The very first day that I assessed Kaboneye’s reading comprehension level, I brought in three different levels of running records. I let her look them over and read the one that she felt most comfortable with. Kaboneye was able to read all of the words with considerable ease, but when I asked her what she had just read about—I would get this blank stare. At that point, I realized that it might be more beneficial for Kaboneye to be reading books that illustrate what is happening in the text. That is when I came up with a modification of a learning log for Kaboneye and I to complete each time we met.
The learning log requires Kaboneye to do many things. She must first write today’s date, then the titles of the books we read together, and then she needs to write down any words that she doesn’t understand while reading the book(s). After, we have finished reading the book I will ask her if she has any questions for me—for further clarification. Then we look at the list of words that we have written down, and begin to define each in words that she can understand them. The last thing that the learning log requires of Kaboneye is to reflect upon what she just learned while reading the books.
Last week was the first week that I implemented it, and it was a little awkward at first. However, this week we used it again, and it seemed to flow more into our learning. The only thing that I don’t like about this learning log it that I feel like Kaboneye is getting bored with writing down the responses, and would rather instead read the books. I do think that this learning log is important to Kaboneye’s literacy growth, because at the end of the semester she will be able to reflect on all the books she has read, and begin to develop preferences of book genres.
The learning log simply allows us a place to write down anything that we find to be of particular interest while reading a ton of great books. This guided reading approach that we practiced every week has given Kaboneye confidence in her literacy abilities. In an article, entitled Exploring Early Reading Instructional “Strategies to Advance the Print Literacy Development of Adolescent of SLIFE” educational experts share different instructional reading strategies that have worked well for them.
They say that, “guided reading increases students’ confidence as consumers of text by providing them with enjoyable, successful experiences in reading for meaning and helping them to establish good reading strategies and habits” (Montero & et. al. (2014), p. 62). In other words, guided reading allows Kaboneye to read to learn, and also to learn how to read. She is learning about awesome things while she is learning how to read! The key to having a productive and engaging guided reading session is to bring in a variety of books for Kaboneye to choose from. Her choice in what she wants to know more about is of the utmost importance to me.
I am a firm believer that you have to be interested in the topic the text examines to fully engage with the text. Reading isn’t a passive activity, but instead it is an active activity—in which we are socializing about what we have just read. Kaboneye may read the same book together, but when we are finished reading the book and discussing what we have just read, I have realized that we have a different reading experience. Elizabeth Dutro calls this a performative act (2013). She bases these theories from the idea of students learning how to self-regulate their own understanding and awareness of the text at hand. The text becomes implicated in our attempts to perceive and understand the world around us” (Dutro, 2013, p. 305).
This means that we all have a different reading experience, because we all live different lives. When we read a text we as readers try to situate the text around ourselves and of our life experiences. Kaboneye reads the texts differently than I do, and these differences come out of her responses to the learning log. While the running record proved to be helpful in that it was quick to assess Kaboneye’s “reading level”, it did not however have the authentic feel and look that a book has.
The running record was also not very practical for using it against real books, because we can’t write in the books that I’m bringing for us to read (library books). The running records also couldn’t compete from the variety of texts libraries have to offer students. I felt that it was important that I always allowed Kaboneye to pick what we were going to read. When she is picking she is developing her own likes and dislikes as a reader. Allowing her to choose also encourages a positive attitude toward reading. In When Kids Can’t Read: What teachers can do Kylene Beers offers her underlying beliefs of what teachers of reading must believe.
Number six is, “Teachers who encourage…improving comprehension” (2003, pp. 37-38). When teachers provide students with an array of books it tells students that reading is important, and that their interests and hobbies matter too. What wasn’t working well with the learning log that I modified from an online version is that it lacks a space for Kaboneye to tell me how the texts could be related to her experiences. Rosenblatt the queen of education comprehension reminds us in Kylene Beers novel that, “comprehension is a dynamic process, a transaction between the reader, the text, and the context” (Rosenblatt 1978) (Beers, 2003, p. 5).
In other words there was not a space for Kaboneye to dictate how she relates herself to the text. And so I have decided to add another question to the learning log—How does this text relate to your life? I’m still working with this question, and it might need some tweaking—but I think it’s important that Kaboneye continues to read a variety of books, because this will increase her reading comprehension abilities. This process has made me learn a lot as a future teacher of reading and writing. I have learned that I need to come prepared with lots of books to read (or activities).
I learned this on the first day, by not bringing in enough materials. I have also learned how important it is to be open and willing to adapt your methods as a teacher. Each week I go into Longfellow, feeling confidently in my latest reading assessment, and when I actually conduct the assessment I see it’s faults and holes. This has taught me to always be willing to adapt or look for something different to work. Just because this activity didn’t work with a student like Kaboneye, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work with another student. The mentality of “the one size fits all” does not apply when it comes to students learning how to read.
All students are different and are going to have different experiences, which make them in turn look at the world differently. As a teacher, you have to be willing to let things get a little sticky—because that is when you are going to find out if something works or doesn’t work. My next steps, as a future teacher of English is to continue my studies, and always be on the hunt for new ideas and activities. One thing that all of my ILA classes in my undergraduate have stressed to me is the importance of sharing good ideas with other teachers.
This creates a community in which teachers can collaborate and work together to solve problems in their own classroom. My next step to take with Kaboneye is to continue to bring in books that revolve around the interests of Kaboneye. Her motivation and willingness to decipher a challenging text lies in her interest in the topic at hand. Luckily, Kaboneye is a hard working student, and she is already so naturally willing to work with me. I will continue to learn much from Kaboneye as she is learning from me in the weeks to come.