This semester I worked on my practicum for my Reading Endorsement. I chose to work with a student who could read at grade level and beyond but was struggling with comprehension strategies. Part of our practicum required we do a project based learning activity.
This project has turned into a great idea for any classroom, student or parent who wants to expand or help a student with comprehension strategies.
My student had a deep love of chocolate.
Then again most people do.
She was very interested in learning about Milton Hershey. The practicum started with reading the book Who Was Milton Hershey? (available on Amazon).
We read a few chapters each week. I taught my student how to 'leave tracks" in her reading.
The leaving track strategies are effective for comprehension also it is an effective strategy for study skills. You can read more about leaving tracks in the Learning Log Blogs.
As we went through our lessons I quickly picked up that most of the help my student needed was vocabulary based. As with many students who read above grade level she was a great decoder but had no clue at times what she was reading to the lack of understanding of some of the vocabulary words.
How do you help this child?
First, make sure your student is interested in the material they are reading. They must have a vested interest in what they read.
Second, make sure they have some background knowledge and if not, provide them with some. Having background knowledge helps the student make a connection with what they are reading.
Third, provide them with tools that will help them and teach them how to self-monitor their learning. In this case, I provided my student with post-it notes. She was to tag several items she made a connection with. The idea was to tag areas that she could connect with either: text to self ( a connection she personally made with the story) or text to text (a connection to a previous material she has read). I also asked her to tag parts of the stories she had strong thoughts about areas that she loved or areas that made her say OMG!. Finally, the last set of tags were for her to use to tag vocabulary she came across that she may be unfamiliar with.
There is a learning curve here my friends. A student who can decode well has a hard time slowing down to tag. To resolve this you must teach and model for the student the tagging process. After I modeled then she started reading the story with me. As she read I would stop a the end of the page and ask her if she had anything she thought she should tag. After a few sessions, she began doing a better job of doing it herself. Of course, as we progressed through the book she started reading and tagging at home. When she came for her session we reviewed what she tagged.
During the process, I also focused on some activities that were isolating context clues. This is teaching a student to look at the text before or the text after to try to figure out the meaning of a word they may not recognize but can clearly decode.
When the student had concluded reading her Milton Hershey book we went on to have some fun. This is the final and fourth step to this fun project-based learning. What we did next would make any student jealous and want to dive into this book and project.
First, she completed a scoot activity on Milton Hershey's life, found on TPT. I used this as an assessment to see how much she had remembered from her reading. Next, we went to the Hershey Company website. Here she was able to look at actual photographs and articles that she could connect right back to her reading. Finally, she looked up a recipe she wanted to try on the site. For our final session, we made Hershey brownies. Delish!!!
I assessed my student with the Qualitative Reading Inventory at the beginning of our semester and at the end. She made clear gains. She also had a very successful standardized testing at school. She was very proud and mentioned how she used the strategies to help her during testing. The best reward for a teacher is to continue to see your students growing even after they leave you. She came back one month later to tell me she read a Harry Potter book and had successfully passed the AR.
Always strive to make learning fun and relatable and you will have success.
Wife, Mom, Educator and Lifelong Learner