Archive for March, 2013


I found Chapter 7 to be very interesting particularly because I could relate to a lot of it from my fieldwork experiences. First of all, the book talks about phonological awareness and English Language Learners.  It says that especially for ELLs you have to help them separate words into sounds so that cat has three separate sounds ([k]+[a]+[t]), and the sounds blend to make words.  While doing fieldwork, I experienced this happening.  Even though I was working with fourth graders, the ELLs were pulled out and working on segmenting sounds in this exact manner.  Building onto this, the book talks about blending words.  It uses the terms ‘onset’ and ‘rime’.  The onset is the beginning consonant(s) of the word, and the rime is the rest of the word.  While observing the ELLs, the teacher was actually using these terms with the children to explain the onsets of sh-, ch-, and th-.

The book also talked a lot about rhyming and playing with sounds to help kids understand and remember sounds and words. By rhyming kids can pick out which part of the word sounds the same so they can recognize which letters form to make which sounds.  Similarly, by playing with sounds, kids can see the small differences in words to help them better understand that different letters will make different sounds.  I saw this happening in my fieldwork the other day, as well.  Students were making rhymes to go with the words that they were focusing on for that week.  They would then have to articulate the difference in the words.  They were also playing with sounds when focusing on their words.  The students would have to say words that sounded similar, but were spelled differently, such as ‘shoe’ and ‘chew’.  They would then have to tell the teacher what was different about the words.  To do this, they would make the ‘ch’ sound or the ‘sh’ sound to articulate the difference.

Reading this chapter, I found it really interesting that I could relate the techniques that the textbook was talking to what was actually happening in the classroom. It helped me to confirm the theories and strategies discussed in the book as actually valid and useful.

Week 2 of Fieldwork

My second week of fieldwork is complete now.  This week was similar to last in that I was involved in basically the same things.  I floated around the classroom working with various groups of students and even some individual students.  One student that I worked with was taking an Accelerated Reader (AR) Test on the computer.  I was surprised that one of the questions was asking about a direct quote from the book.  There were four choices and the student had to pick which of the four quotes were actually in the book.  Even though this may have been a significant quote from the story, I thought that this was very nit-picky and not a good way to assess how well the child comprehended the story.

I also observed students picking out books in the classroom library for a while.  The books are sorted into bins depending on reading level.  A color is assigned to each level, and students know what color bin to pick books from.  I think it is a good idea to have the books sorted by reading level so the students can read a book that is appropriate to them.  However, there can be some drawbacks to this. For one, students are ‘labeled’ by their reading level.  They are labeled at a certain reading level and can only pick those books so they do not have the incentive to challenge themselves. Though the color sorting level is an effective way to individualize for students, it does not seem like the most effective way to challenge students to become better readers.

Some other things that I did were help students to read informational text and answer questions about it.  We read a text about the different kinds of ants and their jobs.  After we read, students had to answer four questions.  I was only working with three students at a time, but when one reader was at a lower level, it seemed as if the other two got frustrated when she tried to read.  They would start to read ahead or give attitude when they were waiting for her to read. I think that the groups that were assigned to me should have been more on the same level in this instance.

Finally, I also began working with a girl named Stasha (pseudonym).  She had to write a short report about Abraham Lincoln.  She had previously read a book about Lincoln, and now had to write a short summary of the important details of his life.  She seemed to remember some details, but not the most important ones. Once she referenced back to the book, she was able to recall some important events.  Another main problem that she was having was spelling. If she didn’t know a word she did one of two things: change the sentence around so she wouldn’t have to use that word or look in her book for the word to copy it.  When I had her sound out a word to spell it, she had difficulty.  For example, when sounding out the word ‘tried’ she spelled it as ‘chried.’  This was very interesting because ‘tr’ and ‘ch’ are both pronounced with your mouth and tongue in the same position so this mistake was very understandable. However, ‘tried’ should be a word that should be easy to spell by fourth grade so this indicated a problem for her.  Because of this, I have narrowed my case study candidate down to Stasha and the girl I talked about in my previous fieldwork post, Adriana.  I hope to start working with one of these girls next week.

