First Objective “Use a variety of formal and informal assessments to assess the literacy abilities of a struggling reader or writer.”
One of the things that I did with my case study student was an interview. When I interviewed him I also interviewed his classmate so that it wouldn’t look like I was singling him out. Alex stated that he knew he had dyslexia, so it made it harder for him to read. He has never been required to read by his parents, who also don’t model reading for him by reading to him. He said that most of the books he has, he has on audio which he listens to. However, Alex said that there are potions of the books that he does not have enough time to finish listening to, so he has to read small chapters on his own. He said that he hates to read out loud to the class, and when he is called on to read, he will whisper. Alex also stated that the easiest thing for him to read is what we call sight words. These are the familiar words that he already knows, the ones that are small and appear very often in text. However, he also said that the hardest thing for him to read is the larger words that he is not familiar with. He stated that he often mixes up the -d’s and -b’s with each other as well as the -g’s and -j’s because they either look the same or they sound the same.
Alex is a very enthusiastic and outgoing young boy who loves thrill and adventure. This is made evident when he told me that his favorite books are Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Both of these books are very thrilling and adventurous. Through his interview, I believe that it would be of great benefit to Alex if he was on a reading program of some kind. This means that he should be required to read a certain amount of things in a given amount of time (such as 2 different chapter books every month, or 10 pages a day.) I think that if he was required to read it would help him to get started. Practicing these skills would also improve his writing ability.
The interview questions and answers for Alex and his classmate Sarah (who is an advanced reader) are listed below. They are both in fourth grade currently.
Do you like to read? Why or Why not?
Sarah: Yes, just do.
Alex: No, I have dyslexia and it’s hard for me and annoying to try. I have books on tape that I listen to instead.
What is your favorite topic to read?
Sarah: Chapter books!
Alex: Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, heroes of Olympus. I listen to parts of it, and only read certain chapters if I don’t have enough time to listen to the whole thing.
Do your parents read to you a lot?
Sarah: They only read one book a lot to me.
Do you have to read at home on your own?
Sarah: I don’t have to read, but I read just for fun.
Alex: I don’t have to.
Do you think of yourself as a strong reader?
Sarah: Yes, I read at a 10th grade level. I’m also really good in Art and Music and Math (except I don’t like math).
Alex: I’m getting better at reading. I should be in math ahead of my grade level. I also like recess a lot, gym, science and art.
What’s the easiest and hardest thing for you to read?
Sarah: The easiest thing for me is long words. It’s kind of like spelling.
The hardest thing for me is small words because sometimes I mix up the letters, or I leave them out when I read.
Alex: The easiest thing for me is small words and words that I remember.
The hardest thing for me is longer words or words that I do not recognize. I often mix up letters that look the same, like -b’s and -d’s, or -j’s and -g’s.
Do you prefer to read by yourself or having someone read to you? Why?
Sarah: I read to myself
Alex: I like to be read to
Do you remember the earliest time when you began to read?
Alex: last year (in 2nd grade) I began to read a little bit. I read much more now that I am in fourth grade.
How often do you read?
Sarah: I read every day
Alex: I read six or seven times on average per month
Do you read every part of the story or skip some parts?
Sarah: I read the entire book
Alex: I read half and listen to half
Do you like to read out loud?
Alex: Not really. When people ask me to read in class I usually whisper.
How do you feel when you read?
Sarah: I feel awesome!!!
Alex: I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?”
Who’s your favorite author? Who’s your favorite illustrator?
Sarah: Jessica Day George is my favorite author and Patricia Polacco is my favorite illustrator.
Alex: I don’t have a favorite illustrator, but my favorite authors are Rick Riodan and J K Rowling.
Another type of assessment I used was my own observations. I observed that Alex is extremely bright in a lot of areas. His favorite subjects are physical education, art, science, social studies and math, which are all areas of strength for him. He is even achieving above grade level in math. Alex also really enjoys recess time. Alex is extremely active and energetic. He mixes well with his classmates and is rarely seen in an argument with others. He does get aggressive with his teacher sometimes in arguments. He enjoys things that are very logical and realistic. Subjects that are more abstract or go with the flow, like language arts, are more challenging for him. Alex is also very talkative and often talks out of turn and disrupts the learning process in the classroom. When the students are working on a project or assignment in the class he often talks with his classmates and distracts them, as well as himself, from the assignments that are at hand.
I also was able to look through Alex’s school records and take some of his writing samples from his classroom. I discovered that he had moved to his current school from a public school in the area. While he was at the public school, he was put through many different kinds of testing. The teachers labeled him with a sensory disorder because he couldn’t function like a normal student in his classroom. That school also expressed that Alex had issues with tactile things.
Alex then switched to the private school that he is at now. His two teachers have both said that they didn’t notice much of a sensory disorder with him while he has been in their classes. His second grade teacher from last year stated that at first he would curl up in his mother’s lap while he waited for class to start and would have issues with separation. She also stated that he would have issues with the noise level in the classroom at first. However, this year he was moved to fourth grade and his teacher stated that there has been no tactile, sensory, or separation issues present while he has been in her class.
As for Alex’s language arts abilities, he has been diagnosed with two types of dyslexia at his old school (the types were not stated in the documents). This was diagnosed because he has difficulty writing neatly and spelling. He also has difficulty reading things and gets a lot of his letters and sounds mixed up. At the public school that he was previously at, Alex was getting assistance with a resource teacher for his reading and writing skills. However, his current private school does not remove students for special help in that area, and they are not equipped with a reading or writing specialist. He has also not been re-evaluated for dyslexia at this new school (which I am not sure if that is standard procedure or not). Through my observations, and through reading the documents, it is not evident that any programs are being implemented to help him work with his dyslexia. Attached are writing samples that were provided and the excerpt from his school records.
