Today I had the amazing honor to join other educators in their journeys to be “smarter” at teaching. I decided I would just sit and keep my mouth shut *I don’t do this very well*. I went into the word study group, and was provoked *cough cough* into speaking. I was shocked at how many educators were not aware of the changes they could make in the classroom for their students who were not moving. General education is just that, GENERAL. GENERAL education only reaches about half of your students that you are teaching… what about the rest? Most teachers are aware that something more needs to be done, but lack the resources or training to move forward. The question remained, “What can we do for our students not moving forward?” So, I got on my soap box and ran some special un-named teachers out of the room. I began by stating that you must start from the beginning. The beginning meaning a phonemic awareness assessment. So, I get several looks from 5th grade teachers who have been told to NOT give them this, because they already know it. They can read, so they MUST know it. NO NO! Kids who struggle are soooo good at faking it! You have to assess them from the bottom up. There is a reason they are not moving. Okay, so now that I established that (most people remained for that) I began to unleash the beast. My beast that says “No student should fail in the general education classroom to receive resources.” You mean they need an I.E.P? What do you mean by take kids OFF of I.E.P’s?! Well, teacher friends, I mean just that. Getting kids off of I.E.P’s and responding to interventions in the GENERAL EDUCATION classroom (not in intervention) should be your indicator of what is going on NOT failure. Oh my goodness! You mean I don’t need to be an interventionist to provide intervention?! NO! Here lies the issue… a lot of educators feel like their job is to be general, and if that doesn’t work, it is their job to document the student failing so they can get them intervention. I am very very against this. This is where I lost people and had others move closer. It is not the failure that determines the deficit, it is the response to appropriate intervention and instructional practices inside the general education classroom! Whew!
So, how can you help these students?
- Assess them properly! A DSA starting with Letter Name, A Phonological awareness assessment, a RAN test and an alphabetic test to name a few.
- Start at the FIRST gap! Do not skip areas of weakness to progress them… it won’t work! You have to fill the gaps and move up from there. If that means starting a 5th grader on phonemes then so be it.
- Use appropriate instruction CONSISTENTLY. Most people get it wrong here. You have the testing, the resources and the class. Now what? You do word study on Monday and then move on to reading groups. Kids who are not transitional readers should not dwell on comprehension! They should receive word study every.single.day. FIND THE TIME
- Here is where it gets tricky. If a student is making slower progress then what you would expect… try something else. I use three different reading programs in my classroom and my students are all finally moving excepts one.
- Know when a student needs additional resources because they truly NEED it and are not going to respond to what you have to offer. I do not take this very lightly! If you have tried basic word study (word journeys and words their way) followed by Phoneme push-its, chunk-chunk-blend cards and sorts and finally, a Wilson or Orton Gillingham approach and these are not working…… time for intervention.
- Know that I am not okay with any student failing in my classroom… zero. zilch.