comprehension strategy of all”), I will merely focus on a reoccurring theme that I noticed running throughout the chapter.

Once again, Gunning spends portions of his chapter discussing the importance of students’ self-confidence. At the very beginning of the chapter, before listing a single technique, Gunning notes that children need to believe in the efficacy of themselves and in the efficacy of the strategies being taught in order for any strategy to actually work (356). During his explanation of metacognition, Gunning points out that a student who has a poor self-concept may not try very hard to master comprehension skills because he honestly believes he can’t learn them (372). One way to combat this negative self-talk is for the teachers to show a struggling reader that sometimes even they struggle with understanding what they read. If a child realizes that reading is not always effortless and automatic even for proficient readers, it might give him/her or the incentive to use the same reading strategies as the expert readers (374).

There are several more mentions of self-esteem in the chapter, which leads me to believe that not only are comprehension skills imperative for developing good reading, but self-efficacy is the only way to truly master these skills.

Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting: Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 352-398.

Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties: Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine continues looking at the decoding of language, this time focusing on reading multisyllabic words. There are two approaches to teaching syllabic analysis: the rules approach and the pattern approach, and both techniques can be used in conjunction with the pronounceable word-part and analogy strategies that were discussed in the previous chapter.

 In the rules approach, the reader works in a very similar way as in reading single syllable words, by parsing the words into clusters or chunks. However, because the words are longer, the chunks are longer too. So instead of simple onset and rimes like d-og or b-ird, the words are now split on the syllables, such as an-i-mal or fla-min-go. If students are having difficulty spotting syllables, Gunning suggests first introducing the concept using compound words such as starfish, ladybug, blackbird, etc. First get the child to separate the two words from each other and then have the reader parse the words even further, (for example, jellyfish becomes jelly and fish and then becomes jellyfish).

 The pattern approach works off of the rules approach, but instead of merely presenting one long polysyllabic word to the student, the teacher “starts with a single-syllable word and shows how multisyllabic words are related to it” (301). The example Gunning gave was starting with the word tie, then moving to the two-syllable word ti-ger and then mixing it up with spi-der, di-ner and mi-ser.

 Another way to teach students syllable analysis is through morphemic elements like affixes (aka prefixes and suffixes). Morphemes are the smallest unit bearing meaning in a word. The morphemic approach is the method I still employ to decode unfamiliar words. For instance, if I was reading a historical paper about 19th century England for some ungodly reason, and I stumbled upon the word antidisestablishmentarianism, I would start decoding the word by finding the affixes I was familiar with, which are the following: anti, dis, ment, ian, and ism. I would also look for other words hidden in the longer word. In this case we have establish (or establishment, if we add that suffix and remove it from our affix list). Once I have parsed this word thusly, I am able to find how the morphemes are connected to each other. For instance, the suffixes ment and ian are linked by the morpheme ar, so when I read the whole word, those three morphemes will be pronounced together. Then I can sound out the whole word as anti-dis-establish-mentarian-ism, or anti-disestablishment-arian-ism, or any concoction I can invent. As Gunning points out, it doesn’t matter where you divide the word, “as long as [your] analysis of the word enables [you] to pronounce it,” (299). When I decode a word it takes little more than a second to do it, but when students are just beginning to read, or if they have difficulties, they can struggle for minutes on one word. Practice is very important to ensure that readers develop their decoding skills. If they practice enough, eventually it will become second nature to them, and that is what all teachers strive for when educating their students.

 

Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting: Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 299-306.

 

Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties: Chapter Eight

In the span of 78 pages, Gunning explains the appropriate strategies for teaching phonics, high-frequency words (also known as sight words for our ability to recognize them on sight), and fluency to struggling readers. Chapter eight begins with methods for teaching children the letters of the alphabet, starting with consonants, then working with short vowels, then frequent consonant clusters, then adding long vowels, and finally working with advanced vowel and consonant correspondences (such as the oy in “boy” and “boil” or the ch in “chef” or “character”). Then Gunning explains how to teach children to identify the onsets and rimes in short words, such as how c (onset) and at (rime) spells cat or how the diagraphs (a group of letters that form individual sounds) of sl and st fit onto the rime op to form the words slop and stop. The author lists the 200 most used words in the English language and spends a few pages detailing how we can teach our students these sight words. Finally, Gunning explains methods of enhancing fluency in readers.

 I could describe each and every one of the various strategies and tools that Gunning suggests we implement in our own classroom, but considering it took him almost 80 pages to do so, I think my time would be better spent focusing on a couple of seemingly throwaway lines in the chapter. Several times throughout the reading, Gunning mentions how the purpose of reading is to create meaning. This statement usually precedes a paragraph or two explaining how certain struggling readers can decode words and phonemes with no problem, but because they lack context, they come up with the wrong pronunciation for the word and can’t make sense of the sentence. For instance, say a child sees the word scenery. They know from their phonic rules that the consonant c makes a /k/ sound and that the cluster en is part of words like pen, ten and men. So the child reads the word as s-k-en-er-ee, as opposed to its proper pronunciation which is s-een-er-ee. The child has effectively used the decoding rules of phonics, but the word doesn’t mean anything. The student needs to look at the other words around it, and also check his own background knowledge to see if s-k-en-er-ee is really a word or not.