The first writing sample is a list of rules that Alex would make if he was the ruler of the world. This is a creative piece and (because he likes to be in charge and is focused on being the best) he enjoyed this assignment. Through observations, I have noticed that when he enjoys doing something, or is highly interested in a particular topic, he generally excels. However, through reading this sample, you can see that he is not confident as to where capital letters are placed and cannot write his lowercase letters in proportion to the uppercase letters. He often leaves out small words in sentences as well. He also does not have any spelling errors and his sentences flow cohesively and make sense.
The second writing sample is an interview that he gave to another student in his school. Like the first sample, he was interested in this topic of writing and may have also received help with some of the spelling in the actual interview. When he put it into paragraph form, he did not always use punctuation where it was required and his letters were mixed up between upper and lowercase. He also left out some of the -s’ at the end of plural words.
I believe that if a grammar program was implemented with Alex, he would be able to improve his writing skills and understand better where to place his letters and whether to make them uppercase or lower case. Below are Alex’s writing samples and his school record excerpt.
There are two reasons why I am using only informal assessments instead of some formal assessments with Alex. First, I forgot that an interview was an informal assessment and had thought that it was formal. Secondly, I believe that I have extracted enough information from the interview, the writing samples, and the school records about where Alex is at with his reading and writing abilities. Through all these pieces I can tell that he is struggling for the most part with grammar skills (and through observation of him writing, some spelling as well). He is also struggling with reading. I do believe that it would be helpful to do a miscue analysis with him as well. Which I would do if I had more time with him.
Second Objective “Plan, implement and evaluate a program of prevention or corrective instruction.”
My mini-unit that I created was for a mixed grade level special education classroom. This classroom would teach students who would have various levels of autism. The lessons in this unit would teach students how to recognize sight words in the “ug” and the “at” families. Through hands on experiences while playing “hide and seek” games, the students would ultimately be able to see different words on a note card and match them to the corresponding objects around the classroom. I thought that this would be a good introduction unit to give the students so that they could recognize simple common words that you would see in beginning literature (such as The Cat in The Hat). Below is my mini-unit on sight word recognition.
I never implemented this unit into a classroom. However, this year I have been working in a special education classroom for my senior project. The purpose of my senior project is learning how to implement a science curriculum into a special education classroom with autistic children. I was seeking to discover how I could effectively teach the integrated sciences to children with autism. While I was in the classroom I worked with a boy (on the higher end of the Autism spectrum) on his science. One day when I went into his classroom, and he was already working with a teacher on his reading. As soon as he noticed me he pointed to me, and with a big smile on his face he said, “Can I read to you?” Since he hadn’t been concentrating on his reading with the teacher he was with, that teacher asked if I would like to try. I went over and sat with him and started helping him with the book he was reading. It was a simple book of See Jane Run. I asked the boy to read the story for me and he looked at the page and started saying words that were not on the page, but were in the pictures. I then stopped him and said, “No, what does that word say?” as I pointed to the word on the page. The boy said a couple of the correct words as I dragged my finger along with them, but then he lost his focus and started looking around the room.
This experience was very difficult for me because it was my first experience teaching someone how to read. I continued to encourage him to focus on the words and had to cover up the pictures at times. The teacher handed me a cup of goldfish crackers which I would reinforce him with after he read a certain number of lines in the story. I also had to put a screen around his table so that he could focus on the story instead of what was going on in the classroom.
Children with autism often get easily distracted or overwhelmed with stimuli in their environment and it is important to have ways to block it out from their learning environment as much as possible. For this particular student, he was getting overwhelmed with auditory stimuli in his learning environment and was having a difficult time focusing on what he was doing. He also was becoming distracted with visual stimuli by the pictures on the pages and was paying more attention to drawing information from those than he was from the text.
Through the methods that I chose to use with the boy in this class I was able to block out stimuli from his environment as much as possible. I was also able to encourage him to focus on the story he was reading. He read through a majority of See Jane Run while only stumbling a few times. When he got more towards the end he really wouldn’t focus no matter what I tried, so the original teacher took over again. I think that this applies to my mini unit because I have to keep in mind that there are going to be a lot of different environmental factors contributing to the struggles that my students are going to have, especially if they have autism. Through this experience, when I teach my actual mini-unit, I can implement what I have learned into how I teach my students how to recognize their sight words.
Third Objective “Self Made”
A third thing that I have learned in this class is the power of creative writing. Over the months, we have had to participate in five minute practice writing pieces in class. The topics have ranged from “What’s a favorite school memory” to “free write”. I think that it is extremely powerful for a student to be able to practice their writing skills by participating in activities like this. It helps them to write down whatever comes to mind, while not allowing the students enough time to get bored or run out of ideas. This is so beneficial because it helps the students to strengthen their writing skills while enjoying what they are writing about (because it is their own ideas).
Another example of this in our course would be the blogs that were required to upkeep. Through this assignment, we were able to continually be writing and uploading posts into our blog. By doing this, we were able to practice maintaining something like a blog so that we could hopefully continue to expand our writing abilities in the future through this internet resource.
I think that in the future I am going to implement creative writing exercises into my classroom as much as possible. I am expecting that this will help them strengthen their writing abilities and will encourage self-expression and creativity. Below is an example of my creative writing piece that I was assigned to write for my Teaching Reading in Elementary Education class.