I found all of chapter 6 to be very interesting and intriguing. One part that I think is very important is being able to understand the child fully.  Your assessment cannot be fully valid if you do not know the child and his/her background.  Reading what a child wrote or listening to them read cannot be the full assessment.  You have to be able to put that into the context of what background the child is coming from, what the child likes/dislikes, and what the child’s strengths and weaknesses are.  It cannot be a full assessment without taking all of these things into consideration.

In order to get a full assessment of the child, the book suggests that you get a case history of the child. To do this, you would interview the child’s parents about what the child likes to do at home, what their favorite things are to play with, and what ages the child reached developmental stages such as walking, talking, writing, etc.  This way, you as the teacher can have a more thorough understanding of the child which will help you with the assessment process. For instance, if the child is reading at a lower level than they should be, it could be due to the fact that they were not introduced to books at a young age and simply have not had enough experience with books.   On the other hand, if a child is reading way above grade level, it could be because they were always read to at home and they have a ton of books in their house now which they resort to in their free time.

I think that getting a good understanding of the child helps to complete the overall assessment. If they are at a lower level than you wanted, it could very well be an appropriate level for them given their home and family life conditions.  Without knowing about the child, you are just assessing on a very judgmental basis.  When you know the child’s strengths and weaknesses, you can assess what they are improving on and use their strengths to work on their weaknesses. Overall, your assessment will be more well-rounded and more valid when you have a better understanding of who the child is, outside of just reading and writing.

Week 1 of Fieldwork

I began my fieldwork this week in a fourth grade classroom.  This experience was quite different for me for a couple reasons. First, I have been in a Lutheran school all my life, so going into a public school was quite a different atmosphere to get used to.  Second and a more prevalent difference was the structure of the school day.  The day is split up into three main sections.  In the morning is the ‘Math Block’ for an hour and 45 minutes, then specials such as gym, music, and art for 55 minutes.  Then they have an hour and 20 break for lunch and recess.  Then, for an hour and a half in the afternoon is the reading bock to finish the day.  Within the reading block, there are three focus lessons with the last lesson being an informational text such as science.  I will focus on the reading block because that is the purpose of this course.  During the reading block, students follow a ‘Daily 5’ system meaning they read to someone, listen to reading or work on a computer, read to themselves, do word work, or work on writing.  Students are required to do all five of these during the reading block.  Many students are working independently while the teacher calls over a group of students to work with or even a single student.  There are five computers available for students to use.  While I was observing, they used them for a variety of tasks including taking AR tests and doing grammar activities.  About 45 minutes into this block, the teacher suggested that they should start writing if they hadn’t already.

I found this set up to be very interesting. I have never seen the day split up into sections like this.  I do not think that I have enough experience with it to form an opinion yet, but that will come later.  One thing I did notice right away was that this set up gives the teacher ample time to work one on one with students to individualize their instruction a bit more.  All the students seem to know what to do and get right to their work.  Some students are more motivated than others, though, just like in every classroom.

My participation in the classroom was quite different and a bit unexpected, especially on the first day.  As soon as I got there, the teacher had me observe a child.  He was doing some word and grammar work on the computer so I got to see how those programs work.  Basically, there was a summary and examples of what synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms were.  At the end, he could take a quiz about what he just learned.  I also had some students read to me who were ELLs and struggled a bit with reading. It gave them good practice to read aloud to someone and learn to pronounce the words correctly, too.  After this, the teacher explained the science lesson that she was going to do.  She was splitting up the class into groups and gave me 7 students, half of whom were ELLs and the other half was struggling readers/writers.  This kind of took me by surprise because not only did I have to teach the lesson to this group, but I also had to incorporate the fact that all of them were struggling with reading.  Even though this was a bit nerve-racking at first, I thought it was great experience to just jump right into things.  On the second day I was there, I worked for a short time with a small group of students on reading and writing fables.  After that, I worked with one girl in particular who is an ELL and is struggling with comprehending what she reads and then putting her thoughts onto paper.  We read a fable together and then she had to answer a question about it. She was such a joy to work with because I could tell that she was trying so hard, and she even said a couple times “This is really tough!”  But we worked together through it and when she got done writing, I could tell she was really proud with her work.  I really enjoyed working with her, and I’m hoping to continue working with her throughout my time there to see how she grows.

