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Student Conferences October 15, 2009

Posted by mrsmerritt in 1.
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In October of 2009 I felt like some of my students weren’t reading where they should be. I had observed and talked to them and had come to some conclusions. I believed that some were just low readers (hence the introduction of the audio libros) while others weren’t putting the required effort into it.

 I didn’t know what to do. I planned to do student conferences with them. I planned to show a movie to the rest of class. It just so happens that this year swine flu has had lots of kids out for days. Many people had make up work to do so the movie served a dual purpose. It would free me up for the student conferences and give the recently recovered students a chance to catch up.

 I typed up an agenda (for my use only) for the student conference.

First, I gave them a normal bell ringer activity. I call it bell work. I had them do it while I watched the clock. Interestingly, all of my native speakers could complete this activity in less than two minutes.

 Second I had them read an entire page from their current book to me. Again, I had a stop watch. I assured them that I wasn’t going to grade them on their reading I just wanted to see something. Again, each student, regardless of the difficulty of the book, read the complete page in less than two minutes.

 Third I took out the reading logs. We looked just at the past two weeks worth. I was willing to forgive the sins of the previous grading period. As gently and delicately as I could, I pointed out that class was 60 minutes long. It took them less than two minutes to do the bellwork. It took them less than two minutes to read a page. Based on that information I either was satisfied with their current pace in reading, or I expected improvement.

 I was terrified of this part. I am not a confrontational person. While it wasn’t a confrontation, I was just very nervous. I would have preferred leaving them sticky notes. However, I sucked it up and did the hard stuff.

 Then I told them what my semester goal was for them. This goal is based on the reading of last year’s students. Last year I felt like my students generally worked well for me. I relied once again upon Renaissance reading. I looked up the value of each book my students read during the year. I calculated the totals and then calculated the total for the semester. I averaged it. The range was 18-23 points at the semester end. I gave them that goal.

 I explained what I would be expecting in the way of a book review. I explained what skills I thought the book reviews would help them develop. I am requiring 50 words (in Spanish) talking about how they felt about the book. Spelling doesn’t count. I will make notes and corrections on spelling. They will recopy the text incorporating the corrections. Ya.

 Well, to my astonishment they didn’t get huffy, roll their eyes, call me a nazi or anything else. All along I explained how I truly believed that being bi-literate would make them more valuable employees and more competitive in the job market. I told them they didn’t have to read books they didn’t like.  I praised what they were doing. In the end they were cooperative and agreed to the goals.


Slow & Low Readers October 3, 2009

Posted by mrsmerritt in Getting Started, Lessons Learned.
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 Well, this year I have two girls who are slow readers. They are both low readers in English and very low readers in Spanish. One of the girls is extremely low. After 4 weeks she hasn’t finished Ana bailó Tango. So, it’s time for a new strategy.

            Years ago I purchased the book Ciudad de las Bestias on tape.

            Last year as a break from the routine, I let my students listen and follow along (following along essential) with the book. As they did this I realized the benefit. This activity really bridges the gap between the language they understand when they hear but don’t recognize when they see.

I felt the potential to jump start kids reading using an audio book was huge. However, there are not many unabridged Spanish audio books available that are high interest.

            These are my newest strategies which I am just starting.

            After the slow reader finished Ana bailó tango (took her three weeks) I put her in a private spot, gave her Cuidad de las Bestias (for which I do not yet have a packet) and the audiocassette. I am hopeful that after following along while someone pronounces all those words for her she will be better able to read in Spanish.

            The extremely low reader presented another problem. First, since Ciudad is on cassette not mp3 I can’t really have two students listening at a time. Plus, I just wasn’t sure she would be able to follow along with the book yet.

            As always when I am desperate, I grabbed a Blaine reader. This time I grabbed Pobre Ana. The girl couldn’t read Ana bailó tango. But I have a CD for Pobre Ana. Last Monday I gave her the book, the CD, a CD player and a packet.  She finished before the week was over.

            I am just going to move her through the readers that I have audio for. Then reassess. Since I have audio for 4 readers, I have about 4 weeks to prepare my next move.

            I am going to take some of my budget money and purchase an inexpensive mp3 player. Then I can load all the audio books on it.

            My vision for this is to ultimately get 1-2 mp3 players, pick up some additional audio books and load them up. This will not replace reading. If I get enough resources I will let students start the year listening, following along and doing a packet. Then move into independent reading.