Carolyn's EDU344 Blog

Chapter 7 Reflection

Teaching reading in the early, emergent literacy years can be so difficult. You automatically want to assume that all kids are on the same level and can benefit from learning the same thing. In reality, some kids enter kindergarten not knowing any of their letters, while other children can already read as well as some second graders. I happened to be on the more advanced end of that spectrum. I remember reading very well in preschool. This just goes to show how important differentiation is. How can you prepare something that reaches all of these different reading levels?

Personally, I am a firm believer in beginning to promote literacy at a very young age, like in preschool. A variety of different, simple things can really increase literacy naturally in children, from reading stories out loud regularly, having a classroom library, and to making books and writing materials available for kids to choose during their free time. This is something that I certainly plan to have in my classroom, along with a few other different centers.

Being a Language Arts major, this is the stuff I’m really interested in. I want to get the kids excited about reading, so I hope I can design units that can use great, rich texts to do this for them. I also plan to have a literacy-rich classroom where literacy tools surround the children. This includes labels, signs, posters, papers, etc. Another important thing to do is really work on orally discussing and then recording ideas that were talked about. Reading aloud can help with these two skills.

Before any of this, though, we often forget that we have to teach them the basic concepts of print. Can they recognize the front and back cover of a book? Where is the title and the author? They also need to know that we read from left to right and top to bottom. Other basic building blocks include that we have letters that make up words that make up sentences, words are composed of sounds, and letters all have specific sounds. Reading is meaningful and they need to learn how to construct meaning from these things.

All children learn and acquire these skills at different rates. If the child hasn’t had opportunities to acquire these skills, of course they’re not going to know them! This is where it is the job of the teacher to teach these skills and determine the best way to do that.

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Chapter 6 Reflection

“Your child might not be capable of doing this.”

Those are words that a parent never wants to hear. Some hear it before the child is even born. Not only are these words oftentimes untrue, but they are also unnecessary.

Intelligence. What does intelligence even mean? Most would say how smart someone is, but how can this even be measured? They might be used to find a child’s “limitations”, but who are we to say what they can and cannot do?

While there are intelligence and aptitude tests that assess this sort of thing, these, like all other assessments, can be inaccurate. This is because of a variety of difference factors including how they test, and their personal, home, and school lives. Children learn from their parents first and the most, so their home can play a HUGE part in their cognitive ability. A child may be performing poorly if their parents aren’t using the most effective parenting skills, or if they aren’t modeling the educational skills that they need to develop. Laissez-faire parents who just kind of let their kids do whatever they want might not get the best results when their child takes one of these assessments. If the parents don’t encourage exceptional behavior, it certainly won’t happen. I’m in a parent partnerships class right now and I can’t stress the importance of parenting and how much it can effect a child and their educational abilities.

After reading in Chapter 6 about Frank, my mind immediately jumped to a savant. Savants are individuals who are autistic, and typically score quite low on intelligence tests, yet are absolutely brilliant in another specific area or ability. Some of these areas include math, art, or memory skills. A child who scores low on an intelligence test might be characterized as “stupid.” Savants are by no means dumb or unintelligent in any way. While this is called “savant syndrome”, it is not even recognized as a mental disorder. Just because Frank shows very little success or interest in reading does not make him unintelligent.

Reading problems are common, though, and this chapter offers many different tests that cater to certain disabilities or areas of difficulty. There is a test for everything from memory to word-finding and comprehension to reasoning. This is why reading difficulties can’t be grouped together, as different struggles require different needs. It is important to properly diagnose these problems so the right actions can be taken when getting the child the help they need to be more successful.

This chapter brought a lot of random thoughts to my head, so I just thought I’d share a few of those with everyone.

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Chapter 5 Reflection

Reading comprehension is something that can be difficult for people of all ages. It is important to instill this process in kids from the beginning. While I didn’t struggle with comprehension so much as a child, I find that it is becoming more and more difficult for me, especially when the material I am reading is very boring, dry, and uninteresting. This is why it is important for teachers to make sure that the material they have children reading is, for the most part, something that is of interest to them, especially if they have difficulty in other areas of reading.

Other parts of reading can be simple to assess, but comprehension can be more difficult to assess. Gunning gives a variety of factors that can cause poor comprehension in students, including “inadequate background, lack of necessary concepts or vocabulary, poor use of strategies, lack of basic decoding skills or fluency, lack of attention or concentration, poorly developed thinking skills, or inadequate language development” (Gunning 128). These factors can be made worse if the material is too difficult, not strong, or if the instruction is poor.
Assessments that are designed to check reading comprehension can be one of two extremes: they either make understanding texts too complex or make it too simple. They focus on strange things and don’t really give teachers an accurate reading. There are some things you need to be conscious of as well. When administering an assessment to a student that requires them to retell a story, tell them to pretend that the person they are telling it to hasn’t heard it before, or else they might leave out important details if they assume you, the teacher, already knows the story. There are some prompting questions you can ask, but you really shouldn’t give them too much help. It’s important they come up with as much as they can on their own. Some other prompts you can use include think-alouds, interviews, and questionnaires, where asking questions is key.

As you can see, there are many different ways you can assess student comprehension. It is important to know the student well and observe them in their element so that you can perform the assessment that would be most beneficial to them. Just like in other areas of education, observation is SO important and it can tell you a lot about reading comprehension. Just be sure to observe them in their natural element so you can see them for who they truly are.
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Annotated Bibliography

Carter, M., Desai, L., & Tierney, R. (1994). Portfolio assessment in the reading-writing classroom. The Reading Teacher, 48(2), 181.