Chapter 5: Spelling

I chose to focus on the spelling section in Chapter 5.  This section talks about how the different stages of spelling that children go through. There are five main spelling stages: prephonemic, alphabetic, word pattern, syllabic, and morphemic. Prephonemic is when students use random letters to spell words, but the letters do not have any correlation to the words.  Alphabetic is when the student uses mainly consonants to spell a word, and occasionally will use a long vowel sound.  Word pattern is when students realize that there is a visual aspect of the whole word connected to spelling. At this stage, stents will start spelling most single-syllable words correctly.  Next is the syllabic stage where students will know to drop the final e when adding –ing.  They know the rules of how to change certain words when adding endings.  Finally, morphemic is when students realize that certain words are spelled similarly, even though they are pronounced differently.

I thought that these stages were interesting, especially because of a past experience.  Last semester I was working with a group of five students in a writing workshop, and a consistent problem with a few students was spelling.  More than half of the words they wrote were spelled wrong.  Looking at these phases now, it would be easy to pinpoint what level they are at.  This is important to do because, as Gunning continued to talk about in the book, teachers need to meet the students where they are at.  Looking back now, it seems like the students I was working with were in way over their heads with what they were trying to spell.  If I would have known these stages when I was working with the students, it would have been easier for me to pin point their problem and give them the appropriate help that they needed.

I’ve always loved to read, but for some reason when I was in elementary school, reading comprehension was always difficult for me.  This is part of the reason that I majored in Language Arts; I wanted to learn how to help children to comprehend what they read without dreading it. I do not want them to have to struggle through school assignments because they can’t comprehend the material.  I wanted to learn new strategies and methodologies for teaching comprehension to children so I researched reading comprehension.  The following is a list of five sources that I found that focus on reading comprehension in general, but more particularly when reading comprehension starts, some strategies to teach reading comprehension, and why some classroom strategies may cause students to struggle with comprehending.

 

Balancedliteracydiet. (2011, November 26). Before, During, and After Questions: Promoting Reading Comprehension [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd1FlXxpVIw

This video shows a teacher interacting with her class and focusing on a reading comprehension strategy.  She begins the lesson by telling the class exactly what they are going to be doing—asking questions before, during, and after reading a story in order to better understand the story.  She explains that they are going to be writing down questions on a sticky note which she has color coordinated for them.  When the teacher shows the class the cover of the book, she has them write down an “I wonder” question on their blue sticky note, then share that question with their neighbor.  Once everyone has done this, she has them put all the sticky notes on the chart she has made, and goes over some of the questions.  She has them fill out a question on a green sticky note during the time that she is reading the book; she even stops a couple times in the middle of the book to remind students to write down a question as they think of it.  During the book, she has students put the question on the chart, and goes through the same process she did with the questions before they started reading.  When they have finished the book, the students write down an ‘after question’ on a yellow sticky note, and goes through the questions.  They answer the questions from the middle of the book that students had to make sure they understand it.  The teacher then leads the discussion about questions after reading.  She asks if the students know the answer, and if they do not, she explains that the answer to that question may not be important to understand the story itself.  The questions that they do have answers to, however, help them to understand the whole story.

I thought this strategy was very interesting and effective.  Throughout the lesson, the students seems to be engaged and active in the activity.  by having students write down questions that they have helps them to pay attention and also think about what is going on.  By asking ‘I wonder’ questions, students are able to put their own thoughts and interests into the discussion.  When students asked questions at the end that did not pertain to the story, I thought the explanation that the teacher gave was great in helping them to understand the point of asking questions while reading; she said that that information was not important to helping them understand the story itself.  If I were in that spot, I would have expanded on that and asked the students what they think the answer is or if they can use their imagination to answer that question.  I also liked how she stopped while reading the book, reminded students that they needed to ask a question, and gave them time to write one if they hadn’t already.  This  comprehension strategy seemed very effective and it is definitely something that I would implement in my own classroom.

