Puzzled by Progress

Since the beginning of the year, I have been pulling a group of first graders for 40 minutes a day 4 times a week. Based on our MClass testing , these students need intensive intervention in literacy and based on Number Knowledge Test testing, they need intensive intervention in math.

These students are the best part of my day. They are so excited to learn, shouting out the answers, making connections and engaged through all lessons. We have a couple different activities that we complete each day. there is a structure to our lessons but are inquiry takes us to all different places. My goal with these students is to complete a new guided reading book per day, work on sight words, engage in a number paste activity, as well as learn new vocabulary. I know that there is a lot for us to do during the 40 minutes but the time goes by so quickly because the students are having so much fun learning.

Because the students are in an intensive intervention they need to be progress monitoring every 10 days. I progress monitor the students on a variety of different measures. The  literacy measures include  letter names, letter sounds,nonsense word fluency comma sight words and TRC (running record with decoding & comprehension). the math measures include number identification missing number and we will start NKT progress monitoring.

One student is particularly interesting to me at this time. At the beginning of the year, this student knew 7 letter names and 5 sounds, no sight words, and was reading at a less than Print Concepts level. This student could count up to 6 inconsistently and was unable to count with one-to-one correspondence.

The first day that we started reading a book, the first comment from the student was “I can’t read…”. We had not even opened the book or completed the picture walk. This made me reflect on the teaching that takes place in classrooms and makes me sad to think that this student feels this way as a learner.

The puzzling part of this student is the current progress monitoring that recently took place.

9780325027456We read the Level A Book – At the Park. Each page has simple text “I can…” and the book follows the pattern. As I listened to the student read, I was surprised by the student’s inconsistency to read one-to-one but also to make up more details to the story as the student read along.


  • I can throw. 
    • Read as: “I can throw the ball to my friend.”
  • I can catch.
    • Read as: “I can catch the ball in my mit.”
  • I can slide.
    • Read as: “I can go down the slide by myself.”

I then asked the student to read the book again, and it was read with 100% accuracy and no inserts. We then completed the first 20 words from the Fry List and the student could only read 4 words – to, on, I, a.


This is puzzling to me and I am noticing that when we are reading a higher level texts in Guided Reading, this student can read the texts and enjoys the reading. I wonder if this student is expecting more from the text than just 3 words per page.  

I am going to continue to monitor and see if I notice any other improvements or changes. If you have any suggestions, please let me know and I would be more than excited to try some new strategies!


9 thoughts on “Puzzled by Progress

  1. griepmk October 25, 2016 / 1:05 pm

    This does sound very puzzling. It looks like the first time the student read the book he was using the pictures to aid in his reading by adding his own words. I am confused as to why he could only read four words from the fry list after he could read the Letter A book. I had a student similar to this last year and my special education teacher led me to the Florida Center for Reading Research website (www.fcrr.org). This site has SO many activities for any type of reader. The activities include directions and all the materials needed. They are great for guided reading lessons, center work, or activities for the students to practice at home! Hope this helps!


  2. cheriedh October 25, 2016 / 2:17 pm

    It is heartbreaking when a student doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his ability to read. Sometimes word lists are more difficult for students to read because there is no context. That should get better as the student practices reading those words in isolation. However, the exciting thing is this student has the experiences and vocabulary to be able to add to the text. He shows that by completing the sentences very appropriately, even though the words aren’t there. Once he understands the one-to-one word correspondence and practices more of the “First 100 Words” list, he should really be able to apply some of his prior knowledge and vocabulary to read the text. His excitement and confidence should follow.


  3. jackieb38 October 25, 2016 / 6:21 pm

    This is a really interesting problem to have with a student. It seems like the student is making progress as a reader, yet the assessments aren’t demonstrating that. I think that this shows the in-authenticity of these assessments. Is reading words in isolation of each other on a page really a good indicator of a student’s reading ability? This is really interesting to see. I think that the fact that this student is using her experiences reading in a higher level group with higher level text to make sense of a lower text. Honestly those level A books are pretty boring and bland to read, so it seems like she is using pictures and other clues from the text to expand the content. Isn’t that showing higher level thinking skills? I think it would be interesting if you give the student a more complex text and see if she can read it.


  4. whitneyallred October 25, 2016 / 7:57 pm

    How is he as a writer? As the comment above suggests, I also wonder if he can read a harder text. It is definitely puzzling that he doesn’t seem to be able to read the words in isolation. Can he read the same text without pictures? I sometimes like to take the text from those easy books, take the picture away, and see if the student can still read the book.


  5. ateach17 October 25, 2016 / 8:54 pm

    It made me so sad to read that this student’s first words were “I can’t read.” What have we done in education for a student to think this about themselves?

    This problem sounds quite puzzling. As some of the comments above suggest, I also wonder how the student would do on a more difficult text, especially if you pitch it to the child as a fun challenge with low stakes. I wonder, too, if the child may not be interested in the text. Have you thought of making a book for the child that includes things the child likes to do? Maybe also with pictures of the child doing those things?


  6. rachelhaley36 October 25, 2016 / 9:05 pm

    This is definitely puzzling! I actually had a student pop into my mind as I was reading this who really struggled on the MClass assessment, but does well reading grade level text in guided reading. I’m curious if the harder text was something that the child was interested in or could give more opinionated answers to and maybe that’s why the child did better? I would be interested to hear how the child does on a passage or story of something they choose to read about. Choice has played a large role in my classroom this year and I have noticed a difference in how the motivation is in class! I’m very interested in hearing new things you try and how they work because I’m sure it will benefit a lot of people!


  7. Jordan Davis October 25, 2016 / 10:00 pm

    This is very interesting to see his changes in reading based on the activity. I wonder if his confidence of stating that he can’t read might be affecting his engagement in the activity. Especially with seeing the simpler three word text and wanting to read more. I wonder if he could say a sentence using each Fry word to create his own story. I think Anna has a great idea to maybe have him create a picture book using these words. Also, he could use the Level A book text and add with more details to the story too.This would be a great activity to build his sight word language and also build his comprehension through storytelling.


  8. jennmphil October 26, 2016 / 3:19 am

    We need to find a way to boost this child’s confidence and find out what is making them disconnect..
    I wonder if this student is not connecting to the text or environment even? Have you tried mixing up the subject of the book? Or playing a game to see what words he can read in isolation? (Memory, hang man, etc). Reading outside in a different space?
    I unfortunately have seen young students sink in testing environments and not show they’re full potential because of the uncomfortable way they feel in that situation.
    Sounds like this student has a lot of creative thoughts and vocabulary to point out and praise. Love the idea of letting them create a book to read. I would start with making one together in a shared writing/share the pen experience-then letting him read and share it!


  9. jlong450 October 26, 2016 / 7:34 pm

    It saddens me greatly to hear a student say “i dont know how to read”, education here should not be like that. A lot of change needs to happen in education just as a lot of change has happened in many others areas of society. The only thing that seems to have never update is education! Think about it technology, cars, and phones but a classroom set up has never been different, it seems we continue to teach the same way over years and years. We cant be afraid to try new things and get students to really engage themselves in the world of education!


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