Category: Field Work Reflections


For my final reflection on fieldwork, I am going to focus on the Teacher Consultant classroom.  Adriana, along with two other students from her class, gets pulled out of the regular room to go work on their reading skills.  Since I was focusing on Adriana for my case study, I thought it would be beneficial to see what she does when she is pulled out. During this time, students take a bottom-up approach to learning.  They are breaking the English language down into very small pieces.  Something that they do every day is go over the rules to spelling and pronunciation.  They have a list of rules written on the board, and each day as they review the rules, they have hand motions to go along with it.  Each week a new rule is introduced.  You can watch this video of the students practicing the rules while doing the hand motions to go with it.  (Please excuse the awful quality of the video! I guess I didn’t realize I was turning my phone while recording. Hopefully you can still get the idea!) http://youtu.be/ZWs_DBYjdyI

The idea behind this strategy is that by doing motions along with the sounds, it gets their brain more active and they are more likely to remember the rules and the exceptions to the rules.  The strategy seems to work and Adriana really excels in this classroom.  After they review the rules, they go over the words that they are focusing on for that particular week.  These spelling words use the rule that they are focusing on that week, too. So if they are focusing on long a, there will be words such as say, day, play, etc.  In the following video, the rule that they are focusing on for the week is consonant blends. (Again, sorry for the bad quality!) http://youtu.be/oM6zSRCWhqo

This half hour time slot is very beneficial to the students.  They get one on one time with the teacher which helps them to get the attention they need in order to learn.  Adriana seems to excel in this classroom and be a lot more confident in herself.  I also think this classroom is great because it allows the struggling readers to slow down and focus on the small parts of reading and writing.  Most of what these students do in the normal classroom is top down and fast paced.  This allows these students to feel like they are drowning in all the words, but now they can have a better grasp of what is going on.

A lot happened in the last few days of fieldwork so these posts are going to have a lot of detail in them. I was able to teach Lesson 1 of my mini-unit to a group of three students.  Overall, the lesson when okay, but there were a lot of things that I could have done differently.  As I was teaching this lesson, I had to make some adjustments.  Since only one of the three students had heard of Snow White before I decided that I needed to read it through once before we began to highlight.  Well, reading the book took a lot longer than I had originally planned because of comments and questions by the students.  By the time we read through it once, I decided that we did not have enough time to go back and reread it to highlight important parts.  I took the chance and skipped this step to see how it would go.  When we started to fill out the chart, they were confused at first so I helped them a lot with the first one.  Then as we went along, I tried to stop helping as much.  Each student filled in the last line completely on their own, which I thought was very impressive. Below is a picture of their work. (Adriana’s is on the left.)

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Again, this activity took longer than I thought so rather than having the students write a paragraph summary, I had them give me a verbal summary.  I had Adriana go first so that it was fresh in her mind.  She still had a hard time, but was able to recall the very basic plot.  This was her summary:

“The Wicked Queen wanted to be the prettiest, but Snow White was prettier.  The Queen tried to kill her because Snow White was prettier.  Snow White went to the little house and she hid from the Queen.  The Queen found her and used a belt to kill her.  Then she took the poisonous apple to kill her, and the dwarfs found her dead and put her in a casket.  Then the prince came and made her alive.”

She had an extremely general plot, but I don’t think that she would have been able to get that much if she hadn’t worked on the chart before.  The other student that I was working with gave me a very descriptive summary almost quoting the book word for word.  He included every single detail, too.  Though I saw some downfalls in the lesson, the students seemed to enjoy it, even commenting that it was fun and asking if we could do it again next time.

Luckily for me, the three student found this lesson engaging so I thought I would try it again with a much shorter book so we could actually do all the steps.  This time I used the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.  It is a much shorter book with fewer characters. The students seemed to do very well with highlighting important events, too.  In turn, we got through all the parts of the lesson and the summaries were a lot better because they focused on the main important ideas that happened in the book.  I was much happier with the way that this lesson turned out.  Here are pictures of what they wrote as their summaries which I thought was a huge improvement from last time. (Adriana’s is on the right.)

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I am over halfway done with fieldwork, and I am starting to focus a lot more on my case study student, Adriana.  Adriana is originally from Mexico and was adopted into an English speaking family when she was in first grade.  Though she has been speaking English for 4 years now, she is still an ELL as she originally spoke Spanish.  Her biggest area of struggle is in comprehension because she just doesn’t know what a lot of words are or what they mean.  I decided to do a Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI) with Adriana, and I started out with a second grade level reading.  Even though this is two grades below her, she struggled a lot with this reading.  She scored a 54% with the concept questions which assess her prior knowledge.  This tells me that she was partly familiar with the concepts, but not completely.  While read the 304 word passage, Adriana had 25 miscues, putting her at the lower end of an instructional reading accuracy. She was at an independent level when it came to meaning changing miscues.  This showed me that her fluency is not that bad, but I was very curious as to what she was able to recall from the story.

When I asked her if she could tell me what happened in the story in her own words, she started to complain a little bit.  She knew it was going to be hard and she didn’t want to do it.  She was only able to recall one idea before I told her to tell me anything that she remembered; it didn’t have to be in the same order.  This seemed to help her a little bit, but she still was only able to recall 10 of the 52 ideas in the story.  When asking her questions about the story, she still struggled, often commenting “This is hard” or “Uhh. I don’t know.”  She was only able to answer five questions correctly, putting her at the frustration level for the comprehension section.

Luckily for me, Adriana wanted to do another one.  Despite her frustration she found them fun.  This time, I gave her a first grade level reading.  She seemed to enjoy this one better, partly because it had pictures to go along with it.  Her prior knowledge score was much higher this time, with 78%.  Her miscues were cut in half, having only 12 in a 264 word passage.  This put her toward the higher end of the instructional reader for fluency, much better than the last passage. When it came to recalling events that happened in the story she still struggled, only recalling 13 of 50 ideas.  When I asked her questions about the story, she was able to recall 3 of 6 questions, again putting her at the frustration level for comprehension.

I asked her which story she liked better and she said the second one because it was easier, and she still wanted to read another one.  Adriana is an interesting, though not uncommon, case.  She has a very good fluency level and is able to read the words on the page, but she does not understand what she is reading.  It is hard to determine how to accommodate for this child because you don’t want to give them words that are way too easy for them because they will feel undermined, but if you give them something harder to read, they won’t understand what it is saying.  I have worked on a min-unit built around comprehension which I will post in a few days, and I hope to be able to teach the first lesson to a small group of students.  In this unit I focus on using a lot of visuals and graphic organizers to help with comprehension. I am interested in seeing if Adriana will benefit from these types of strategies.

During this fieldwork visit, I was also able to just talk with Adriana a little bit and interview her.  I learned that she was adopted when she was in first grade and has been at Estabrook since then.  She is not a fan of reading mainly because she comes across big words that she doesn’t know.  She doesn’t mind writing and says that it is a lot better than reading.  When she writes she can take her time and use words that she knows.  She sometimes reads at home when her dad makes her, but she said that her favorite books are The Cat in the Hat and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss.  It is my guess that these books are easier to read because of their rhythm and rhyme so she enjoys them more.

This fieldwork visit was very beneficial for me, and I learned a lot about Adriana from this visit.  There will be more to come in the next two weeks as I finish up my fieldwork and work more with Adriana.

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.

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.

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