Back From Break

| March 1, 2011

I returned from our holiday break with fresh eyes, and was able to see a lot of progress that my students had made since the beginning of the school year!  I wanted to share a few stories of success:

One of my tutees, R, had been getting in trouble for not doing her homework.  I was surprised by this, because R generally seems to respect her teachers and try her best to complete assignments.  I asked her about it, and she said that she didn’t understand the homework.  I then asked her teacher what kind of homework was being assigned to R, and the exasperated teacher said that it was just to read 30 minutes in any book, write down the title, author, and genre, and respond using any one of several prompts she had provided.  This homework was certainly appropriate for R, and the teacher and I couldn’t figure out why R felt that she didn’t understand the assignment. After some research, I discovered that the list of prompts in her writing notebook had ripped out, and that she had not realized she was missing it or needed to ask for another one.  I also wrote down Title, Author, Genre on that same piece of paper, as well as “Read for 30 minutes”.  R and I then read together for about 15 minutes, and did an example homework assignment together.  At the end, R said, “Wait, that’s all I was supposed to be doing for homework!?  That’s easy!”  And as far as I know, she has been doing her homework ever since.

A particular student and I had been working on inferences within stories, since this was a classroom lesson with which she needed support.  We had been working on this for several days with little success; she was able to understand the inferences I pointed out to her, but when I asked her to come up with them independently, she either repeated the section of the story back to me very literally, or made a “text-to-self connection” that was actually completely irrelevant.  So in this lesson, I once again tried to explain, as her teacher had, that inferences are reading the words that are there, thinking about what you know from real life, and figuring out the extra information that the author really means.  I once again modeled a couple of examples in the beginning of the story, and then it was her turn.  I told her to make an inference about why the author wrote that the frog turned red.  As usual, she turned to me with a pained expression and said she didn’t know.  I asked her to think about if the story was in real life, and it was her instead of the frog.  All of a sudden the sun started shining and harp music began playing and all was right with the world.  Okay, not really, but if you think beyond that text you can infer that the student suddenly understood and I was very happy about it.  She told me that if it was her she would be embarrassed to get a kiss on the cheek in front of her friends, and she knows that people get red if they are embarrassed (or angry) so the author must be saying that the frog was embarrassed when Frogilina kissed him!  The moral of this success story is that you never know when patience and practice might just pay off.

Finally, I wanted to share that all four of my students now tell me when they would like to work on something.  They have favorite activities of course (one often requests to review vocabulary words on the PSP, one usually wants to look up new words in the dictionary, one tends to want to act out stories we are reading, and one usually wants to find a poem to end our lesson with).  But they have all at different times told me when they feel that they are struggling with something related to reading or writing in the classroom, and asked for help with it.  I am proud of them for recognizing areas in which they need extra assistance, and am proud of myself for making them feel comfortable enough to ask me for it!