Teaching Gayle to Read (Part 6)
by Grace Vyduna-Haskins
So much to do yet, and so little time to finish it all. For all intents and purposes, my school time with Gayle has come to an end. Her school term ends on June 11 but I will be away much of the time between now (May 7) and then. Fortunately, through the summer Gayle will attend a daycare center and I am welcome to go there to continue my work with her. Even though this will also be on an intermittent basis, it will help her retain what she has learned in first grade and may even serve to move her even farther along the way to real success. Earlier documentation of Gayle's progress can be found in earlier issues of Teachers.net Gazette (See references below.).
On April 26 I attended a staffing that included her principal and all of the people who have worked with her during the year. Her speech and language teacher reported that as of March 1 all sounds were in place, she scored 90 percent or better on phonemic awareness, and she can correctly identify initial and final sounds in words. She still needs help with thinking/reasoning skills, answering "wh" questions (who, what, when, where, why, how), and she often needs extra time to think through things before she can respond to questions.
In addition to working with me, Gayle has worked with the Title I teacher in her school. This teacher reported that in November Gayle scored at the 36th percentile, kindergarten level, on the Gates Readiness Test. Just days before our staffing, this teacher had given Gayle the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test for first grade. On this she scored at the 30th percentile (first grade, fifth month) on vocabulary and at the 47th percentile (first grade, sixth month) on comprehension. In addition, she had recognized 95 of the first 100 Dolch words in isolation and 68 of the second 100 words. On the Jerry Johns Basic Oral Reading Inventory, she still scored in the pre-primer/primer range. Although she read this slowly, often one word at a time, her comprehension was quite good.
Gayle's mother reported that by the end of the day Gayle is often too tired to do much more than basic homework. All of us who work with her have been sending books home for her to practice. As we all reported this, each of us realized that perhaps we have been overloading her. A unified recommendation was that Gayle not be required to read at home; rather, her mother should attempt to find time to read TO her to increase her knowledge of how text flows, to show her that reading is enjoyable, and to aid in adding to her general knowledge.
My own report reflected the first paragraph of this column -- we still have a long way to go. Her classroom teacher immediately interjected, "But look how far she's come." Yes, to move from the 36th percentile, kindergarten, to the 30th and 47th percentiles, first grade level, in less than seven months provides cause for rejoicing.
I have worked with Gayle only twelve times since last month's column. At this point all the reading we do is cold; she has no opportunity for rereading. Since the books we use are carefully structured to build and increase decoding skills, my goal is to introduce her to all the advanced word patterns as is possible in the time remaining. She does very well with working her way through new words if she takes her time but sometimes reverts to her earlier strategy of guessing. Common types of errors include standing for starting, spended for spends, hunting for hunter, stop for spot, or well for we'll. These kinds of errors indicate a need for more work in attending to within word patterns, affixes, and contractions. She also tends to fly through punctuation marks so she sometimes misses the meaningful flow of the text. On other occasions, she picks up key words that trigger appropriate oral expression. Rereading the stories would be very helpful as she'd have a second chance for interpretation.
Her long-term recall is improving. When we came to a story about fixing dinner, she could recall a few details about another story about fixing dinner that she had read weeks earlier. She is also beginning to perceive and offer reasonable solutions to problems in stories. For example, in one story Mack's truck, loaded with produce for the market, is stuck in the mud. On the other hand, fisherman Finny has no way to get his fish to the market. Gayle's solution was to put the fish on the truck and push it out of the mud, the exact resolution offered in the story.
She is becoming adept at reading words of three syllables as whenever or Boxhammer, and even figured out understanding with its four syllables.
My goal for the rest of the school term and during the summer is to move her through 16 more spelling lessons so that she will have covered all short, long, and less regular vowel patterns. This manner of teaching phonics through spelling has worked very well for her, helping her with phonemic awareness, gaining knowledge of letters and sounds, assisting with left to right progression, and decoding skills. Mastery of vowel patterns is not expected but I hope that she will at least realize which spellings are legitimate patterns of the language. This will assist her with both spelling and decoding. She has been introduced to hundreds of words in context that has enriched her vocabulary. Her comprehension will depend on greater vocabulary knowledge, her sense of how text works, and on her internal processing skills. I look forward to whatever time I still have with her.
Haskins, G. (2001-02) "Teaching Gayle to Read" (Parts 1-5)