Yes, we have now hit that age. Third grade – where teachers don’t need/want parent volunteers in their classroom anymore. Yes, some third grade teachers like help, but my daughter’s teacher is not one of them. I am co-Classmom, so I do have one foot in the door!
My other foot takes me to Miss M’s class to learn from a very special (to me) group of second graders. Yes, I’m there to help them with word study, but it is a journey for me, too. Each child learns to read in a different way, at a different pace, and I always learn something new.
Today was my third visit with my group. These are four struggling readers who need a little extra help with building their word banks. We are working on short vowel sounds in words like sang, test, thing, hop, and jump. Our tasks are to cut up the words for the week, sort them, write the sort in a word study notebook, then write 3 sentences using words from the sort. We have 45 minutes.
We use an easel and butcher block (do they still call it that?) for our combined sort. I added the headings, using a color marker that had the short vowel sound (black for short red for short e; pink for short i; purple for short u).
- We play cards. The kids draw one word card from my “deck.” They say the word, identify the vowel sound and then come up to the easel to write the word.
- We play detective. Whenever we can, we try to find words hidden inside other words … like lump and plump.
- We play “concentration.” The students had to pick up a word card, say the word, then pick a second “card.” If it was a match, they had to tell us where the word went in the sort. I wrote it on the board, they wrote it in their book.
- We do crosswords. Because Miss M is so organized, I have the words a week in advance. I brought home the words last week and made a crossword puzzle (Eclipse Crossword – free, online) from the word list. We kept a master list of the words in the middle and the kids worked together to help each other solve the sentence clues. [e.g., What did you ____ to the picnic? I brought pickles. answer: bring]
It has been fun to watch their esteem build as they solve the clues in the games. One of my guys got SO excited about being able to solve some of the puzzle clues today he could hardly wait his turn to pick his sentence! The girls LOVED helping each other with last week’s game of concentration. It’s so hard to tell them to sit in their seat when they are just bursting with pride!
To be honest, I probably jumped the gun on the crossword, but it is definitely one we’ll come back to. I like it because it helps them see words in the context of sentences AND give them some reading practice. I liked concentration the best because it really seemed to reinforce the words and was very efficient. The puzzle really slowed us down today.
We won’t play games every week, but in mixing things up these first three weeks I got a sense of how the kids process what they see AND how they approach learning. I’ve inadvertently made them the envy of some of the other reading groups, but that’s okay. My goal is to build their confidence and reassure them that they are special in a GOOD way.
And what have I learned? Well, you can move from who? to rock star status very quickly – even when you’re making them work. I saw the two girls in my group in the hall before I got to their classroom this morning and they were jumping up and down.
I’d like to learn more, too. Do you have some suggestions – or have you written about ideas – that can help struggling readers build their skills in fun, engaging ways?