I’m obsessing about my super low student. I feel like everyone knows there is some sort of learning difference at play here – and though I don’t have all the details, it seems like the family is against the idea of testing or special education help.
I adore this kid and he is making me crazy. He does a lot of wandering around and has some serious bad work-avoidance habits because he can pretty much literally not do everything that has been given to him so far. He definitely over compensates and is a master of hiding it – he is funny, and communicates well verbally, he has tons of friends and is nice and interesting.
The class in general is still working towards a place where we have routines in place and I can work with small groups (or individuals). So during whole group math instruction, for example, he is pretty much checked out. When it is time to do some independent work to practice, I can sometimes break it down to one piece and have him work on a very specific couple of problems. He will usually start and maybe do a small amount before he probably gets frustrated and starts to wander. He is the classroom pencil sharpener and I have never had someone so on top of their job.
I am excited to get started on reading instruction with him, but I am also wary. He seems to know some phonics, but not a lot. We spent a few minutes together today with a level A book that we were able to read working together. It had a pattern, which he picked up on right away – and we talked about picture clues and comparing them to the sounds in letters (z says zzzz, there is a picture of a zebra). I feel like I can’t expect this to go easily, though, because he is so with-it and been at this school since at least last year and hasn’t moved up from that very bottom level.
I also feel bad. He is clearly embarrassed and knows he is low. He tries to hide it in a lot of ways and is mostly successful. He is such a regular 8 year old in non-academic ways that I can tell it will be tough to keep him (as reluctant as he already is!) engaged with the simplest texts.
I’m flirting with the idea of writing some for him. Maybe using clip art or drawing my own and making something as simple and pattern ridden as we looked at today to start, but in a more comic book style. I think it would go a long way for him to not look baby-ish and theoretically be interesting if it was cool/had an interesting subject.
I wonder even – and I had this thought teaching ELL too – why there aren’t more books geared toward older kids at low reading levels. Here we are trying to reach the hardest kids to reach and get them interested in something that they don’t want to do and is really hard for them – and we expect them to sit and read books like “I like my toys. I like my doll.” They don’t care about that stuff!
I also wish there was a bigger (as in more pages) low level/high interest book. I feel like this kid in particular would feel more comfortable holding something that felt like a chapter book, even if it meant he worked through it slowly and it was a lot of (maybe related?) stories put together.
Arrrgh! I’ll be doing some research (or writing/drawing) this weekend!