 

Dooley, Caitlin McMunn. (2010). Young Children’s Approaches to Books: The Emergence of Comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 64(2), 120-130.  Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy01.cuaa.edu/docview/757915403?accountid=10245

The main point of this article was to discuss when and how comprehension begins in young readers.  There are generally two main ideas about when children start to comprehend what they read: after they know how to decode letters, words, and sentences or before schooling even begins.  The study that this article talks about has evidence that comprehension starts before schooling begins when children first have interaction with books. The study involved children 2 to 5.6 years of age and were observed over a period of three years on their interaction with books.  After many hours of observation over these years, the study determined that there are four phases that children take when approaching books.  These phases are: ‘Book as Prop’ when children up to age 3 use the book as they would any other toy, ‘Book as Invitation’ when children understand that the book is used for reading and pay attention to the content and picture, ‘Book as Script’ when children ‘read’ the book to you by using pictures as clues or memorizing it, and finally ‘Book as Text’ when children start to recognize some words and pay attention to pictures and words together.  What the study was suggesting was as the children had more experience with books, watched adults around them use books, and matured in age, they began to comprehend.  This comprehension is not the same as in the way we comprehend a novel, but rather emergent readers comprehend by using pictures as clues and picking up on how their parents or teachers use books.  This article goes into much more depth about peers, environment, teachers, and parents can affect emergent comprehension.

The concepts talked about in this article would be great to keep in mind when understanding how children learn to comprehend what they read.  Though this article is geared more toward early childhood, rather than elementary education, I think that it is important to understand how students get their foundation in reading comprehension in order to know how we can better help them.  By understanding how children initially learn comprehension skills, we can use that information in the elementary classroom with our students who struggle with comprehension.  If we know that a student struggled in a particular area in early childhood, that information could help us better understand why the child is having problems comprehending. Knowing how the learning first began can be a huge lead-in to better understanding the child, especially if they are struggling. I especially enjoyed reading this article because I am minoring in ECE.  Reading about these stages, I was able to think back to students I have observed and place them in a stage.  It helped me to justify the article’s claims and get a better understanding of where reading comprehension first begins.

 

Glenber, Arthur M.; Goldberg, Andrew B.; & Zhu, Xiaojin. (2011). Improving Early Reading Comprehension Using Embodied CAI.  Instructional Science, 39(1), 27-39. doi:10.1007/s11251-009-9096-7

This article begins by talking about and trying to explain how when children try to understand abstract ideas, they often struggle with comprehending them.  This idea was explained by saying imaging you are in a foreign country, and you do not speak the language in that country.  You have a dictionary in that language, but it is of no use to you because when you look up a word, it gives you a definition using other foreign words that you also do not know.  The point of this was saying that if everything you learn is abstract, and you have nothing concrete to link it to, you will most likely not be able to comprehend the new information.  People, especially children, need to have something concrete to link abstract ideas to.  The article goes on to talk about a study done called Moved by Reading where children used physical objects to comprehend what they were reading.  The study consisted of a physical manipulation stage where children used toys relating to the book to act out critical sentences in the book. After this stage, children then move into the imagine manipulating stage where they do not actually use the toys, but imagine what they would do if they had the toys.  Another element that was added to the study was computer manipulation, where computers were used in place of actual toys, but children essentially did the same thing.  The results showed that when children used physical manipulation or computer manipulation for the first reading, they were often able to recall and comprehend the events during the re-reading better than if they had just imagined the events. These results confirmed the idea that children need a concrete object in order to better comprehend new material and ideas.  An unexpected result of the study was that computer simulation worked just as well as the physical simulation.  The article explained that this helps to overcome the constraints of not having the right manipulatives available in the classroom.

I found this article to be very interesting and full of great ideas.  Even though I vaguely knew that comprehension was easier when connecting the material to something you already know, this article really confirmed that idea.  The first analogy of not knowing a foreign language and only having a dictionary in that language is a great visual for teachers to keep in mind when teaching students who are not comprehending.  If the students have no background to connect the material to, they are just simply not going to be able to comprehend.  It is important to give them a concrete object or manipulative when trying to teach an abstract idea. Some of the strategies that this article mentions would be excellent to use in the classroom with struggling readers, especially having them act out the story with manipulatives.  I had never thought or heard of this previously, but I think that this is an excellent idea.  Though it can be time and space consuming, I think that it would be very beneficial to not only struggling readers, but also ELLs.

