Chapter 4 of Gunning’s textbook is about placing and monitoring your students based on their reading level. One of the first sentences in this chapter talked about making sure they child has an appropriate challenge. My mind immediately jumped to the zone of proximal development. This concept says that we need to make sure our students are being challenged appropriately; the work is not too hard where they become frustrated, and it is not too easy where they are bored. The level of challenge is just right where they are at their full learning potential. This is where they learn the best and the most.
Shortly after, Gunning starts to talk about an informal reading inventory (IRI) which is an assessment that teachers use to determine a student’s reading level based on their performance when reading various word lists and passages. An analogy he used that I found very interesting was relating IRIs to trying on shoes. As a teacher, you want to make sure your child’s “shoe” or reading level is a perfect fit for them. You might have to try on some different pairs before you find just the right size. Teachers can use commercial inventories, as there are many different kinds for all sorts of different age groups. The book has a list of 14, but I’m sure there are more. A more affective type of assessment would be a curriculum-based assessment (CBA). In one of my other classes, our professor was talking about the importance of making sure your assessment aligns with instruction, or what you are teaching in class. It just makes sense that tis would be the most affective way to place the students and really know where they are at, especially if the information they are reading is familiar to them and something that they will be able to use throughout the year.
However, teachers don’t always have time to write their own assessments based on the curriculum, or fully assess the students based on the inventories. The inventories usually have students orally and silently read different passages, as both use different skills, but oftentimes teachers skip over the silent reading section. This can lead to a decrease in the validity and reliability of the assessment, which ultimately does not help the student at all. Teachers are very busy, and I am aware that I will have little time for myself when I am a teacher, but they really have to think about what is best for the students. Their goal should be the success of all students.
In the education world, assessment is a crucial piece to the puzzle of lesson planning. Not only is it used to check up on what the students have learned from your teaching, but it can also diagnose and get to the bottom of the mystery of why a child is struggling. While this kind of assessment isn’t always accurate, it can help you get a very good idea of what you are working with, and how to go about helping or trying to fix it.
Assessments in the classroom are a commonality. When kids aren’t doing well on assessments, it can be a blow to their self-esteem, and really make them despise school. A variety of factors can lead to the poor performance on assessments, including lack of interest, a cognitive delay, or some sort of other factor at home. Some kids are just naturally poor test takers. It can be hard to get a valid and accurate reading when assessing children for this reason if they clearly know the content, but it’s just not showing up on tests.
This is where realistic assessments come in. Branch off from the traditional assessments of filling in bubbles after reading a bunch of words. Make it meaningful, and something that the children can use in their daily life. Again, it’s important to know the interest of the children. It’s also important to really focus on challenging them, which is where the zone of proximal development comes in. The zone of proximal development is where children are learning the most. They aren’t being challenged too terribly where they become discouraged, and the work isn’t easy for them. It’s where they grow the most and get the most out of learning.
There are many other kinds of assessments, and sometimes you have to try a few on different children before you really know what is the best for them. This comes after you get to know them and have spent some time with them. Different assessments have different results from different children, so it is important to always keep that in mind.
Last week, we discussed some reasons that students might not enjoy reading and writing, or why they might struggle with it. Gunning’s second chapter goes into more detail regarding these factors. There are SO many different things that could cause these struggles, including environmental, physical, psychological, and educational factors. In my last post, I talked about the specific factors that may cause the lack of interest or the struggle with reading. (I guess I got a little bit ahead of myself!) But, I can go back and talk about them in a little more detail, because this was very interesting to me.
Some kids weren’t read to as children. They just weren’t exposed to literature of any kind. This is something that is so important to start doing from birth. Immerse the children in literature! It’s hard for me to wrap the concept of not reading to your children around my head. Growing up, my dad read to me nearly every night. I loved books and I loved reading. Now, some families don’t have books around because they have a low income, or maybe they speak a different language at home, but when the parents just don’t do it, it can be a little upsetting. Another sad thing is that some kids never learned. While it is the parents’ main responsibility to immerse them at home, some teachers might not have taken the time to really teach these kids how to read. They might have been looked over because they were behind, and the teacher didn’t want to waste time on them while the rest of the class was right on target.
While some of these reasons can be harder to adjust or get past, I think it is still possible to instill the desire and better the ability to read in a student. You have to keep in mind that all children have different reading styles, too. Maybe you’re not catering to their needs in a way that works for them. Differentiate styles of teaching so that each child will be able to take something away from the lesson. Some children just simply aren’t interested in reading. Maybe the literature they’ve been exposed to hasn’t really captured their attention. Get to know the students and suggest books to them and make ones available to them that you think they may find interesting.
The first chapter of Gunning’s textbook is entitled “Introduction to Reading Difficulties, so one of the first things asked is what do you know about reading and writing difficulties? It really got me thinking: What do I know?
I thought back to my own experiences in grade school. I was never one to go see a reading specialist, or leave the class for any type of help or therapy, but I remember that wasn’t the case for some of the kids in my class. Having gone to a Lutheran grade school, I was around most of the same kids for nearly 9 or 10 years. In fourth grade, we had a group that left the room to go to reading, and a group that stayed in the classroom. I think the group that left the room was the more advanced, confident readers, while those that struggled stayed behind and did some work with the teacher, which is strange, because usually struggling children are taken out of the classroom. I also recall some teacher aides in third grade that would work with children who struggled with reading or other homework.
This chapter also taught me that there’s definitely more for me to learn about reading and writing difficulties. How can I know how to help and address them if I don’t know what they are? I do know that it is important to do what’s best for the child. The example used in chapter one, Awilda, is a good way to show that. They tried many different solutions to help her, but the help they supplied failed to show improvements. You need to know what works best for them, so you must first know the child. This is important in every aspect of teaching.
There are also many different kind of reading disabilities. You cannot just group them all together and assume that one solution will solve all problems. A variety of different things can cause lack of ability or willingness to read in children. Different things including home life, the modeling of reading that they have been shown, lack of literature, or a developmental issue could influence this. This is another important reason to really explore and dive in before you try to make a change.