Thursday, January 16, 2014

Teaching reading is far more complex than we think; teachers have to be as tricky as their students

It requires a multi-modal approach. My daughter, who taught herself to read at age 3, was such a well-behaved student. I was friends with her school librarian and we conspired in gr. 1 to find The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It was a tough time for all of us.
Not 'strange' but reflects decoding statagies
peculiar to certain readers.
chapter books she would read. Caitlin wanted to fit in, and preferred to choose the picture books all her friends were reading. Eventually, she would bring home

That said, any reader who doesn't fall within the average, has a hard time in classrooms. I had a student, a non-reader and in a gr. 1/2 split class, who was able to copy upside down from her friends work. I remember this as clearly as could be. She was learning disabled, and had learned to cope. Teachers have to be as tricky as their students. We must be vigilant, and identify as early as possible issues with our students.
Another clue to learning disabled symptoms are children who do not print well. Again, this must be differentiated from the student who simply has poor fine muscle skills, but a writer who writes very slowly can clue us in. It is all a matter of clueing in to these subtle signals.

This dear young man was finally tested, at my insistence, and it was concluded that since he was unable to copy down short notes on homework assignments, it was my fault as a teacher. Apparently, the teacher who taught him the previous year, in gr. 3, 'perceived no problems'. This was a male teacher, intent on making the principal's list, with little background in special education. As a special education specialist, I was usually given a lot of special needs kids. They taught me to fight, on their behalf, buck the system, and speak truth to power.
Nothing to do with brains,
but with reading skills.

Some parent eschew a special education identification.
Some principals don't want special needs kids identified (there were days when lists were moot, since special education classes were being reduced and lists were too long).
Some parents blame the teacher (despite a background and successful teaching career).

I found that having an appropriate special education designation gave the student extra support. It allowed parents to access smaller class sizes, and specially trained special education teachers.

It is crucial, too, that those who identify special needs in the area of literacy, that they not simply provide teachers with a checklist of this to do, for example, with ADHD learners.

It requires a portfolio of teaching strategies, not just a single one. This is why the Whole Language movement bombed. It left out many learners who needed more than an holistic approach. Teachers were poorly trained in this strategy, as much as teachers should all have special education training.

Instructional Strategies <= read more here

Poor readers need to be taught the shapes and sounds of letters, those with dyslexia can be taught using all capital letters, for example. It is all in the font! 

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