I spend 90 minutes a day in one of the classrooms for students with intellectual disabilities, teaching guided reading and writing groups. It's my favorite time of the day. I get 45 minutes with each group to do a reading/writing/word study combination lesson. I can tie all of those elements together, draw connections between them, and really push the skills and (hopefully) the love of literacy because we have the time to get deep into what we're doing.
Yesterday someone said, "These kids are still going to be illiterate. First grade, second grade reading level? It doesn't matter. These kids need to be on a fourth grade level to be considered literate."
It sounds harsh, and at first I was taken aback. But it's the truth. If we don't get these kids to a fourth grade level before they leave our school system then we haven't given them the ability to read.
That stopped me in my tracks. What do I want for these kids? Will we get to that fourth grade level by high school? Am I pushing hard enough to get them there? If they are in fourth grade and reading on a kindergarten level what do we need to do? Is it time to work in survival literacy skills, or is there still a chance to produce literate adults?
My gut is to push. To start thinking long term- what do we need to put in place now to get to that fourth grade level long term? Is what I'm doing enough? Is it time to change the path and re-think my approach? But by pushing am I overlooking needed survival skills they will need in their future? Is reading essential to their lives?