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It's tough.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 5:26 pm    Post subject: It's tough. Reply with quote

19th September 2005

Today I had an interesting reading lesson with C, an eleven year old pupil of mine. It was the mix of reading difficulties and poor self-esteem that I thought was worth noting on the message board.

C knows a great many words by sight, but when I began teaching her a couple of months ago, she had no understanding at all about how to blend sounds to read, and her knowledge of letter/sound correspondences was very limited.

Today C volunteered to read me some of her own ‘Just William’ book. She had been reading it to herself at home and wanted to show me how well she could read it, compared with the words and texts we’d been working on together. In fact, when she read it aloud to me, she couldn’t read it well at all, because she reverted to her old guessing strategies, and her reading had so many inaccuracies that it either made no sense or the meaning was changed. I praised her for her efforts and then began to stop her at mistakes and ask her to read the words the way we’d been practising from left to right. As we went through the text, she looked more and more tired and despondent. Then she told me, “If I don’t know a word, I read to the end of the sentence and then go back and guess what it might be.” It sounded to me as though she was repeating what someone had told her to do. I told her I understood that that’s what she used to do, but now I’m showing her another way to read so she won’t have to guess any more. After a page, I asked her to read it again, saying it would be easier now that she’d worked out all the words. She read it and struggled again with each of the words she didn’t know by sight and she looked even more cross and miserable.

C is convinced that she has special needs (her words, not mine) because she isn’t clever. We took a break. I told C that I know someone who is exceptionally clever. She is so clever she’s learned thousands of words by sight, but she wants to be able to read words she’s never seen before. (This is true - this friend has a first class degree from Cambridge University, but has suffered from being taught whole words, instead of phonics.) I told C that she is like my friend, because she knows so many of the words in her book. Now I’m teaching her to read in a way that means she’ll be able to read anything - even words she’s never seen before.

I suggested we leave the reading then, but C perked up and asked me if she could try the page again. She tried again and still had to stop and slowly blend to read the words she didn’t know by sight. But then she asked, ‘Can I try again?’ This time, although she still paused at these words, she blended the sounds much more quickly and smoothly. After this, she jumped up and asked if she could read it to another adult. I said yes, and she came back smiling and lively, very proud that her reading was now accurate.

It was rewarding for me, because I’d been feeling that maybe I was putting too much pressure on her earlier. It’s really tough relearning to read by blending through the word with no guessing, when you’ve been using whole word and guessing strategies for years and your self-esteem is very low. I'm convinced it's well worth it.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a lovely account. Well done you! It's that kind of success that makes it so worthwhile.
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