 Phonics is not the end-all-be-all of reading instruction. In fact, Gunning believes it’s the opposite. On page 274 he states, “Phonics is a means to the end. The ultimate aim of decoding is to enable students to read independently. To accomplish this goal, decoding instruction must be functional and contextual.” We can’t teach our challenged readers all of the tricks we know for decoding words and expect them to become reading experts. For one thing, many high-frequency words are irregular and do not work using the common practices of decoding, such as the method of seeking out pronounceable word parts.

 Phonics instruction needs to be integrated into a total reading program. It is important to show children how to use phonics in the actual reading of authentic texts and not unrelated worksheets. Phonics instruction needs to focus on reading print rather than on learning the rules. Deciphering words in the context of the plotline is a valuable key to unlocking language in struggling readers.

Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting: Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 218-295.

Fieldwork Reflection #1 With Picture!

Dates: Monday, March 18, Wednesday, March 20, and Friday, March 22, 2013
Site: St. Paul Lutheran School, All day kindergarten
Cooperating Teacher: Mrs. Novak
Total hours together: 3 hours
Total for EDU344: 4 hrs 30 mins out of 20 hours

I began my fieldwork at St Paul’s on a Monday in Mrs. Novak’s all-day kindergarten class. When I was first assigned to this class I was skeptical that I would be able to get any viable information for my Struggling Readers course, since most kindergarteners I know do not even read yet. But because the children are in school all day long, as opposed to the traditional half-day classes, they have more time to develop their reading skills. From my observations and talking to the teacher, it would appear most of the students are already at Pre-primer, if not Primer level. There is one girl in the classroom who is already reading chapter books and taking tests on the Accelerated Reader program that the school uses. In fact, after a periphery glance at the students, I thought there would be no struggling readers in the class not because nobody knew how to read, but because everyone knew how to read so well! Fortunately, after several hours of observation as well as discussion with my cooperating teacher, I have now honed in on several students who are behind the others.

On that first day I merely observed for an hour during their Language Arts period, and I saw some really excellent teaching. Mrs. Novak started the session with spelling. She asked the children to recall what a pattern was, and then asked them what pattern they had found in one-syllable words, which was “CVC” or “consonant, vowel, consonant.” After this review, she started sounding out letters to form a word and would call on one of the students to tell her the word (e.g. H-A-T, R-I-G, or B-A-D). She used both a whiteboard and hand motions as forms of differentiation. Whenever she spelled a word, her right hand would travel down her left arm with each consonant or vowel sound. Some of the children even mimicked her movements.

After this spelling lesson, Mrs. Novak read a Big Book that was part of the textbook series they were using. It was called My Teacher Can Teach Anything, and it was a rhyming book that described how a teacher could teach different subjects from A-Z. She started the shared reading by looking at print concepts with the children. She pointed out the cover, the back cover, the author and illustrator of the book, and the dedication page. She also asked the students to figure out from the cover whether the story was going to be informational or fiction. She reviewed those terms for those who were confused. She then called on different children and had them explain their answers.

I noticed that during her reading several children were not paying attention, particularly one little boy, who I will call Michael, who kept looking at a nearby poster. I would discover on my next visit that he is one of the struggling readers in the class and has several impairments, including a speech impairment.

After the reading, the teacher explained the definitions of some of the difficult vocab words. She also got the children to recognize that the text rhymed and that it was an alphabet book. She also connected the text to the children’s background knowledge by asking them which jobs mentioned in the story were “helping people” jobs. After the group discussion, the children went to their tables to draw a picture of who they wanted to be from the jobs mentioned in the storybook.

I didn’t get to talk to the teacher that first day at all, which was rather frustrating, as I wanted to know which one of the students might become my case study. On my second visit, however, the children were doing independent reading for a good portion of the hour, so Mrs. Novak was able to fill me in on the struggling students and what sort of scaffolding or tutoring was being done for them. Most of the children are already reading at the Pre-primer/primer level. I was very impressed, especially since I had only known how to read my name and several sight words by the end of kindergarten.

The children’s independent reading time is like a mini-reading and writing workshop. They take ten minutes to read (the teacher has been building up the number of minutes slowly throughout the year) and when they are done, they write in their journal for another couple of minutes about what the story was about or who their favorite character is. This is to help them develop their comprehension skills, since many of the students are doing well at decoding but can’t remember a thing about what they just read. As the children read and wrote, I watched to see who was struggling more. Once again, Michael caught my attention. His letters were big and sloppy, showing a lack of motor skills. This was especially interesting to me after the teacher told me he is seven-years-old. I understand younger children tend to lack motor skills, but Michael is a good year older than most of his classmates.

