Struggling Readers

Hi Michele,

I was just on the district’s assessment database looking at my students’ SBA scores, and it turns out that I am very fortunate in that I have four classes of 35 students with only 1 or 2 students in each class whose SBA scores were below proficient, and then I have one class of 34 (my smallest class haha!) that has 9 students with below proficient scores in reading. Not surprisingly, this class is (1) my biggest behavior problem and (2) my lowest performing class. Pretty interesting to see how the students that are really struggling in reading and writing in Spanish are the same students with low SBA scores! I’ll know to look ahead for that last year.

Anyway, I’ve done lots and lots of reading, writing, listening, and speaking assessments, and now that I’ve identified who needs additional support in each skill area, I’m wondering how to support that in my classroom. Maybe you have some ideas from your multi-level classes? I’m seeing that my kids that are struggling to read in Spanish are struggling to read overall, and frankly I don’t have the training to teach basic reading skills—everything I teach relates back to English!

I’m writing this very quickly and it probably doesn’t make any sense, but what are your thoughts?

M
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(I’m going to blog the answer to this question, since I haven’t done a blog entry today, and I think others might chime in with their tricks.)

Your question makes perfect sense! I too have a bunch of kids whose reading skills are low, partly because every year my “reluctant reader” English class students decide that they like me enough to sign up for Russian the next year. Ironies abound, don’t they?! There are lots of different tricks reading teachers use. Here are just a couple. We can talk later, and we should talk at the conference about this as well.

Before I start with ideas, you have to know that I follow the Susie/Ben techniques of reading out loud in class, and having kids immediately translate. I stay right with them, and if a word is about to come up that they might not know, I fill in the translation as we go. The text we read should have the expectation of 80-90% comprehensibility. Success is very important. I don’t spend all day every day on a paragraph, as Blaine does so effortlessly. I may do a parallel story if it fits, but most often I am just discussing the story.

There are a lot of different ways to scaffold reading. Embedded readings are your friend. If you go to Laurie Clarcq’s website and look in February 2010, there are some fabulous posts about embedded readings (including a hysterically funny story about oatmeal). Basically, you take what you want them to read, and you cut it down in successive versions so that only the meat remains. Or, you do the opposite, and you take the bare bones reading and write two follow-up versions, adding details each time. Laurie had a formula for this last year, but I can’t remember what it was. Something like two details for every sentence, but when you have struggling readers, you don’t want to add too much. I’ll do a quick example below. What embedding does is repeat the bare bones that you want them to get three times…you have to make sure though that every kid understands every bit of the first one. I make my kids put their fingers on the words that we are reading until they are third-year. I explain that I will be interrupting the reading often, and they have to know where we are. (I can also tell with a quick glance around the room who is still “on”.) And if a kid is really struggling, I have learned from Jason to ask them to highlight the words on their page as we read them. You can let the kids know in advance that you’ll be offering the highlighter pens, and then have a few extra for other students. It keeps them focused. Poor readers often don’t scan well. They get instantly lost in any text.

You have to circle those first story versions really well, and ask the struggling readers the most basic questions, meanwhile asking the faster processors more complex questions. Maybe you have some of the vocabulary on the board. Just as you would when you’re in the middle of asking a story, you can ask a “barometer student” what a word means, while pointing to the meaning of the word. You can ask the kid next to him what the phrase means, and a Susie Gross trick is then to congratulate the kid who answers, but look at the barometer kid as you congratulate the neighbor. It works well for me as long as I haven’t screwed up by asking the barometer something he makes a mistake on. If a kid does make a mistake, I try not to drop it, but keep going until he has two right answers in a row and feels successful.

Jason told us to find ways to make kids re-read the text several times. If you are giving a quiz, you can ask them to answer questions in English, and then write the number of the question in the text where they found the answer. That means they can’t just depend on memory. They have to show you where they found it. It’s helpful to demonstrate for the whole class on the projector, then circulate to make sure they understand.

