Aug 14 2013

There’s no place like home

Parental involvement is the one of the most important elements in a child’s education. If a parent is more involved with his/her child’s school experience, then that child is more likely to leave school with the tools s/he needs to succeed in life. In kindergarten, that means that if a parent is more involved with his/her child’s school experience, then that child is more likely to leave the classroom knowing how to read by the end of the year.

Right now I’m reading the book Great Habits, Great Readers by some of the folks at UnCommon Schools. The basic premise is that education, like sport, requires the right habits and regular practice. As an educator, I help set the habits and I provide some room for practice. But a parent has greater opportunity for one-on-one interaction with a child and a greater opportunity to practice these skills. When a child goes home at night, that is their chance to hone their skills for the next day.

Which brings me to a former student of mine who’s currently enrolling in first grade. This child is smart and sweet, but he doesn’t like to work. Even with Title I services twice a week and one-on-one time with my assistant, it was like pulling teeth to get this child to attempt to read a short story. Even simple games focused on letter sounds would be warped into new storylines to suit his moods. I had suggested and pleaded with mom to send him to our half-day summer school program, but he never came. I can’t say I was surprised when I read the text message yesterday that said his new school suggested he might be better suited in kindergarten again.

It breaks my heart to think that he may be held back. I really don’t like the idea of holding any child back. No, this child isn’t really mature enough for first grade, but what does his mom do if he isn’t ready again after this year? What does that mean for his long-term trajectory? Yet when book after book and worksheet after worksheet returned to school this year without being completed and phone call after phone call resulted in the same “I’ll work with him” response, I’m not so sure what else I could have done for this child short of picking him up and tutoring him every Saturday and I’m not so sure what else there is to do now.

As we approach a new school year, it’s my goal to build great habits not only within my students, but within their parents as well. Almost all of my students have left my classroom reading over the past two years. This year my goal is 100 percent. What I’ve learned over the past two years is that I cannot get their alone.

4 Responses

  1. Meghank

    In the past, students were not expected to be reading by the end of kindergarten. They were allowed to move at their own pace to a far greater extent than they are now.

    It was suggested to my mother that I be held back in kindergarten, and I didn’t learn to read until near the end of first grade. I read constantly now. I’m grateful that I wasn’t pushed to learn to read before I was ready. Constant one-on-one assistance with learning the letter sounds and assessments would have shown me that I was failing, and I probably would have become frustrated with reading and never learned to love it.

    • I think there should be some expectation of incoming first graders. I remember reading Charlottes Web mid-year during first grade. I’m not saying that everyone needs to be reading novels — but they should be able to put sounds together to make words and read simple sentences. I saw this student do both of these things when he was in a work mode, but I think there was little effort at home to reinforce what he was learning at school.

      The other thing that I find interesting is that this school told his mother that he wasn’t ready for first grade. I’m curious what metric they used to make that determination — especially since schools that receive public funds aren’t supposed to test students into certain grade levels.

      Regardless, it serves as a real point of motivation for me as I approach the coming school year. I want to do more to both engage my students with interesting content and engage their parents on multiple fronts. I don’t want to see any more untouched books in those backpacks!

  2. Meghank

    I thought you might be interested in this article: http://dianeravitch.net/2013/08/25/gesell-institute-the-common-core-standards-are-wrong-for-young-children/

    Here is a quote that I found interesting: “Research clearly shows that early readers do not have an advantage over later readers at the end of third grade, and attempts at closing the achievement gap should not be measured in Kindergarten based on inappropriate standards.”

    I don’t know what this research is, but that statement sounds intuitively “right” to me, and of course it is supported by my own experience. I know many people who were drilled into reading at a very early age, who now would only pick up a book if forced to. I have a theory that people who learned later, but to whom reading was always presented as a joyful, not a frustrating, experience, are the ones who become life-long readers.

  3. Meghank

    I don’t mean to be bothering you, but here’s another article I think you’ll find helpful: http://seenmagazine.us/articles/article-detail/articleid/3238/reading-at-five-why.aspx

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I'm an educator, Kalamazoo College alumnus, Democrat, and proud Detroiter! Views here are my own.

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Milwaukee
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Early Childhood

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