On the first day of school, 23 eager, energetic, sweet, energetic (did I already say that) eight year olds poured into room 24. I had prepped for them all kinds of get to know you activities. I clearly wrote every direction on the board or smartboard in simple language. I didn't plan anything academic because I wanted to give the kids a chance to learn the classroom rules and get to know each other. Quickly I noticed that one little boy wasn't doing any of the activities. He wasn't defiant or drawing attention to himself. He was just a passive observer. I noticed it, but I let it be for the first day of school.
On the second day of school, I passed out supplies to my motley crew and began introducing subjects. During writing, I wanted the kids to start prepping their writing journals. I had them flip to the end of their journals and write each letter of the alphabet on a separate page of their journals (this will serve as their dictionaries). All the students had finished when I noticed that the passive observer was still on letter "B". He was looking at the cursive alphabet that ran above the whiteboard and copying down each letter in cursive (because he wasn't sure which letter each symbol was and he didn't know the order the letters went in). When I verbally fed him each letter he was able to write them, but he needed me to say each letter because he didn't know the order of the alphabet.
As time went on, he began to bring me papers and ask very quietly "what word is this," or "what does this mean?" I gave him a phonics screener and to my surprise he failed the first category (cvc words). I gave him a sight word screener and to my surprise he missed words as simple as "at." I gave him a fluency screener and he scored 28 wcpm with 40% accuracy.
This child went to a private school in another state prior to third grade and when I pulled his file, I was shocked to see that he passed second grade with middle marks. He had been shipped across the country over the summer to live with his mom, after having lived with his dad, and it seems that no one had realized that this little boy couldn't read, after three years in school.
I know what it means for him if he leaves third grade without being able to read. The statistics are grim. My eyes fill with tears every time that I think about him making it through three years of school without significant intervention. I pledge to myself that he will read by the end of the year. I know it can be done, but it keeps me up at night to think about how.