You can ask them to fill in charts: who, what, when, where, how. It’s not really a lot of output, but they have to go back and forth to the text. Someday soon I’ll post some of the “repeat reading” ideas, and maybe we can get some more. It’s really important to force re-readings of a text. Each time they return, they’ll get something new. And I tell the kids that this will help both their target language and their scanning skills for use in reading their regular texts.

Okay…an embedded story example directly from my Russian 1 class last week…(missing some details about dreadlocks…I got these extra details by leaving the story up on the projector screen for my next class to embellish. They had a lot of fun, and there was much laughter the next day in the Russian 1 class. Everyone got 100% on the quiz.)

Version 1

Brad Pitt had a problem. He had long hair. He wanted short hair. He went to Trend Setters. He said, “I have long hair. I want short hair.” Trend Setters said, “Impossible.” Brad Pitt cried.

Brad Pitt went to Great Clips. He said, “I have long hair. I want short hair.” Great Clips said “Impossible.” Brad Pitt cried.

Brad Pitt went to Mr. Lau, a teacher at West. He said, “I have long hair. I want short hair.” Mr. Lau said, “BZZZT,” and suddenly Brad Pitt had no hair. Mr. Lau laughed.

Version 2

Brad Pitt had a problem. He had long, green hair. He wanted short hair. He wanted short hair, because Angelina Jolie loved short hair. She didn’t love long hair. He went to Trend Setters. He said, “I have long green hair. I want short hair. I don’t want long green hair.” Trend Setters said, “Impossible. We aren’t working today.” Brad Pitt cried.

Brad Pitt flew to Great Clips. His mother was working there. Brad Pitt said, “I have long green hair. I want short hair. I don’t want long green hair.” His mother liked his long green hair, and she said “Impossible.” Brad Pitt cried.

Brad Pitt went to Mr. Lau, a teacher at West. He said, “I have long green hair. I want short hair. I don’t want long green hair.” Mr. Lau said, “BZZZT,” and suddenly Brad Pitt had no hair. Mr. Lau laughed. He was evil.

Version 3

Brad Pitt had a big problem. He had long, green hair. He wanted short hair. He wanted short hair, because Angelina Jolie loved short hair. She didn’t love long hair. He went to Trend Setters. He said, “I have long green hair. I want short hair. I don’t want long green hair.” Trend Setters said, “Impossible. We aren’t working today.” Brad Pitt cried. He knew that Angelina Jolie loved short hair. He had long green hair.

Brad Pitt flew to Great Clips on a pink penguin rocket. His mother was working there. Brad Pitt said, “I have long green hair. I want short hair. I don’t want long green hair.” His mother liked his long green hair, and she said “Impossible.” His mother knew that Angelina Jolie liked short hair. His mother didn’t like Angelina Jolie. She liked Jennifer Anniston. Jennifer Anniston liked long green hair. Brad Pitt’s mother was evil. Brad Pitt cried.

Brad Pitt went to Mr. Lau, a teacher at West, by transporter. He said, “I have long green hair. I want short hair. I don’t want long green hair.” Mr. Lau said, “Why do you want short hair?” Brad Pitt said, “I want short hair because Angelina Jolie likes short hair.” Mr. Lau said, “This is not a problem. BZZZT,” and suddenly Brad Pitt had no hair. Mr. Lau laughed. He was evil. Mr. Lau loved Brad Pitt’s mother. Brad Pitt’s mother loved Mr. Lau. Brad Pitt’s mother was evil.

That’s all for now. Maybe it’s too much!! But if we can demonstrate that we are teaching literacy skills in language classes, we may be able to defend our enrollment when times get tough.

4 responses to “Struggling Readers

  1. LOLOL Great story Michele!!!

    Like

  2. 🙂

    Can’t wait to see you, Laurie!! I know you have more tricks up your sleeve. Victoria and Kristin said that every time you turned around last summer, you would fling around valuable teaching hints as though they were Alaskan snowflakes to brush off.

    (Does that give you a hint of what to expect this weekend?!)

    Like

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! My head is spinning with ideas! How will I fall asleep??? Hugs all around to all my TPRS friends who are gathering in the great state of Alaska!!

    Like

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