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Baffled: Observed Performance Better than Test Results
Old 08-03-2018, 01:44 PM
 
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Hi everyone,

I have taken on an emergency long term substitute position for the final two terms of a 4-term school year abroad. The school had a surge in new students throughout the first two terms, which overcrowded it above acceptable student/teacher ratios.

About 5 children from the 3rd grade class, 5 from the 4th grade class and 6 from the 5th grade class were sent to my newly created class. Abilities are all over the place, and most of the students removed from the other classes are below or well below their age level in reading.

We don't have Title 1, but have a similar program in which a Reading specialist works once a week with struggling readers who are approved for funding. One such reader is a boy in my class who is extremely energetic, and who finds it difficult to sit down and focus on anything longer than a few moments. He is 10 years old. When he sat down with me to read Charlotte's Web, he read slowly but with fluidity... he went back to the start of the sentence if something did not make sense to him and re-read words if he didn't understand or had missed a letter. He even laughs when he reads a funny bit of the story, or says "Awww!" when a cute part is read. I am not prompting him... he is doing it himself.

He was tested last week by the reading specialist and his scores showed that he was drastically below level in word recognition, phonetic awareness, and I don't even remember all of the other (at least 8) categories. To say the least, I am completely baffled. What I observe him doing when he reads (I will stop him intermittently and ask inference questions or general comprehension questions and he answers them fully...he truly enjoys the book and is reading and understanding what he reads) does not reflect someone who is significantly below level in all of those categories.

Am I hurting him by allowing him to continue with a novel study that he is completing successfully? (I mean, I'm thrilled that he is so engaged and doing all the things that I observe the higher ability students doing in his reading... including using newly learned vocabulary)? Should I be moving him back to leveled readers to hit those gaps in phonics, etc. that the reading specialist says he has? Should I just leave the specialist to filling those gaps?

Caveat: The reading specialist is NOT around for me to consult with much, as he works with several rural schools over a wide area (50 mile radius from our school).

Any experience based suggestions you have would very much help. I only have him for another five months, and want to make the best of that time so he can progress as much as possible before heading to middle school next year.

Thank you!


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Old 08-05-2018, 07:11 AM
 
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It sounds to me like the Reading Specialists role in your district is to provide diagnostic assessment support, but not really to teach your student. One session a week with a reading specialist is not going to make a meaningful impact on a struggling reader, but it would allow the RS to complete assessments.

If your student is missing key foundational reading skills (as indicated by the assessment results), that will impact his ability to read at grade level and will ultimately impact comprehension. It sounds like he is using strategies to help himself as he reads, which is great. But, from what you wrote, my guess is his reading rate is slow. As he gets older, and text gets more difficult and longer, it will impact his ability to complete those readings. How does he do right now if you give him something that is unfamiliar and maybe not high interest to him? Charlotte's Web is a high interest novel with familiar characters and setting, so your student's ability to read and comprehend that novel is going to be higher than most academic text written at the same level.

Suggestions:
* Ask the reading specialist for recommendations on where to start, and what you can do to address your student's deficiencies (typically you are going to want to start with the most foundational skill first)
* Start trying to tackle deficits one at a time - if there are spelling patterns that he is missing, work to mastery of those
* Continue reading Charlotte's Web for enjoyment, practical application of strategies, and comprehension discussions

A lot of the time, kids who are missing foundational reading skills need lots of repetition and practice of the skill to master it, but that practice could be fairly short and fast paced. My students usually think it is fun to do this kind of work. I would suggest pulling any students with the same need into a small group to work on the targeted skill. Since you are teaching a multi-age gen ed classroom, I know you probably don't have tons of time, so I'd recommend a shorter period (even 5-10 minutes if you are really focused in on one skill/sound) every day rather than something longer but irregularly occurring.

Hope this helps!
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Old 08-05-2018, 10:58 PM
 
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WG Reading, thank you so much! Not being a reading specialist myself, I was at a complete loss when I saw the specialist's findings for this student. Your explanation makes perfect sense. He is VERY motivated to read Charlotte's Web, a new book for him that is set on a farm (I teach in a rural farming community) with animals (and what kid doesn't love animals).

I will try reading a nonfiction text with him to see if I observe those gaps, which I suspect I will.

The specialist will be in again this week, and I will also clarify to what extent (and what resources he may have) he can help. We have a computer program called Lexia that he can be signed onto to independently work on specific skills when I am working with other groups. Can you recommend anything else he could work on that is online? He is not inclined to do homework, but might if it were computer based.

You truly understand that I want to help him grow his skills as much as possible before he moves onto middle school in six months.

Again, thank you!
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Old 08-07-2018, 05:15 PM
 
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You're welcome!

The reading interventions that our building has that are online are subscription services because we are required to use only material that has been approved by our school board. We use Imagine Learning, iRead, and Read Naturally.

Maybe someone else could recommend a free site?

If you have something that can record him, you could have him practice word lists and sentences with the target spelling, or sight words, decodable, etc. and record himself so that you can listen to that reading at another time. You'd want to make sure he pretty much has the spelling or words before sending him to do that - so he isn't practicing errors - but it would help with automaticity and reading speed.
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From what I understand
Old 08-07-2018, 07:57 PM
 
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he is self-correcting his errors (rereading for meaning), comprehending well, and enjoying reading. Those are huge for continued improvement.

Am I correct in understanding that he is reading in a second language other than his home language? So he is translating in his head on the fly in a moderately unfamiliar language/vocabulary while enjoying the story?

I'm guessing that the assessments the reading specialist gives are timed-- one or two minute tests are fairly standard around here. Distractible kids can have problems with such tests as it may take them a minute or two to get into the task and by then it's over. You might want to consider how these might influence his scores.

