Transition/Almost Fluent Reader Case Study Introduction This study is based upon my experiences as a tutor over the past month. Tutoring in the context of a “teacher” as opposed to a mother is new to me. I worked as a certified public accountant for ten years then worked as a stay-at-home mom with three children for the past ten years. I am currently working toward a degree in middle school education. Of course a mother is a teacher, but until now I had no direction as to the methods for teaching reading. Through my coursework I have learned many underlying principles in the teaching of reading. I tried to implement this new knowledge in my tutoring sessions. I decided to tutor my youngest child who has asked to be called Lulu. She is 9 years old and will be entering fourth grade this fall. She previously attended Bader Elementary School but due to redistricting, she will be attending Mellwood Elementary School. She has two older siblings, a brother age 16 and a sister age 17. Lulu is very confident and loves sports. She thinks that she is the best player on her basketball and softball teams. When playing sports, Lulu is extremely competitive. She is well behaved and loves to help others. Her favorite thing in the world is horses. Description of student’s literacy skills Lulu is very confident which is good but I feel like sometimes she is too confident. She is quick with an answer before taking her time to think thru the question and answer. According to her teacher’s evaluations (copies are included in my reflection journal), Lulu is “fairly fluent but she sometimes has trouble with comprehension.” I noted from the beginning that Lulu made up long words for words she did not immediately recognize. She once did this for the word “climate.” This resulted in the sentence making no sense. She did not go back to the sentence to try to make sense of it. I sometimes interjected a question to check for comprehension. As noted in the transcript, I asked her, “Who’s the nice guy?” She quickly answered incorrectly. She also did not know who had made the bet in the story. Although she did not know the details of the story; I think she gets the overall storyline. When I discussed how old she thought the boys in the story were, I noted that she picked up on some of the clues in the text to infer that the age was about 10. Lulu can read a level 4.5 book with greater than 95% accuracy. I assessed her current level to be between 4.0 and 4.5. I concluded that she is in the transition (or almost fluent) stage of literacy development. I base this conclusion on several factors: she enjoys reading silently, she reads chapter books and informational texts, she decodes well, she is fairly fluent, she reads books below her level with smoothness and expression, and she includes almost all the details when she summarizes. I observed that Lulu reads poems more fluently than narrative text. She reads picture books with more expression than chapter books. She is becoming more fluent but needs to keep building fluency. Description of what I did during tutoring sessions I will detail sessions one, four, and six to show how my tutoring sessions progressed.Session One: Because I know Lulu needs help with comprehension, this was my main focus during our first sessions. I was eager to try teaching some of the comprehension strategies discussed in class. I also wanted her to develop a love for reading. I did not pre-read the books I brought to the first session. If I had, I would have noticed that Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf was written for very young children. Lulu felt this was a “baby book.” Her feelings were hurt because she thought I believed this to be her level. I explained to her that I knew the book was below her level. I was hoping the two easy books I brought would build her confidence. For the following lessons, the easy books I brought had a deeper meaning. I looked for easy books that were not preschoolish. During this first session, Lulu made predictions and summarized the chapters of a book she had previously read, Brown Sunshine of Sawdust Valley. This is a book Lulu picked out about a horse. We luckily came to a teachable moment for monitoring while reading Olivia. We looked at the context of the word “bask” then looked it up in the dictionary. I was not happy with this first session because I did not think that I had instilled a love for reading in Lulu. Session Four: While assessing myself, I realized that I had not been including a writing activity during our tutoring sessions. I am now aware that I should help Lulu see a connection between reading and writing. For this session, I planned a writing activity. We began the session by making predictions of what might happen in the book, Alexander, Who Use to Be Rich Last Sunday. Lulu had fun making and reviewing her predictions. We then read The Brand New Kid. I chose this book because I thought Lulu would enjoy it. Next I did the shared reading routine using the poem, Picture Puzzle Piece. I modeled visualization then I directed Lulu to practice visualization with this poem. I chose a poem because I hoped reading it several times would help Lulu build fluency. I felt like she read this poem very smoothly. For a writing routine, Lulu wrote a stanza of her own based on a puzzle piece from her imagination. Her rhyme was: “It might be a seashell that had a tail shaped like a bell.” I was happier with this session than my prior ones because Lulu was allowed to use some creativity.Session Six: Prior to this session, Lulu casually began reading The Grouchy Ladybug and stumbled on the word, “aphids.” She included the “p” and “h” sounds. I decided that for this session we would read The Grouchy Ladybug and I planned to present the word wall routine for words with “ph.” I read ahead in the book, Brown Sunshine of Sawdust Valley and found two words to note during our reading (“sapphires” and “atmosphere”). I chose to continue reading Brown Sunshine because the title and picture for the next chapter included a good opportunity for a short lesson on generating and answering questions. Before reading The Grouchy Ladybug, I discussed the word “aphid” with her. As anticipated, she mispronounced it. I told her its meaning. Then I asked her to tell me everything she knew about ladybugs. I asked her if she knew why farmers like ladybugs in their gardens. She said because they