In November, the second grade class I supported got a new student. Lupita was a sweet, kind, quiet child who was learning English as a second language, although she had been in English speaking schools since kindergarten. When Lupita arrived, we gave her a Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA2) to determine where she was in reading and what our next instructional steps would be. She tested at a level 3 – end of kindergarten level – and this was November of second grade. Yikes. She immediately became a concern for us and our literacy team put our heads together to see what our best approach might be to support the classroom teacher. Our Reading Recovery teacher offered to eat lunch with her and do a modified Reading Recovery lesson with her for a few weeks, our ESOL teacher and classroom teacher each did guided reading lessons with her in the classroom, and I added her to one of my Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) groups. All of this was in addition to the work she did daily in the classroom. She made remarkable progress and ended the year as a strong, strategic reader who loves to read and talk about books. Her end of year DRA2 level was a 24 – very close to the second grade benchmark. I have no doubt that she will continue to thrive as a reader.
We all love to hear success stories such as these, and I know all of you have similar stories to share and celebrate. So what can we learn from Lupita? How can we be ready to greet the Lupitas that will be in our classrooms next fall?
1 – Continual monitoring of student progress (see entry on Progress Monitoring) is key. When we are checking in on student progress with meaningful data (running records, anecdotal notes, etc.) we can adapt our instruction to best meet his or her needs. We make sure that no child falls between the cracks or is overlooked and that no time is lost in accelerating his or her learning.
2 – It takes a village. The task of teaching Lupita to read was a team effort, with frequent communication between all of the teachers working with her. Most classroom teachers are qualified to instruct children who struggle, however, they have 20 or even 30 other children to instruct as well. They can do their part, but they need specialists to provide support as well. A double (or sometimes even triple) dip of quality instruction that complements each other is essential. If a child is being pulled for a small group or one-on-one intervention, they should also be receiving guided reading instruction or one-on-one conferencing in the classroom. Frequent communication between specialists and classroom teachers helps the intervention be much more effective.
3 – Never, ever, give up. Our students who struggle need us. They need us to try everything we know and to not make excuses for why they aren’t learning. If something isn’t working – we need to put our heads together and come up with a new plan. We can’t give up on any of our students.
What success stories do you have? Please share!