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Spice It Up

When working with a students’ reading levels and progress towards their comprehension, I am learning that you can’t do the same type of activities over and over again with them. They get bored and even though they may be struggling, they still want a challenge. You need to have them involved in engaging activities all the time.

One of the second graders I work with on reading doesn’t mind reading different books as the main activity of her tutoring sessions – in fact, I think her parents prefer it. Well, that’s just not good enough; she needs more of a challenge with her reading so that she can grow and develop with her class. After each reading, or sometimes even after a chapter, we go through the events of what happened, then discuss the setting, the characters, the conflict, and so on. We now incorporate a vocabulary lesson. I pull out vocabulary words that she struggled with and clearly didn’t know as we were reading and make a list. She then defines the word and uses them in a sentence. Then, I drill and drill her on those words – and I often come out of nowhere and drill her again. The surprise element keeps her fully engaged. I also keep short reading and writing activities on hand for her and she never knows what type of reading activity she will be asked to do, so it keeps her engaged and focused. Kids these days love technology. Well this girl is not surrounded by too much in her home, so I bring my iPad with me so that we can read off of that; I download free books for the Apple Books app and the Kindle App so that there’s always something on there we can read. She loves turning the pages and sometimes, I find the interactive ones where there is sound or some sort of animated element to the story.

I’m learning that different things work for students of all levels. Another student of mine is a teenager who struggles with reading comprehension, writing, and vocabulary. Well there’s nothing wrong with this student – they are absolutely bright, but it seems that they have never been asked the right questions when it comes to reading. The NYC DOE is a great system, it is, but their reading focus activities are a bit lacking, so I cannot help but to blame the system that won’t acknowledge their absence of what’s really important at all ages – reading engagement. I found these books, which contain these long stories that I have my teenage clients read. They read the stories, but all around the story are questions that ask them to not only summarize, but require them to do critical thinking, and expand their knowledge outside of what is on the paper. Each story has about 15 short to long writing responses that really require the student to not only think about what they are reading, but the genre that is being worked with. It’s not just busy work – it allows my students to really learn how to approach reading. We then take these activities to their readings for their classes and we devise ways to approach their readings for school. My students are then able to understand and unravel the texts they are reading for school much better than they could before.

I said in my previous post that you should never rush a student’s education. They only have one year to complete one grade level and an astronomical skill set that seems a bit absurd and too much “too the test” for my liking. But, it is what it is. It’s normal for a student to fall behind in a system such as this one. The only thing we can do is keep working with them; tutors can play a really important role here – but more so the parents. Parents, you need to spend at least an hour a day with your child, working on these skills and encouraging them to succeed. Don’t push them, but let them know that you are here to help. The engagement of a parent may have a more lasting effect on knowledge than that of a tutor. Either way, the point is that the engagement is there. No matter how it is approached, active engagement in learning is essential to all students’ growth and development.

~La