loosen the soil. Lulu did good reading with expression. We then discussed the real reason why farmers like ladybugs. Next I presented a short routine for words with “ph.” Lulu and I came up with words and she wrote them on the board. She is aware the “ph” sometimes sounds like “f.” Before reading Brown Sunshine, Lulu generated a question and predicted an answer. As she was reading, there was a clue as to what the answer was and she changed her prediction. I was able to assess that Lulu was thinking about what she was reading when she correctly changed her prediction. To help Lulu understand synthesizing and to include a writing activity, I had her write an entry in a diary which began, “Molly, I know how you feel because…” Before this activity I reread page one of Brown Sunshine. The page was a diary entry made by the main character, Molly. After Lulu wrote, she read her diary entry to me. I then explained to her that she had related her prior knowledge and feelings to Molly’s feelings. I reminded her that this helped her to better understand what she read. Then I gave her a short explanation of synthesizing. This session was much better planned out than my first sessions. As I learned routines and strategies during class, I was able to make the lessons more productive. However, after listening to the tapes, I realize I need to be much more efficient and to the point. What changes did I see taking place? Building fluency and comprehension is a slow process. Because we only had seven sessions, I was unable to notice much change. Although, I did notice that Lulu is more aware of the comprehension strategies, especially monitoring. During session five, I asked Lulu what she could do when she comes to a word she does not know. She said, “You’ve already asked me that question before. I just read it over. Sound it out. You can read it over. You can ask your teacher.” I also noticed that she no longer makes up a word she is unsure of. She slows down and tries to decode the word. During our last session when I questioned her about the text she many times did not know the correct answer. She did not know who the character was that took the bet. She did not know who the nice guy was. She did not know why Billy put the dogs in the igloo. I believe her comprehension and love for reading will increase as her fluency increases. How will I teach reading when I become a teacher? This class has been a humbling experience. I made many mistakes. After listening to my audiotapes, I questioned if I could be an effective teacher. Teaching and modeling is harder than it looks. The tapes revealed to me that my tutoring sessions were too teacher-directed. I talked excessively and took too long to make the point. I want my future classroom to have a good balance between teacher- and student-directed activities. “A balanced literacy program combines teacher-directed instruction and student-centered activities…in student-centered instruction, students perform a given task, from which they are expected to learn certain things. For example, in reading, I would have students read a short story that included two or three words they did not know, expecting that they would learn the meanings of the words by using the context. If I had used teacher- directed instruction, I would have taught the word meanings prior to reading” (p.24). This quote made me aware of another mistake I made during my tutoring session. Instead of teaching the meaning of “aphids” before reading the text, I should have allowed Lulu to determine the meaning on her own by using the context. In order to meet the needs for all learners, I will need to provide instruction for small groups. I will be teaching students below, at, and above their age level. “Regardless of the types of diversities we have in our classrooms, we must always adjust our instruction to meet the needs of our students” (p. 13). To do this I will provide centers that could include independent reading and writing, small group instruction, and cooperative reading and learning groups. During small group instruction, I will assess what steps may have been missed for individual students in order to determine the type of instruction needed. My tutoring sessions have taught me the importance of one-on-one time when assessing student’s strengths and weaknesses. Students are more motivated to learn when they know the relevance of what they learn. “Students must have a purpose for reading and writing; in part, this purpose is created by activation and developing prior knowledge” (p. 73). In order to facilitate learning to read, I will try to make my students aware of the purpose for reading and writing. To do this I will access students’ prior knowledge. When possible, I will use authentic literature and relate how this new developed knowledge can be used in real life. I will also try to move students to independence in accessing their own prior knowledge. In order to read, students must be able to comprehend. As a middle school teacher, it might be easy to assume that students have already been taught reading comprehension strategies. However, at the middle school level text becomes more complex. “Since reading in each content area presents unique challenges for readers, one must teach each of the strategies anew with each subject area. It is impossible to ‘master’ the ability to construct meaning. Even though strategy lessons were taught in earlier grades, they must be retaught as reading material becomes more complex” (p. 299). This quote made me aware that comprehension strategies must continue to be taught to older students. I will therefore continuously teach and model the strategies and integrate various strategies to help teach reading. Finally, I will try to properly assess and evaluate my students. This is an area for which I have much to learn. Assessing one student during my tutoring sessions was not an easy task. As a classroom teacher, I will have to assess 20-30 students in one classroom! “Assessment and evaluation must go together in the balanced literacy classroom: one has no value without the other. A beginning step in planning for assessment in your classroom is to think about why you are assessing students” (p. 461). I believe this is essential knowledge. I will need to reflect as to why I am assessing students to determine the most reliable assessment.
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