   Portfolios are an effective assessment tool that teachers still use widely today. They are great to use and have on hand in the classroom, especially when it comes to writing. It’s easy to gather and make copies of a student’s writing collection and have it to show them or their parents. This article is about a book written by the authors of this book. It offers a few suggestions and techniques from four different K-12 teachers in Ohio. The authors took this information and made a tool that models questions to ask about a single piece of writing.

  Even though this article is a little bit outdated, I feel the information is still applicable and useful. There are example questions to get the students minds working. It really has the students reflect on their piece of writing and why they chose it for their portfolio. It’s a way to get them to really think about their writing and look at it more closely than they might have in the first place. I believe that a student can be a super effective critic of his or her own work. I wish this article was more in depth about portfolios since they are so commonly used today. It just left me wanting more information.

 

Cirino, P.T., Linan-Thompson, S., Prater, K., & Vaughn, S. (2006). The response to intervention of english language learners at risk for reading problems. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(5), 390-398.

   English language learners can be extremely difficult to work with and diagnose when they have learning or reading disabilities. How can you know if they have a real reading problem or if the language barrier is the only struggle? This article begins by talking about how they went about intervening with those students they believed to have reading problems. They did this to determine the proper response to intervention (RTI) they had to take to best help these students. It also has to be effective. There is a tiered model system that is followed when working with these students. Like every other assessment, there can be errors and problems with this type of help and intervention. Different approaches can be taken to help these students.

  Working with English language learners is something I find extremely interesting. Although I have only taken one class about the best method of instructing them, I have experienced some different languages and cultures firsthand at the preschool where I work. Granted teachers aren’t exactly teaching them phonics yet because they are three, they are already working on immersing them in the English language. I just think it would be hard to say if an English language learner had a reading disability when the problem just could be they don’t understand English. I guess there are steps that can be taken to rightly determine this, though.

 

Fargo, J. D., Jones, C. D., & Reutzel, D. R. (2010). Comparing two methods of writing instruction: Effects on kindergarten students’ reading skills. The Journal of Educational Research, 103(5), 327-341.

            This article is about a study that compared the effects of two different forms of classroom writing instruction: interactive writing and writing workshop. They were trying to see if these helped kindergarteners develop early reading skills.  Data was collected for 16 weeks from over 150 students. It came to the conclusion that both were equally effective. These two methods are very different in regards to the role of the teacher, the content, and the sequencing of skills. Writing is very important to have in a kindergarten classroom, as it can increase early reading skills, which is something that the children will need to learn and start using very soon. Interactive learning is when children can start to learn letters, sounds, and words to create a meaningful text. Children learn basic print concepts and phonemic awareness to really start gaining reading and writing skills.

            Reading and writing is so important to start immersing children in, even directly from birth. The fact that this article talked about writing workshop was especially neat to me since I took part in one last semester. It’s a great experience for kids and it really gets them to dive into writing, but most of the components didn’t really help with the increase of their writing quality. I believe that different methods would work differently and more effectively for different children. I think it’s best to maybe try a little bit of both and get to know the kids to see what method would work most effectively for each child.

 

Mayo Clinic Staff. (August, 2011). Dyslexia. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dyslexia/DS00224

            According to the Mayo Clinic, “dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading” (Mayo Clinic). This is very common among children. Usually the child that suffers from it has normal vision and intelligence. It’s all from inherited traits that relate to your brain function. Dyslexia also can go undiagnosed until adulthood, which can be painful and hard to live with. Although there is no cure, most children can still be successful in their schooling with the help of a tutor and adjustments made by their teacher.

   Dyslexia is something that many kids suffer from, and it can easily go undiagnosed. It is important to really know the symptoms and steps you can take to help the children that suffer from it so they can be as successful as possible. It’s important for parents as well as teachers to be emotionally supportive as well, since this can be hard on a child. This site offers many different ways to diagnose and test for dyslexia, all of which you can find with help from a doctor. I think it’s important to really know where dyslexia comes from, and the origins of it. We need to understand what it is and how it affects children before we go about tossing around diagnoses.

 

Zirkel, P. A. (2012). The legal issues of identification and intervention for k-12 students with dyslexia. Perspectives on Language and Literacy38(3), 13-16.

   This article by Perry Zirkel uses an illustration about a girl named Fran Doe who always seemed to struggle through the early grades, especially in reading. Her parents brushed it of, though, as they believed she was still developing, just differently than the other children. Once she got to fourth grade, they decided to consult someone about Fran’s difficulties. Soon after, she was diagnosed with dyslexia, and they along with their psychologist started to come up with educational ideas to best suit Fran and her needs. Thinking she is eligible for a certain kind of help, and then finding out she is not, the parents go through a lot of obstacles to try and get their daughter the help she deserves.

   In all honesty, this article kind of made me sad. The fact that such drastic legal measures had to be taken just to get this little girl the help that she needs to succeed broke my heart. Just because this girl’s disability wasn’t “severe” enough, some necessary actions couldn’t be taken. The ultimate goal should be to help this child succeed, not to closely follow some handbook or rules. It’s sad how education is so strict and taken right from the textbook about so many different things. Maybe it’s just because I don’t understand all the legalities of the rules and guidelines that need to be followed. To me, it just complicates things and interrupts from the success of the children. 

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