How do we tie it all together? What does this all mean for diverse learners?
Let's address how we tie it all together. Keene and Zimmermann write this week on synthesis and relate this to their book's title when they write, "Synthesis is the mind constructing beautiful mosaics of meanings" (p 228). Just as Keene and Zimmerman paint us a picture of synthesis as a mosaic, I started to think that this whole journey of learning comprehension strategies is like a mosaic. There are so many little but important parts to teaching the strategies including the strategies themselves that I can picture them as one big painting. But when you get close up you see each individual detail that contributes to the success of the student in comprehension. Each piece is important individually but you need each piece, to build upon each other and to see the big picture.
Harvey and Goudvis tie it all together for us as well. In this chapter, about the Genre of Test Reading, they reflect that we don't teach to the test rather we should teach them how to read a test. "Taking a test requires some skills and strategies that are quite distinct from the ongoing reading we do every day" (p 240). They continue with a suggestion of how they teach reading for test taking, "We do not teach test prep all year. We begin to prepare kids to take the test two to three weeks ahead of the test date" ( p 240).
But what's really interesting is that they emphasize that we have already been doing our job to get our students ready to this point. We have been building the foundation needed to succeed in test taking if we have been following their strategies. If we have built time for students to read every day, then we have been building their stamina. They need this stamina for test taking. If they are reading diverse context, fiction and non fiction, lengthy and short text, and challenging text then they have received a great deal of exposure that they need for background knowledge. If the students have been reading outside of school that is just as important as to what they have read in school. Again, the students continue to build background knowledge, build stamina, and expand their vocabulary. This is what our students need to be successful in comprehension but also in assessment.
I love their suggestion to devote 25 min daily, a few weeks prior to assessment, devoted to teaching how to read the assessment. Let's not waste a whole day either, they suggest to keep moving along with regular instruction. This alone should help drive the children's anxiety about the test down. If we are just devoting a small part of our day to get ready because we are confident of what we have taught them and we communicate that to our students; then they should also have more confidence and a good attitude towards the assessment.
To answer our second question of, What does this all mean for diverse learners?, we can look at the articles by Danielle V. Dennis (2009) and the ELL article by Kathleen A. J. Mohr (2004). I was able to identify at two different levels with these articles. Having taught at the high school level in Tennessee I am familiar with Dennis' write up on the TCAP. With Mohr's write up I can identify with it on a personal student level.
Mohr's article resonated with me because I was thrown into the Kinder class of Mrs. Alvarez in 1975. Yes, thank goodness she spoke Spanish, because I only spoke Spanish. I could have been identified as an ELL child. I don't know if our school offered services for ELL back in 1975 or why I was not identified as an ESL or ELL student. I literally knew the word bathroom, please and thank you. I was first generation born in the United States. I lived with my grandparents and mother and they only spoke Spanish to me. North Beach Elementary was a small public school in Miami Beach. I had just a few friends who were like me, children of Cuban exiles, from K-3rd grade. But I was not given any materials to work with in my native language. I wasn't given different materials. There was no special assistance or special class. I just assimilated into my environment. I did everything my classmates did. I remember as I moved to first grade and started to learn to read I was not in the high group. Yes, I think I was in yellow and I so wanted to be in blue. I may have struggled a bit as I was learning to read but I was an avid reader. I loved reading as a child. I organized my "library" in my bedroom by authors and titles. If we went to a book store I walked out with a tower of books. If we went to the library I walked out with another tower of books. I always had fines because I would keep the books and read them over and over. I can't begin to imagine if I had been limited to what I could access and read. I am so grateful that no one fell for the "pobrecita" syndrome. Thank goodness. I can't imagine if I had fallen to pitty or if my teachers had accepted marginal work because English was not my native language. I love when Mohr states: "Rather, students need challenge and engagement - the opportunity to participate and the support to make sense and meaning of their academic lives" (p 19). I am forever grateful for Mrs. Alvarez, Ms. Reager, and Ms. Sams.
Mohr and Dennis both write about the importance of meeting your student where they are academically. Mohr quotes "Diaz and Flores (2001) referred to the effective teachers as a mediator who abandons deficit beliefs and "habitudes" and organizes instruction to teach to a student's potential" (p 19). Meet your students where they are. Dennis writes, "When students are not taught according to their individual abilities and needs, but instead are taught based on the premise of a one-size-fits-all instructional program, we are not providing them with opportunities to climb the literacy ladder" (p 288). Meet your students where they are.
Assessments drive me crazy. But when we put all of our eggs in one basket of assessment, that drives me mad. My goodness, I knew students who were taking AP Lit (and passing it with an A) in high school but had to take Intensive Reading because they could not pass the FCAT. That is such an oxymoron.
As I read Dennis' article, I realize I say these same things in my own head when I am looking at standardized data. I wrote a big YES in my margin when she writes: "Keep in mind that not all students who earn below-proficient scores on the state reading assessment require intervention" (p 288). It's so important to look at all of the data on the child including what you as the teacher knows they know. I love her suggestion to conduct a series of reading assessments to determine the students individual needs. And, "Continually assess students throughout the year and alter instruction to match demonstrated growth and abilities. Revise groups purposefully and often" (p 288).
Mohr and Dennis hit it right on in teaching diverse learners, meet your student where they are but also challenge them in the areas where they need it.
This concludes my last learning log for this summer semester. I love that so many of you (parents, colleagues and family) have enjoyed learning along side of me. I have learned so much, stretched myself, and refreshed my teaching tool box and I can not wait to share this with my students in just a few weeks.
Wife, Mom, Educator and Lifelong Learner