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Struggling Readers in Intermediate Grades

WARNING-Long post. Possible depressing post. 🙂

Eye opener today. I mean an EYE OPENER. But first let me give you some background information.

This was my first year teaching history. 4 classes. 5/6 grades. 1 hour each.

I have attempted to implement strategic teaching for the first time:

TWIRL- talking, writing, investigating, reading, listening
Daily outcomes
Chunking the text
Explicit instruction
Formative assessments

It’s been a roller coaster. Some weeks I’ve done good with it. Some weeks not so much. 🙂

AND I’ve tried to reflect on what has worked and what has not.

BUT, I’ve missed the boat with one student. OR have I missed it with more???

Today we were studying the California Gold Rush. Easy and simple topic. 2 short pages of text. Maybe 6 paragraphs. Short paragraphs.

Even when we cover 2 pages like this I chunk the test. I usually give them the purpose for reading a certain paragraph as well.

In this instance I told them to read and find out what Boomtowns were. Then turn and talk about it with their partner.

I was mingling with students. Asked this one student to tell me what Boomtowns were. He couldn’t. Told him to reread and tell me. He still couldn’t. I asked him if he understood what he had read. He said no. At least he was honest.

So I proceeded to “show” him how I read informational text. Reread sometimes. Talk to myself while reading. Read in small chunks. He got tears in his eyes.

He can’t comprehend. Even 7 SHORT lines of information. In an easy history textbook. How is he in the 5th grade? How has he not received intervention? Oh, that’s right. We don’t provide intervention in upper grades for comprehension. Sigh.

I don’t teach him reading, but how have I missed this ALL year?

Have I been so caught up in “implementing” strategic teaching that I have been blind to my students?

So I end this post with this. Today was an eye opener that I have let down two people. Myself and this student. OR how many other students have I let down? And where do we go from here?

How do we keep students from falling through the cracks?

Yes, this student is failing the 5th grade this year. Because of math and reading.

Will he make progress next year as a reader with reading the story each week and taking a test on Friday? I think not. Otherwise he would have made progress THIS year.

12 thoughts on “Struggling Readers in Intermediate Grades

  1. It’s not all on u so don’t be so hard on yourself. This child’s parent(s) also need to step up. I know in my experience I was so grateful I had a teacher who told me the truth and I stepped up and got my son help …yes outside the school system but it paid off…come to find out my son had vision problems which and eye doctor do not check you eyes for comprehension only they check to see if you can callout the letters. I practice reading and understanding what he read for 15 minutes everyday along with vision therapy to retrain the brain to teach your eyes to team, track and scan. I didn’t know my son had a vision problem until he was eight years old…before that I just thought he was lazy, just a boy thing …it took several tries for me to figure out the problem…I thought it was dyslexia, adhd, but once I found out we took baby steps…today he is reading at his grade level…7th grade. I thank God and a teacher for the courage she had to tell me…… for helping turn things around to help my son….financially I didn’t have the resource but I was determined with my God given knowledge and know how I was going to keep trying. Have u watched the story of Ben Carson…gifted hands? Very inpressive true story!

    • I feel I am dealing with the same issues with my daughter, who is now 11. I am also having a hard time accessing proper testing…how did you get the right testing done on your son’s eyes? Thanks.

  2. Parents have to step up….reading is for life otherwise people will take advantage of those that can not read. Our kids will never be free if they cannot read because they will always depend on others for help and will never be independent if we don’t start now…it’s never too late.

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging response!! 🙂 His dad isn’t in the picture, and his mom is in jail-has been all year. He is living with his aunt.

      I’m going to pull him aside tomorrow and listen to him read and talk to him about his reading because at this point I’m not sure exactly where his breakdown is. He might not be able to actually decode the words. I’ve got to find out. Then we will go from there. I may possibly be calling his aunt….. 🙂

  3. I’m taking a class in college about helping kids read at the secondary level, and any book by Cris Tovani is a great resource. Kelly Gallagher’s book “Deeper Reading: Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4-12” is also amazing.

    • I’ve got 2 books by Tovani-LOVE her! I need to check out Gallagher’s book. It’s just so hard to do some kind of reading intervention in a social studies classroom where I am already chunking the text for the entire class which makes it take that much longer to get through the standards. Arrrggghhh. 🙂

  4. You haven’t let this student down because you did notice. It’s never too late to offer intervention. I suspect, he may have other strategies he uses to learn in social studies. The variety of learning opportunities you provide have given him other options besides reading to grasp the content. I’m glad you are willing to take the extra step to get to where the breakdown might be occurring for him.

    • Thanks, Kay! I was telling Julie that he got suspended from the bus for 2 weeks for fighting and family won’t bring him to school. Sigh. Sigh again. When and if he does return this year (as we only have 19 days left) I’m going to listen to him read and WE (he and I) are going to at least figure out what the problem is!

  5. Shannon, you are helping him because you have done so many activities this year in which he was able to be successful that you just now caught the problem. You are not the first teacher he has had. I wonder what other teachers are doing or have done in previous years to help this student. He also needs significant emotional support at this time in his life. Thank you for caring. You are making a difference. Now you can set the wheels in motion and be that teacher who makes sure this student gets the academic and emotional help he needs. WTG!

    • Thanks for those kind kind kind words, Julie!! He is failing the grade because of math. The day after this post he got suspended from the bus for 2 weeks, and family is refusing to bring him to school for these 2 weeks. So sad.

  6. Shannon, I just LOVE that you are reflecting and growing, as a teacher, as a mentor, as a guide for little learners like this boy. And yes, 5th graders are still little … seriously, they’ve only been on this earth for 11 years, right? It’s sad that he’s behind, but he’s still got time. He’s lucky because you CARE about him and with support like that, he CAN rise above his circumstances and BE more, BE better, make his choices … better! Thanks for this eye opener and for sharing his story with us. You are indeed a blessing to this young man!

    • Thanks, Barbara! 🙂 He got suspended from the bus for 2 weeks and his family won’t bring him to school so…..when and if he does return in the next 19 days I will listen to him read, and then WE are going to figure out WHY he can’t understand what he reads. On a side note, this 5th grade history textbook is VERY simple to read. Boring but simple. 🙂 Unlike the 6th grade earth science textbook which is written on an 8th grade level!! Yowza!

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