I could never fully understand what goes on in the head of a child. All I have are my (adult) perspectives of a child’s actions and products of work. I’m trying to piece together a set of better practices for literacy (and teaching in general). It is all happening through trial and error as my students “take me to school” and force me to learn new things on the fly. There are two students in particular who have pushed me the most to grow this year.
There is a student in my classroom who is excited to learn nearly every day. It doesn’t matter what subject. It doesn’t matter the manner in which the learning is presented. He gets so excited about new things that he literally cannot stay in his seat. However, many of the assessments that we have to give (as mandated by his status as a regular education and EC resource student), do not show how bright he is.
His excitement gets in the way of the many timed tests that we have to administer. We have to let him jump around, or fiddle with materials, or talk to himself until he can sufficiently calm himself down. We, as his teachers, cannot step in and stop the flow of excitement early, or he tends to have a meltdown.
His inability to process verbal commands is also difficult to work around for reading comprehension. There are strategies that we have been practicing in class. And I have asked the specialists at the school about how I should approach standardized testing. It seems as though none of them really know what I am and am not allowed to do. I would assume that, written correctly, the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) would allow any appropriate provisions and accommodations to be made.
I have been researching high and low for new ideas to use with this student. It saddens me to be stuck as the mediator between the powers that be, insisting that he take part in testing, and then feeling as though I have failed this student because he does not progress in the manner required for formal assessment progress. I have found some suggestions for instruction in places like this Reading Recovery presentation. However, I will still have to continue the hunt.
Another student of mine is just now learning to fluently read kindergarten level books in second grade. He is so excited in his progress, as are we. However, he has been that student listed as “inactive” on the regular literacy assessments. Or he has simply shown up as that student we erroneously forgot to test.
Now that he is reading, I could test him, except only sections of the test would be appropriate. I’m not allowed to only test certain sections. So, I am stuck trying to advocate for a child who is fluent, but slow; and whose struggles with making connections and using higher order thinking skills, will prevent him from progressing to higher reading levels for assessments. You can’t move forward without mastering all components.
His listening comprehension is far greater than his reading comprehension – especially since the books he is able to read contain very little content to work with. His word identification is 10 times better than it was even back in June, but his reading speed is low. For him, I am diving head first into guided reading strategies from the Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading instructional book, and utilizing all of the word attack strategies at my disposal.
There are days where I recognize that it is of no fault of mine, that these children are learning at their own pace and taking the sequence of skills into their own hands. Other times, I seriously question whether I should have done more early on, and ‘what should I be doing now’ to rectify our situation.
Both of these boys are so special and so bright, in their own unique ways. They are constantly schooling me in understanding new ways to be literate and constructing new strategies for them to practice.