Thursday, May 6, 2010

teeth grinding for open testing season...

I tried to keep from obviously grinding my teeth during guided reading as I watched my readers struggle through the book. Really? I felt myself mentally screaming. How do you not recognize the word HERE? We've been reading books like that since the first day of school. I could feel my breathing tighten as I watch them go back over the simple high frequency word. /h/, /h/, /h/, the reader repeated, obviously not using any of the other reading strategies we've been working on- re-reading, thinking about if it makes sense, checking the picture, reading on and then going back. Nothing a quiet /h/ puttering- a slowly dying car trying to start up one last time.

Mentally I slammed my head into the table. In reality I tried my best to prompt him to use strategies to read the word and then back away, hoping he'll get it on his own. I scribbled down observations, more to keep me from giving him the word than for the notes' actual worth.

By the end of the group all 5 of us were done. They left the table frustrated with their reading, and I left frustrated with my teaching. We might as well have all had a wrestling match with no winner.

It's May. Testing season has begun. My readers are teetering on the benchmark- we've got to push these last few weeks to make it. We're one level away- reading 15s when all we need is to read 16s. We're so close- all the steady work we've put in throughout the year is coming down to these last few weeks.

Reflecting on my frustration from yesterday I realized it came from me- the lesson blew up because I wasn't teaching the reader- I was teaching the test. Instead of looking at what my readers need I was thinking about everything we have to do to make it to benchmark. It came down to that feeling at the end of a cross country race in the rain when you just put your head down and go with whatever you have left in you, no matter how much it hurts.

Except that, teaching reading isn't like running. We don't get to come to the end goal and then stop. We might have a first grade goal, but then they have to carry their reading over the summer and into second grade, where their reading will continue to climb upward.

I want them to get to the 16 benchmark because it's my goal. And it's a great goal to keep us reading with our readers everyday and pushing them like they should be pushed- except when meeting the goal gets in the way of teaching that specific reader in front of us. The one who may not be ready for 16s, but is right there- a firm 14- and with support and scaffolding, proper teaching and patience- will continue to move up to 16s and beyond, even if it's not in the three week window we have left.

I feel deflated thinking about the ones who might not make it- we've been on track all year to make this goal. But when I think about the readers they are every day- all the good things they typically do as readers, along with their love of reading- and then compare it to the failed guided reading lesson yesterday, I shutter. In forgetting to teach the reader I gave them my stress- handed them books they weren't ready for- and then allowed myself to show my frustration when they struggled through simple words- and the more stressed the group became, the more we all struggled.

I'm not giving up on meeting the goal- I'm determine we'll get there in 3 weeks- but I am determined that today I'll teach the readers in front of me- I'll give them the support they need to be strong, independent readers, and not just readers who can pass a test.


1 comment:

luckeyfrog said...

Don't feel bad. It's easy to fall into that trap.

The last few weeks I've been doing a lot of test practice to get ready for the end of the year. In math, we have lots of 2-minute time tests. One in particular has a format that the students struggle with. We have practiced it repeatedly, and I feel horrible. I want them to feel comfortable with the format so they can show what they know, and honestly, their speed at using very basic concepts (like place value or number facts) has gone up incredibly. There probably is some good to that, but I still feel guilty.

It's just that the tests mean a lot, and I want to make sure the students show what they actually know.

So far my main way of justifying it has been to make sure we go over and explain the problems whenever possible. And I make sure that other than the 5 or 10 minutes we spend practicing time tests, the rest of our math instruction encourages lots of higher-level thinking, especially explaining why and figuring out puzzles for better understanding.

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