Tag: goals

The struggle is real

In my year and a half of tutoring struggling reading elementary students, I’ve learned a great deal about the actual struggle. Though I can’t see what’s happening inside the brains of the students, I can observe behaviors and this is what I see:

  1. The young student who struggles with reading will use a variety of clever techniques to avoid instruction from chatting about random events, to looking away, to squirming around, to asking for drinks, snacks or a break to interrupting the reading with talking.
  2. As the student reads, fatigue is shown by yawning, blinking, rubbing eyes and changing body positions during the lesson.
  3. The student’s attempts to sound out syllables does not sound typical. Or the student replaces unknown words entirely.
  4. The student’s success rates at reading improve when they’re given a chance to talk about what they know about the topic, before the book, passage or article is read.
  5. The student appears to know they struggle and shows lack of confidence when asked to read books by asking to replace the book or providing their own and sometimes this is okay.
  6. The student shows progress in an inconsistent back and forth pattern. For example, one week progress and confidence seem improved, while the next week, it appears to regress, but if looked at in a broader context, it is overall improved.

There are more, but I would like to end on a positive note by providing some ideas that I use to ease and work with the struggle rather than against it. Here are some ways I’ve adjusted my tutoring sessions:

1.) I share the reading. Since the tutoring time is limited, I’ve found that saving the read aloud time for last gives a child a chance to “rest” the part of the mind that struggles.

2.) Taking small chunks of reading, such as poems can be helpful and less intimidating way to practice reading.

3.) Echo reading, partner reading and modeling reading with expression is helpful for the struggling reader to gain improvement with comprehension.

4.) Finding books that the child is interested in has been most valuable.

5.) Teaching the elements of a story throughout tutoring will help a struggler to grasp the meaning of the story.

6.) Using humor in teaching, books, characters, games all helps ease the pressure and anxiety during tutoring.

7.) Though I’ve used some reading apps, most recently, I’ve used the iPad less because I would like to see improvement with reading the printed word in books. I’ve found the two to be different.

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Good struggle

I’ve been tutoring young students for over a year and with each new student, I gain more knowledge about how to tutor and how to make the most of the hour I spend with each student.

One thing I’ve noticed in some of the students I tutor is the lack of decoding skills when encountering a new word. Most of the time, a student will either substitute a similar word, or attempt to sound out, but give up too quickly. It’s hard as a tutor to allow a bit of struggle (at first) because a good tutor knows that there’s a fine line between struggle and frustration. And it takes some time to help a student unlearn the fear of struggle and instead to face the struggle a little bit at a time.

It’s in the struggle that a student can gain confidence. But, in order to face the struggle, a student must first be taught how to use strategies for decoding. One way I found to teach strategies is to deconstruct words. I show a student a “difficult” word and show them how to divide by syllables or to see if there are any pre-fixes or suffixes. But also, it helps to use pieces of nonsense words to practice sounding out. Like putting consonants and vowels together and saying letter sound by letter sound. P-r-o….or f-l-a…

I am encouraged when a student pronounces, even incorrectly a difficult word. This is okay and should be encouraged. Sometimes when a student does this, I say, “hmmm… try that again,” or I say, “Does that sound like a word you know? And other times, I encourage a student to re-read the sentence and when the word is reached again, the word can often be decoded by combining the meaning of the sentence with the decoding. When I reach this point with a student, I’ve met my goal of reaching what I call, good struggle.

Good struggle is facing, without too much fear or frustration, something that is hard with increasing confidence. Once I see a student reach this point, I introduce books at the instructional level. I define this a book in which a child is interested in reading, but also expected to run into some unfamiliar words, but not too many that meaning gets lost in the struggle.

I may clarify this post at a later date or update it as I work on this goal my students. For now, and always, thanks for reading.

~Peace in the struggle.

 

 

Learning Conference

The Learning and the Brain conference is one I highly recommend to all educators. Thanks to Book Smart Kid, I was able to attend. It did not disappoint. The speakers passion and shared visions inspired and affirmed some of what I’ve long believed as an educator. I admit, though, that some of what they proposed was challenging.

What inspired me most during the conference is how much the cognitive scientists agreed with the philosopher’s of educators who taught me many years ago that the work of children is play, and that it should be preserved. That the brain is the most malleable during childhood and how much development is still happening for teens. That educators should strive to maintain positive, nurturing relationships with children because it enhances the educational environment of a child and that the educator and the learning environment must tease the curiosity of a learner rather than squash it.

The challenges I took away had more to do with letting go of what the system convinces us we must do. To throw out old time-wasters such as the ever popular Calendar time with younger students and homework. And to think more about filling the students work day with activity and work rather than the educator being the one talking, working and decorating.

Another challenge is for educators to stop filling the day with boxed up one-dimensional curriculum. Today’s children need to step our in courage to learn to make mistakes. It’s in the mistake where many learning opportunities lay. Teachers also need to become open and model their own mistakes and share what they’ve learned from their own mistakes. Scaffolding is a word that was used often at the conference and it makes sense because of the conference speakers emphasis about learning orientations. There was no science to back up the difference in learning styles. Instead, the differences are now called orientations. One student may be creatively inclined while another analytical while another might be motivated to learn by how practical the content studied.

There is much more to report, but I’m still processing much of what was presented. More soon.

~Peace.

Good Tutoring Sessions

Here are several key “ingredients” for good tutoring sessions:

  1. Building rapport-This may involve a few visits, but it’s important. The students I tutor are young, and often anxious at what tutoring is until after a few visits. They learn pretty quickly that tutoring is simply a time of focused reading with a teacher. I try to ask a few questions to find interests. I know that children are unique and so I try to make sure to bring books to the sessions that will motivate them to work at reading. It’s also nice to throw in some humor to let them know that tutoring can be warm, fun and a nice time even though we’re working together. Finally, using stickers, fun, colorful pencils and small whiteboards help the “work” seem more like play.
  2. Setting-If possible, minimizing distractions is vital. So, I have found that tutoring in a quiet room or living room is best. The library is good, but might have too much noise for some students. A couch is good, but a table is even better. For some reason, couches can be too comfy and I end up with children upside down or squirming on pillows and cushions. Tables can hold books, workbooks, markers, iPad and the many other random items I bring to a session.
  3. Time of day- I have found that evening after dinner to be a good time to tutor. It could be that the student has had enough down time after school and also the distraction of hunger has been taken care of. The next best times are mornings (but not too early) on the weekends.
  4. A Schedule– I find that when I bring in a child friendly task student-task-list and stick with it that a student knows what to expect, a sense of accomplishment when checking off items and a routine which minimizes anxiety.

What I would like to add more of in my sessions:

More hands on learning of words, phonemes, word families, and games. I use workbooks, but I’d like tutoring to look different rather than similar to what might be done at school. The Teachers Pay Teachers website has been a valuable tool for me as well as other websites which have games, resources and others for their free reading passages.

~Happy Reading!