August 31, 2010

What to do with the 5th graders who can barely read...

Last year, I had a handful of painfully low readers.  This year, I am very quickly realizing that I didn't even know what low was... Let me clarify.  My school uses the Fountas & Pinnell assessment system to level our readers.  The system assigns students with a letter level based on their fluency and comprehension reading a passage at that level.  Anyways, I asked the literacy specialist to F&P a few of my low readers this week so I could get an idea of their levels.  A 5th grader should typically be around a level S to start the year, and move up to a U by the end of the year.  A few of my little kiddos came out to a level I...and I have 1 still to be tested that I am certain is lower that that.


What does this mean to me?  Well, when I got that news it really just depressed me.  My goodness.  How will I ever meet their needs?  I have no students with identified special needs, so that means I don't get additional classroom support from SSTs (basically special ed push-in teachers).  That means it's up to me to teach these 1st and 2nd grade reading level kids, along with their grade level peers, and a handful that are way beyond grade level.  I promise I won't get too deep into complaining...but I just really don't know where to start.

It breaks my heart to think about how these children got so painfully far behind in something as critical as reading.  I know that there are probably unidentified learning disabilities at stake, but so much also comes down to moving schools frequently and not growing up in a home environment that fosters and encourages reading.  How will I ever be able to catch them up?  How will I ever be able to meet their needs without neglecting my other students?

What does this mean to my teaching?  Well, this is going to be a tough year of teaching literacy, that's for sure.  Not only does it looks like I will have 5 guided reading groups, but with kids that low, they are WAY below comprehension level for even my approaching leveled readers.  Also, they will be able to do very little reading work independently.  I will have to find some creative ways to get them double doses of reading instruction throughout the day, and to modify work to make it more accessible.

I'm really nervous about this, I have to a young teacher, there is so much I have to learn still, and it's daunting to think that the responsibility for these kids falls on my shoulders.  Of course, it doesn't ALL rest on me.  They will get intervention services because they are Tier 3 kids, and will work with other teachers during our built-in intervention block.  But still...I'm worried.

I guess I will commit once again to doing my very very best this year, and working as hard as I can.  A little luck wouldn't hurt too, so keep your fingers crossed...we could use a reading miracle over here!!!

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