Meet Jamie. Ok...that's not his name, but let me tell you about this sweetie. Jamie is a first grader. He struggled in kindergarten. He was in my Letter ID group all year last year. He worked, but ended kindergarten with 15 letters and 10 sounds. He was referred for testing and was found eligible for services for students with a learning disability in July. It was "decided" he would move to first grade with LD support. Another bit of information you need to know, is Jamie was found to have an IQ of 158. Yep, 158!
Our Adventure Begins Again
I didn't meet with Jamie at the beginning of first grade. He was in the LD classroom with a teacher and assistant for reading instruction, and I was assigned to work with other students. At a November Data Conference, his teacher expressed concerns that he wasn't progressing. As a matter of fact, his fall PALS scores were weak. He only knew 20 letters and 17 sounds. Although he had technically "progressed", it wasn't much of a progression. We had just purchased the Fountas and Pinnell LLI Kits, so once again, I was assigned to Jamie.
I had to make a few changes. I started at the beginning of December on Level B, and instead of word cards, I made a word wall folder for him. We added just the words from the stories we needed, as we needed them. The front of the folder has a sound chart (if you know me, I'm a fanatic about sound charts). The inside has a "word wall" we add to as we go. I also added little cues as we went, a picture of an umbrella beside the letter U because he just couldn't remember the sound for U when he was "getting his mouth ready" to make the word. I also added a scoop under the "th" in "with" because he was trying to remember the sounds for each letter individually.
Then, I saw the STRESS.
One day in January, we had started a new book, still a level B and he started shaking. Literally. I stopped...closed the book...and took his hands in mine. "Jamie, what's wrong?" I asked. "I just wanna read," he said. Oh my. What a heavy weight for a 6 year old. "Sweetie, we need to breathe," I told him. I still held his hand and we both took a couple of deep breaths. "Jamie, do you like doing puzzles? Because reading is a puzzle. That's all it is. Just putting the pieces together. Help me make a reading puzzle, ok?"
We didn't read that day. We only made our reading puzzle and took time to breathe. The next day, before we started, we looked at the puzzle. We took a deep breath, and we read. We've made crazy progress since then. He's gone from a Level B to a Level D and that's with CRAZY holidays, snow days, early releases, and teacher workdays. We've only added 32 words to our folder. We practice them every day before we start reading, but they mean something to him. I'm not sure he knows all the letters or sounds in isolation, he still uses the sound chart to remind himself about the sounds as he goes. BUT, he is proud of himself, and he is reading like crazy. He also has a big smile to match mine every time I walk into his classroom for our group.
Take a Deep Breath...
Find your peace, and help them find theirs. Sometimes, holding hands and breathing deeply is just the lesson you need to teach.
If you'd like a copy of the file folder word wall, CLICK HERE.