Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Things That Keep Me Awake at Night

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.


rachelheather said...

I just diagnosed my tenth grade students' reading levels and the class averages are hovering somewhere between 4th and 5th grade. Thank you for catching this and being committed to changing this little boy's life.

Tiffany said...

This makes me really sad. How many students fall through the cracks every single year? It's a huge job to take on this student's reading ability on your own; I hope you find some help. But I know he will appreciate your willingness and commitment to his education. And as a fellow teacher, I do, too.

Literacy Teacher said...

As an early intervention reading teacher, I find this story very uspsetting! This little boy was passed along for three years of school without any interventions. What a disservice!

What was that school thinking?

I wish you the best of luck with this kido!

luckeyfrog said...

How sad to think that this can happen and there's no accountability for that school in the whole situation.

I suppose it's possible that his teacher was trying to help him get up to speed and it just wasn't documented- maybe he has had a lot of trouble learning- but I can only hope that was the case.

I have two little ones in 2nd grade this year who don't know letters and sounds much yet. In fluency, one got less than 10 words a minute.

Good luck with him- I know you'll teach him a lot!

Amy McLamb said...

As a parent and soon to be teacher this touches my heart. It is commendable that you discovered this student's deficiency so early in the year. I hope that when I become a teacher I will be able to catch these problems. You sound like a great teacher and I wish you the best of luck!