 

Marcell, Barclay; DeCleene, Joan; & Juettner, Mary Rose. (2010). Caution! Hard Hat Area! Comprehension Under Construction: Cementing a Foundation of Comprehension Strategy Usage That Carries Over to Independent Practice. The Reading Teacher, 63(8), 687-691. Retrieved fromhttp://search.proquest.com.proxy01.cuaa.edu/docview/203277469?accountid=10245.

The article begins with a scenario in which a 4th grader can name four different comprehension strategies, use sticky notes when reading, understand and use the word schema, yet cannot comprehend what she is reading.  It states that there is evidently a problem when students can articulate these strategies, yet cannot actually comprehend material.  One problem, the article suggests, is that the Basal series may be partly to blame for this.  This curriculum seeks to break up the reading process in to many different parts, instead of looking at it as a whole. The students focus on main ideas one day, predictions another, and characters yet another, instead of the big picture all at once. This deconstructing causes the Basal series to be wide instead of deep with may hinder comprehension skills in students.  A second problem interfering with students being able to comprehend, the article suggests, is that scaffolding is used too much or in the wrong ways.  Stopping after each paragraph of reading or having students make too many connections is a turn-off for students. Instead of focusing on breaking apart the comprehension process, this article suggest the following four comprehension strategies: teacher-led stage, collaborative stage, reciprocal stage, and metacognition stage.  These four stages are put into the analogy of Comprehension Under Construction with the jobs of architect, job inspector, electrician, and bricklayer, respectively.  The first stage, teacher-led, involves the teacher modeling strategies of reading.  Next, students work together and with guidance from the teacher in the collaborative stage.  Third, the reciprocal stage has groups working more independently and develop sticky notes with main ides.  Finally, metacognition is when students become independent at comprehensive construction and can work things out on their own.  By working through these four stages, students do not have to go through the steps of breaking everything down and then trying to comprehend; they look at the big picture to comprehend that.

This article had some positives and some negatives.  I thought the beginning of the article was very strong in the explanations of how comprehension strategies today may not be effective.  Reading about how the Basal series and scaffolding breaks the process apart too much helped me to realize that comprehension cannot be taught that way.  It is tedious and boring to students, and may be one of the reasons that I myself struggled a bit with comprehension.  After this though, the article became a bit vague and confusing.  When describing the four stages and the construction analogy, it would have been really useful to have a full example of this to relate the analogy to.  It was a bit confusing and hard to grasp what the authors really were trying to get across.

 

Sadeghi, Nabiollah; Kasim, Zalina Mohd; Tan, Bee Hoon; Abdullah, Faiz Sathi. (2012). Learning Styles, Personality Types and Reading Comprehension Performance. English Language Teaching, 5(4), 116-123. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy01.cuaa.edu/docview/1009897778?accountid=10245

This article begins by talking about how there are numerous different learning styles which can be divided into three main categories: cognitive learning, sensory learning, and personality learning styles.  Within these three groups there are many more subcategories such as reflective verse impulsive, extrovert verse introvert, thinking verse feeling, and ambiguity-tolerant verse ambiguity intolerant.  The article continues to discuss that personality is basically what defines a person, and it is unique to him/her.  After these basic definitions and meanings were laid out, the article talked about how personality traits affect the learning process.  Students with different personalities learn in different ways, but that is not to say that their personality affects their learning.  Personality is just one factor, but not necessarily the cause.  When it comes to comprehension, the article discussed that a few studies have shown a relation between personality and comprehension.  Students of different personalities excelled in different areas of comprehension during tests.  Overall, the article concluded by saying that there is not enough evidence to show a cause between personality and reading comprehension.

Overall, I thought that this article was very disappointing.  At least half of the article was spent giving definitions of learning styles and personalities. Only a very small part ended up talking about comprehension in particular, and the part that did discuss this was very weak.  I was hoping to see some specific data and numbers from the studies that were being discussed, but very few specific numbers were included.  It seemed as if the article was at first saying that there was a correlation between personality and comprehension, but then at the end, it ended up saying that there was not enough data either way.  In the end, the article seemed to go nowhere and I felt like no point was made or no new information was portrayed.  It was a very disappointing article, and I would not recommend this article for use and information about comprehension.

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