“WHAT NUMBER DAY IS TODAY?” One of my students asked me during reading today. This strangely worded sentence was clear to me, but an aid standing in the room wrinkled her forehead in utter confusion. “One hundred sixty-three.” I told her. She nodded and walked away. Later she wanted to know how many days we would have altogether. “This year I think it comes out to 179 because we lost a day during the fires.” She headed back to her reading group saying, “That’s a lot of days together, but they are almost all gone.”
The days are almost all gone. I found myself telling my students that they needed to know right now, that even as we inch ever closer to summer. I’m not going to quit. “I will work every day.” I explained. “When I taught 6th grade math, we did a problem set on the last day of class. When I taught seventh grade English, we started AND finished a novel the last week of school. My time with you is limited and I we are learning every day.” It sounds pretty inspirational, but you should know that about twenty minutes after this inspiring speech the class descended into off-task chaos. We were having a six-of-one-half-dozen-of-the-other kind of day.
My reading students are not just reluctant readers — they are resistant readers. It isn’t so much that they don’t like books, but rather that they feel books don’t like them. As they come to the end of their elementary school career some of them have opted for not-trying and being in total control to taking a chance and really trying. It is a defense habit that we have been chipping away at since our first days together. The proof that they are learning to try is in the results of their latest reading inventory assessment. Many of them showed a gain of 100+ points. 100 points is approximately a year of growth in reading. I have several students who have gained more than 300 points this year. They have worked hard.
This gain in points is only a fraction of who they are as readers and students, but it is measurement that they have seen since their earliest days at school. They’ve seen their peers’ numbers grow over time, and watched their own score hold steady or even backtrack. The gains they are showing right now is all part of an investment we’ve made in their lives over the entire school career. They have been tutored during school, and attended classes after school. They’ve been encouraged to read not only daily, but over vacations, too. Some of them were able to attend 15 extra school days at the end of the year where we focused only on reading.
I keep reminding them of all their hard work. Today we worked on inference which is the most sophisticated skill in the reading toolbox. We practiced in this way — I would put a clue on the board from the story they had just read, and they would fill in the inference. They breezed through all my examples and even asked me to give them some backwards — I gave them the piece of inference and they had to find the clues. This is not an activity that they could’ve done back in September. I am always reminding them of this. “Look how far we have travelled together. Look at all the things you can do.”
Of course, I also gave them the option of choosing their seats and teams on Monday. They lasted through today. Any time they were sent to do independent or group work, the room descended into noise - and unfortunately the noise did NOT include the assignment they were supposed to be working on. So tomorrow, I need to arrange them back into teams that actually can function. It was worth a try and I am sure they enjoyed their two days of “fun”.
OFF TOPIC: We’ve been watching tons of TED Talks in preparation for our upcoming talks, and here is a crazy fact from today’s talk. Did you know that ONE smile can cause a more positive reaction in your brain than eating chocolate bars. TRUE STORY. So smiling is a good thing and that’s not just me saying that; it is science.
So here’s to all the teachers out there - plugging along through these last days - trying to keep our students and ourselves on track. These days with these students will never come again, let us not waste a single one.
Keep moving forward,