Catch up on part I of this series here.
I am a trained teacher who can speak pedagogically about why guided reading works so well to counteract missed learning. It appears the children did learn during Covid… just not as much. Basic reading skills seem to be intact for many of them, but the level of fluency – how smoothly a person can read with few or no mistakes – is what has dropped significantly for first through third graders during the pandemic.
Kids with missed learning don’t need a tutor to reteach them phonics from the ground up.
They need more practice with reading, which will increase their vocabulary, and they need a “listener” to pick out and respond to their miscues. I have students write down any “new words” for which they don’t know the meanings. We keep a dedicated vocabulary notebook, so they can have a complete list of all the words they have learned. I don’t make them look up definitions in the dictionary because it’s way easier to Google it.
If a word really needs to be “seen” to be understood (such as “trundle” from Little House in the Big Woods), I Google a picture of it. A picture is worth a thousand words. We also may Google a definition and devise a one to three-word mini-definition to remind them of the meaning when scanning back over their notebook, preparing for a spelling test.
I give little tests to check for retention and to practice spelling, but I always make it light and breezy. Nothing about reading should be scary or forced. This is very important and one reason why I have parents choose books for themselves from the library, Kindle, or bookstore and start a practice of sitting around reading at home for pleasure. When you do this in front of a child, they associate reading with leisure rather than “work.”
I saw the lower grades reading gap come to a crunch point in one of my fifth-grade students this past school year. The parent hired me to tutor him, as he was starting to act out in school due to poor self-image resulting from the fact that, as a fifth grader, his classmates were now becoming more conscious his reading was poor, and it was embarrassing him. This boy gained a whole grade level in his Lexile reading score in only six weeks of working with me.
This usually takes around three months to achieve with a child, so I want to share how the power of an involved parent speeds up a child’s learning. His mom had him read aloud to her for just 30 minutes every evening on the days he didn’t tutor with me. This practice increases the child’s “phonological awareness,” which includes hearing yourself make mistakes so you can start self-correcting. “Hearing” the words on the page sounded out loud is one of the main ways we connect speech and vocabulary to the ability to read.
The practice factor is something every athlete understands.
The more you do something, the better you get. Reading aloud does this for a child’s fluency, but they do not get the opportunity to do this in school; asking a child who is a struggling reader to read out loud in front of the group is not something any “good” teacher would do in the modern educational era. We would consider that “cruel and unusual punishment.” In the old days, reading aloud was done in schools regularly and was called “recitation.” It doesn’t appear to have been fun for anyone involved. After all, statistics show that people fear public speaking WORSE THAN DEATH. This is where tutoring and/or setting up a home “reading aloud” habit can make all the difference. At home or in one-to-one tutoring is where children can relax and get the oral reading practice they need. It is not in front of other kids; it is only your friendly tutor or family listening.
The parent of the fifth-grader I told you about was from South America, and English was not her first language. She could not help with vocabulary, spelling patterns, word families, or any of that. She did have a passionate desire to see her child succeed and a firm insistence that the child continue to practice his reading EVERY NIGHT. He would sit in the kitchen with her and read from his on-grade-level book while she fed the baby and cooked dinner. With her limited command of English and no knowledge about how to teach remedial reading, this mom’s belief that ANYTHING one wishes to achieve must be practiced daily allowed the child to succeed in half the time it took other children!
If you want to close your child’s reading gap, I can help set you up for success! I give guided reading help… listen for miscues, and provide pronunciations based on phonics, word knowledge (such as understanding prefixes and suffixes), and spelling conventions, and we build vocabulary. You provide a time each day to listen to your child read. I coach you in my techniques while the student is tutoring with me so that, after six weeks, you can take over and run the guided reading yourself. Learn more on my Facebook page – Miss Linda’s Remedial Reading. Let’s fix this!