After their independent reading, the children got to play a match game with sight words. There were a lot of sight words in the pile, and the memories of five-year-olds are not very good, so not many students got matches, though everyone did read the words well.

On Friday, the Language Arts portion started with another shared reading. Mrs. Novak started by going over text-to-text connections and text-to-self connections. The book they were going to read was called, When Will it Be Spring? written and illustrated by Catherine Walters. The teacher was pointing out how the miserable, cold weather outside had prompted her to read this book because the protagonist in the story is likewise impatient for spring. After making connections, the teacher asked the children to infer from the illustration on the cover what time of year this book took place, what was the setting, and what was going to happen. When she was done taking answers, she read the book aloud, pausing occasionally to point out context clues in the pictures or to go over difficult words like “bleary.”

Mrs. Novak's Class

Mrs. Novak’s Class

After the book, the students went to their tables to read a short, repetitive coloring book aloud together and then to color the pages. The story took place on a farm, and each page featured a different animal or item found on the farm. Each page started with the sentence, “The rain falls on the__,” and then a different animal or object (like the barn) would fill in the blank. While they read, the teacher would ask the students to list the different ways they were decoding the words. Some figured out the word from the context of the picture. Some figured out the word from the beginning and ending letters. They were all using various techniques to decode and the teacher was engaging them in metacognition by showing them how they were learning. While the majority of the class was reading aloud, the special education teacher came into the room to help the struggling readers with their story. She spent time with about three different boys, Michael included. I wasn’t able to hear what she said to them, which was unfortunate. However, I found out that Michael gets pulled every day for extra tutelage, so I’m considering asking them if I may observe a few of those sessions. Of the struggling readers I have seen, Michael presents the biggest challenges. His age and his cognitive impairments lead me to believe he is truly struggling with reading, whereas the other two boys in the class could simply not be ready to learn how to read.

Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties: Chapter Seven

Chapter seven was a reiteration of what I learned last year in my Teaching Reading course. This is not to say I was annoyed at the repetition. On the contrary, I find it enlightening that so many of the same concepts were mentioned in both textbooks, because this proves just how important and invaluable these techniques are in teaching children to read. What struck me while reading both chapters was the concept of shared reading, which I will discuss in the following paragraphs, taking information from my own fieldwork experiences and from the two texts that I have read. Hopefully, those who stumble upon my blog may find the information illuminating as they journey on their own quest to teach emergent readers.

According to Gunning, shared reading is a “technique in which the teacher reads aloud from a Big Book or other enlarged text and students follow along” (192). Through interactions like shared readings, students develop expectations of the kinds of language found in specific books, as well as developing understanding of print, letters of the alphabet, and letter-sound relationships. As children read, they can also become familiar with rhyming and high-frequency words.

Reading books aloud to children may be the most important tool in early literacy development. Good books have repetitive patterns, are language-rich, immerse the students in meaning, and present the power of language. At any given time children may be learning multiple literacy techniques through their reading. Shared reading can:

  • Interest beginners or struggling readers in listening to, reading, and writing stories, with emphasis on predicting, sharing and extending personal meanings.
  • Invite them to construct meaning through the use of picture cues and illustrations
  • Help them gain familiarity with book language, and the meaning of terms that figure in literacy instruction
  • Teach alphabetic principles of written language.
  • Teach them to predict words that must come next in sequence.

 Shared reading is also an effective and easy way to teach students Print Concepts. Before she begins reading, the teacher shows children the cover of the book and asks them what they think the story will be about. The children then use clues from the title and cover together with background knowledge to formulate predictions about the story.

The teacher then reads aloud the title, author, and illustrator and briefly explains what each term means. The students in turn note what the words on the book cover represent. The teacher then gives a lively reading, displaying interest and delight in the language. The students observe that the teacher can evoke meaningful language from print. 

 If the teacher tracks print with her hand, the students can follow the movement, which helps them make the connection between speech and print as well as left to right directionality. If the teacher focuses the children’s attention on distinctive features and patterns in the text and uses letter names and correct terminology to discuss these features, the students will learn these features and patterns and attempt to find others on their own. This develops understanding of the elements of decoding meaningful text. 

 Teachers can help develop all of these reading skills by selecting high-interest books with rich language, well-developed plots and characters, and multiple layers of meaning. Stories like that will engage readers. Educators should always preview the book before reading it aloud. This helps them to figure out what words or themes they want to focus on; plus it gives them a chance to practice their oral delivery. As teachers read the book to themselves, they should think about the story’s structure, characters, descriptions, illustrations, themes and author’s use of language. Educators should also not be afraid to select nonfiction books for extended vocabulary and high-quality realistic pictures. With these hints, teachers should be able to successfully immerse their struggling readers in literature.

 

 Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting: Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 188-213.