I teach a reading intervention group with three fifth grade students. There are a few things I really like about my group:
- This is one part of the day that I am in my own space and have “full control” of the teaching. (As a literacy coach, I teach a communication arts block in another teacher’s classroom.)
- One boy really wants to learn; it makes me happy.
- One day, my newest student came in, smiling, and said, “I got enough sleep because I’m staying with my mom now.” (He was so tired previously that he could hardly stay away. Poor kid.)
- I think it is fun and challenging. Thinking about what tangles these little learners have and how I can help them untangle those knots is exhilarating. I like puzzles.
- I can observe shifts in the students almost daily.
Number five is what I want to chat with you about today. I get it that the work of an interventionist can be hard and discouraging, so small steps are worth celebration. I invite you to celebrate with me and, maybe, to encourage you to keep on keeping on.
Two of the students “read” beautifully if you call word calling, very expressively and accurately, mind you, reading. I work everyday to instill in them a love of learning (by reading) and to teach them that reading is thinking.
My daily mantra is, “What is reading? Reading is thinking. If you are not thinking, you are not reading.” That sounds so obvious to a reader. This is not obvious to struggling, “I’m-reading-the-words-right” readers.
“I’m an R,” brags the little girl to the two boys in the group.
Ugh! Back I go to the mantra. “What is reading?”
“Reading is thinking.”
“How do you know you are thinking?”
“The teacher listens to you read?”
No! No! No! “If you can’t remember what you read or tell someone what you read, you are not thinking. And if you are not thinking, you are not reading,” I repeat again.
Then, we read and discuss. Read and discuss. I notice the readers are interested in the story. I prompt for thinking. “Where is the evidence to support your thinking?” They find the spot in the text. We write about what we read. We share what we write. We comment on what the writer did effectively. They smile. We read and discuss. They check to poster to see what the next book we’ll read is going to be. Read and discuss. More sparks of interest. I prompt for higher level thinking. They laugh. We do a little word study. We have a little fun. We read and discuss. And so it goes.
Then comes the day the sun breaks through the clouds. I receive an email from the special education teacher who did a BAS (Benchmark Assessment System) running record with the “I am an R” student. “She is instructional on level S,” she reports. “She received a zero on the “About the Text” (analyzing & critiquing) thinking, but she earned a 3 (full credit) on “Within the Text” (literal) and a three on “Beyond the Text” (inferential) thinking.” Yea! This is a major shift for a girl who could not even retell what she had read in a single paragraph when she first came to our group!
Then, the sun shines a little brighter. At the end of the quarter, another student grows from a reading level P to an S! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Then, the day dawns, and the sun beams brightly in a cloudless sky. The day that enthusiastic learner said, “I didn’t think I could read, but now I can.”
Dear interventionist friend, Keep on keeping on!