Dates: Monday, April 08, Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Site: St. Paul Lutheran School, All day kindergarten
Cooperating Teacher: Mrs. Novak
Total hours together: 2 hours 5 mins Total for EDU344: 6 hrs 35 mins out of 20 hours
Since I hadn’t been to the site for two weeks due to first my Spring Break and then St. Paul’s, I decided to do one more session of observation before I began my questioning of the pupils and chose the subject of my case study. That day the teacher started the English Language portion of the class by reviewing the alphabet with her flashcards. This time she added the letters y and z to the mix, which were the letters the children had learned right before their Easter break. They went over some words that started with y, like yo-yo, yesterday, yes, yellow, etc. on the giant notepad in the room. Then the teacher read a book called The Yak Who Yelled “Yuck!” by Carol Pugliano-Martin and illustrated by Paul Harvey. The book was really alliterative with many y words, running throughout it like yak, yam, yard, yuck, yelled, yogurt, etc. At the end of the story there was a two-paged picture with lots of images, some that started with y. Mrs. Novak asked each student to name one thing in the picture that started with y to assess for understanding. Then she added words that were featured in the book to their board.
After the lesson on y, the class began something new: working at stations. Since this was their first time working in stations, they were only going to do each exercise for five minutes. At one of the stations, the kids had to do a choral reading with the teacher. The teacher used context clues of the pictures to create meaning and helped them to sound out words they were stumbling over. At another station, the children were creating sight words with stamps. They had to draw a flashcard for a word and then stamp out the letters. At a third station, they were silently reading to themselves. And at the last group they were writing sight words on line paper, as well as writing words that had short /i/ in the middle on a worksheet in the shape of an igloo.
Because the exercise was new, the whole thing was rather chaotic, and not much got done. I also didn’t get to observe the struggling readers that often as I was busy helping Mrs. Novak manage the children.
On Wednesday, I interviewed the three students who are struggling the most with reading. I had 10 questions that I had written up for an assignment in class, which are as follows:
- What are your favorite subjects in school? Why?
- What do you like to do for fun outside of school?
- What do you consider the purpose of reading?
- What is your opinion of reading books? Is it fun? Boring? Hard?
- What are your favorite books?
- What type of books is your least favorite?
- What part of reading would you like extra help with?
- What part of reading are you most comfortable with?
- Does your family read a lot at home?
- Do you prefer being read to or reading books on your own? Why?
- Do you prefer books with or without pictures? Why?
I also added the questions, “Does your family read?” And “What do they read?” I had to use smaller words because some of the phrases were too confusing for them.
The first student I talked to was Michael, because I was still fairly convinced that he would be my case study. For question one, he answered that his favorite “Subject” was playing with his friends. For question two, he said he liked to go to friend’s houses to play. He said reading was for learning information and for fun. He had lots of different types of books that he considered his favorite, and he particularly like reading chapter books, because it made him look like a “good” reader.
For some reason I skipped over question 7, which would have been important info to know. For question 8, Michael said that he worked best at reading instructions for board games. He saw his parents reading books at home, so he was witnessing good reading practices from his parents.He thought reading on his own was better than being read to because it proved that he was ready to move to first grade. He said reading books without pictures were also a “big kid” thing to do. Because he has already been held back once, it seems he is quite determined to prove to everyone that he is an independent reader.
I also interviewed two other boys. I discovered after interviewing one boy that he was going on a month’s furlough to visit his grandparents, so I wouldn’t be able to use him as my case study even if I wanted to. The other boy, who I will call Luc, quickly found a way into my heart.
Like most five year-old boys, Luc shows a propensity to play with both his friends at school and on his computer and X-box at home. He loves video games, especially those based off of movies and during our interview, he spoke enthusiastically about them. When I asked him why we read, he listed very methodical reasons: so we can learn new words and how to spell and so we can become smarter. He hasn’t grasped yet that reading is a useful medium to learn new knowledge and develop new ideas. Despite missing this connection, he still finds reading fun some of the time but also hard and challenging. He doesn’t find reading boring or a chore.
The types of books he enjoys best are those based on comic book characters and television cartoons, like Spiderman. Of course, at school he doesn’t get to read those books often, but Luc seems okay with this. He is not too fond of dry textbooks or “spooky” books.
Despite the fact that he is getting better at reading picture books on his own, Luc still prefers to at least have help from a teacher or parent when he stumbles upon words, or better yet, to be read to. This is understandable, given his struggles with reading. He admitted to me that he got words “mixed up” a lot. He also explained that reading made him feel like he was going around in circles or that the “room was tipping.” This dizziness sounds like a symptom of anxiety. Upon this declaration, my heart immediately went out to him. I had similar feelings about math when I was a kid. He could be suffering from a vicious cycle of self-defeatism. If he works himself into a panic whenever he is reading, he could be missing easy words not because he doesn’t know them, but because he is so nervous. And then the simple mistakes he makes just prove to him that he is “bad” at reading.
While I am not sure whether this boy suffers from self-defeatism, nor whether he has any learning disabilities, I do know he is an ELL student. One of his parents is Chinese, while the other is French, and they make the boy read and speak these two languages at home instead of English. While I admire the parents’ tenacity to keep their son well-versed in their native tongues, the boy is now struggling to understand English as a result. Luc does witness his parents reading at home, but I’m not sure if it is in English or not. If his parents don’t make an effort to read or speak English to the boy, they are basically sending a message that it’s not that important. However, given how the primary language of American schools is English (not to mention it is still the lingua franca of the world), it is imperative he knows how to read and write in English.
After this interviewing process, I felt determined to help Luc overcome his trepidation and get to the bottom of his struggles. I still felt for Michael and his issues, but I felt an unmistakable pull towards Luc. And since I could only pick one student for the case study, I ended up choosing him.