Organization is crucial to running a program with 92 students and 115 volunteer mentors. D is very organized. Every resource has its own container for storage. Every activity or repeated lesson is laminated for continuous use. It took two weeks to test our students, working around teacher schedules, sudden fire drills, and absenteeism. It took 3 days to take each classroom’s tested student body and to organize the results into a spreadsheet. The data does give an overview of the percentage of students who are independent, instructional and frustrated levels. It is easy to note who is at a higher level of word call/ sight vocabulary and at a lower level of reading comprehension. What was more beneficial than the raw scores of students was the anecdotal record of notations made while students were reading. Going through the notes that I took on each student’s hesitation, enunciation and pronunciation, I was able, working with D’s expertise, to note the number of students who would need to work on understanding short or long vowel sounds, r constructions, vowel pairing etc. Assessment should be to find out what students can do, not what they can’t. This is why building rapport, listening carefully to their language and noting everything is crucial to trust, enthusiasm and success. Reading is a complex interactive process NRP (2000). Lenski, S., Ehlers-Zavala,F., Daniel,M,C., & Xiaogin,S.(2006) and these conversations continue to help us scaffold their learning (Vygotsky).
62% of the population at our school is Bilingual and there is pressure for the entire school population to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) on standard assessments. Home culture is a factor in learning especially when the home engages in activities in a primary language other than English ( English as a Second Language (ESL) students are at a disadvantage with assessments that do not accommodate for linguistic variations from culture to culture (Ying, Z.,Klinger, D.A., Living,C., Fox,J., & Doe,C.,2011). . All languages differ in their structural nature so that the delivery of a test question will be lost in translation if it is only presented in English. Misinterpretation can affect the assessment score and cause a wrong diagnosis of a student’s inability or disability. ESL students are often over represented in Special Education services due to poor testing (Lenski, S. et al. p26) Our Spanish speaking students’ pronunciation is different from an English language, emergent reader and it influences their comprehension in a slightly different way. I recorded missing sounds, h, ing, oo, ou which were letter associations that were Spanish instead of English. This is important to correct in young readers reading monosyllabic and multi syllabic words with fluency and not losing context. I was unable to notate nuances and linguistic variations that vary greatly, within a Spanish speaking cultures. Future tense can vary greatly for Mexican and Cuban dialogue as compared to Argentinian or Spaniard (pg 22). While this program does not have alternative assessments the school has many teachers and assistants who teach lessons in Spanish and English. For example, three of the five first grade classrooms are Spanish speaking first with introductory English. The literacy program is taught only in English because most of the mentors are not bilingual. Students will primarily work on vowel sound and letter development with an easier level of reading comprehension. When their vocabulary gains fluency, weekly, anecdotal assessment will help with new placements. (Basic Reading 11th edition provides an updated checklist for identifying these changes).
Students are organized into reading levels and strategy lessons prior to the first day of mentoring. Ranking from emergent to fluent by color: (Star being the lowest reading level) red, orange, yellow, green, blue, white. Most students needed to review skills that were already taught. D explained that there were several reasons. Many students do not read over the summer. It is quite possible that they encounter no reading materials or texts of any kind. A majority of ESL students will not see any reading materials, text of any kind including television shows that are in English. Their relatives and family will most likely be Spanish speaking with little to no English. As first generation English speakers they will not encounter English within these communities. Tests indicate that these students’ reading is low. But, once students engage in the daily, school routines, they accelerate with the repetition and routine. This is why 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders are placed within similar levels. Students are working with the mentor and not each other, they really don’t notice the heterogeneous groupings.
Finding lessons and worksheets with simple instructions for mentors view and explain to a student is the next task. Due to the nature of differences between emergent readers and ESL students, D will present similar assignments (short vowels) but will use slightly different worksheets. It was explained that mentors who have little teaching experience are not necessarily comfortable giving directions to children. They will receive some instruction at the orientation. More than one publisher, program, resource is mined for compatible lessons. Scholastic, STAT, SRA, are several reliable resources.
A weekly lesson guide needs to be generated for each level. Students need to be sorted back into piles by classroom. Each student has their own folder. The folder is labeled with the time that they will receive instruction and each time slot is assigned to a classroom. This means that the time students are pulled from daily instruction has a minimal, group impact on the home classroom. Each folder holds a reading log, a vocabulary log, a vocabulary pocket with laminated words. Words are color coded by subject: science, geography, etc.. These words are sorted by level of difficulty in pockets kept on a classroom wall. They live there all year long. D is able to take a set of words, put them in the folder and remove them for future use. Each folder has a mentor’s guide for reading or vocabulary teaching strategies listed and taped to the inside pocket to find quickly. The folders also contain a composition journal, a scholastic or SRA reading skills chart and SRA question/answer prompts for writing in the composition notebook. D has determined what routines will be utilized year long and then fits the lessons within the consistent routines.
Ultimately D decides where students are placed in the literacy program. But teachers and special educators are included in this conversation. I overheard one conversation. The teacher did not use the same assessment with all students and therefore had different results than D for placement. She did review the data that D put together for her. She wanted to keep her lower levels with her at all times. Students on the “bubble” who needed isolated issues and attention would be assigned to D. This was a class in which one of the two white level students was able to enter the program. They are independent readers but would accelerate even more with one on one attention of a mentor. D explained that teachers need to feel like the program is for them. Visibility with teacher, their perception that the literacy instructor works very hard gives them the assurance that the pull out time, though disruptive to classroom organization is worth it.
Ultimately D decides where students are placed in the literacy program. But teachers and special educators are included in this conversation. I overheard one conversation. The teacher did not use the same assessment with all students and therefore had different results than D for placement. She did review the data that D put together for her. She wanted to keep her lower levels with her at all times. Students on the “bubble”, meaning that their assessment improvement would move them into a higher percentage with a greater impact on the school AYP, would be assigned to D. This was a class in which one of two white level students was able to enter the program. As independent readers they would accelerate even more with one on one attention of a mentor. D explained that teachers need to feel like the program is for them. Visibility with teacher, their perception that the literacy instructor works very hard gives them the assurance that the pull out time, though disruptive to classroom organization is worth it.