Some of the things you might work on for brief periods and yes, perhaps with others who have similar needs are sight words. You can use flash cards with sight words in a game-like format--who can say it first, that person gets the card. Then the person with the most cards can hold them for the other(s) to name and collect the card. The goal is for everyone to have all the cards sooner or later during the week. I'd limit it to 20 or so cards and rotate some out when they are quickly recognized by all to be replaced by new ones.

You can also work on pointing out how on-sets and rimes can be interchangeable. b- (on set) and -at or ake (rime) can combine and recombine for bat, cat, flat, bake, cake, flake, etc. These are simple examples that my brain can produce at this hour. You can pull more complex ones from his reading to work with, perhaps using cards with the rimes and plastic letters or single letter or letter blends on individual cards to physically align.

It's interesting to work on developing vocabulary by looking at root words or word parts.
Telephone (phone means sound), telegraph (graph is writing), television (vision is something seen or a picture). So what does tele- mean? What would phone-etics mean? How about an auto-graph? What would en-vision be? Making explicit how knowing a word meaning can help you figure out the meaning of a word with a similar chunk of letters.

He can build out words with prefixes and suffixes: cover, discover, discovered, undiscovered.

Your class sounds like a challenge and a wonderful opportunity to grow while allowing the students to help each other. They can teach each other based on what they know and can contribute rather than on how old each is.


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Old 08-17-2018, 04:16 PM
 
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Thank you for your reply. The boy is a native English speaker, but has a very limited vocabulary (he has not had a lot of language building experiences in his extracurricular life). Yes, the Reading tests are timed.

Last week when we did our novel study, I realized that he only focuses if I am literally sitting beside him the whole time while he reads aloud to me, which I can't do because the rest of the class also needs me! When I let him work with the other students who are willing or keen to work with him, they are soon play-fighting or throwing things around the room.

After meeting with the reading specialist again, I decided to give him a choice:

1. Continue the novel study in earnest with my occasional individual help.
2. Continue to read the book with me when I am free, and the rest of the time to work on the Lexia computer program (which sequences blends, vowel sounds, digraphs, etc. as you are mentioning... as the student moves through the levels, the computer progresses with them; the program goes all the way through high school level comprehension).
or
3. Abandon the novel, and work exclusively on Lexia. He chose Lexia, and when I told the Reading Specialist, he agreed that this is the best course of action for this particular boy.

We were supposed to start on Friday (we are one day ahead of America) but he was absent. If he can focus on Lexia, I think he will make good progress.

At this juncture, I am at a "wait and see" point with him. Although he will be missing out on the comprehension skills we work on with the novel studies, at least we can be sure (Lexia tracks and reports on exactly where the learners are) that he is gaining the underpinning skills of reading that he desperately needs.

Again, thank you for your reply!

Last edited by Ideabaker; 08-17-2018 at 04:24 PM.. Reason: Added spacing for easier reading
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WG Reading...
Old 08-17-2018, 04:23 PM
 
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Thank you once again for replying!

It turns out that we have a reading intervention online program called Lexia, and my class has seven or eight licenses for the year. It teaches decoding, sight words and spelling just like you mentioned. It continues on to teaching prefixes, suffixes, root words, and moves all the way up to high school comprehension.

Whilst he very much enjoys one-to-one time (the entire reading block) with me, the other students are definitely being left out when I am working with him for so long.

Next week, he'll go onto Lexia (which monitors and reports on his progress). I'll wait it out a week and evaluate.

He's decided to abandon the novel and stick to Lexia for the time being (which I felt horrible about because I felt that was a bit neglectful...but the Reading Specialist says that is exactly what he needs, for as many hours a day as I can give it to him).

Again, thank you for your replies. I will hop on here to update after we see how he goes with this.
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Old 10-01-2018, 06:51 PM
 
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Ideabaker, how is your student doing with Lexia?
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WG Reading...Lexia
Old 10-07-2018, 08:53 AM
 
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Hi WG Reading,

The student was engaged with Lexia for about two days (thirty minutes each day). Then he began rushing through the program, randomly clicking on items to move it along faster. (The program gives and estimated speed and indicates in words "FAST" for his work... the reading specialist came in and spoke to him about slowing down and actually doing the work properly.) If students rush through, the program reconfigures the same skills and gives them again in a new way, over and over until the student masters them, so he wasn't moving forward.

In slowing time, I guess that gave him time to let his mind wander. He's begun getting up from his computer to hit other kids on the head, snatch their belongings, or just to try to chat to them from the computer. It's a tiny room (not really a classroom; just a converted storage room) so the computer can't be relocated.

There are only nine weeks left of the school year, and am unsure of how to progress with him. He only seems to respond to one on one instruction, which there are no resources to do. There is a pen that reads a book aloud to students (using a headset) that we will try with him starting in a week. We'll see how that goes.

Thanks for asking, and thanks for your thoughts!
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Old 06-28-2019, 08:38 AM
 
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I know I'm a year late to the party, but...

This kiddo sounds like a good candidate for an IEP or a 504. That said, I'm not of the school of thought that labels magically cure students, nor that support services teachers have magical abilities that ensure success with challenging students. Once in a while, an IEP might get an extra body in the room, and that body might have good child-helping skills.

Again, your year is past, and probably there was little/no chance of any cavalry coming to support you and/or this child. He sounds like he just hasn't had the support to acquire skills like self-regulation, focus, and persistence, and without a lot of parent-like teacher support, he will probably have a hard time developing those skills.

I hope the rest of your year got better!


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