Edwin is a child in my kindergarten class who comes into class each morning and picks a chapter book from the book crate. He is quiet and well-behaved and seems to be on task.  When I conduct a reading assessment, I realize that, while he knows his letters and sounds, he has very limited word recognition.  He does not seem to know how to blend sounds into words.  In addition, he has few sight words. Why was he pretend-reading chapter books?

I assign children to reading groups.  Edwin is with other emergent readers.  He seems very uncomfortable when he is asked to read a sentence in a predictable or decodable text.  In fact, he often seems to be unfocused. However, when he speaks to me one-on-one, he has a really sophisticated command of the language and an extensive knowledge base.  The rest of the emergent readers in his group do not have his oral language capability or his fund of knowledge. They lack his sophistication. However, they are learning to read the words in their predictable texts.  They are making way better progress than he is.

By December, Edwin is absent at least one or two days per week.  He seems less and less engaged.  He stares into space when he is in school.  He never makes trouble.  He just zones out.

Should I refer him to the intervention assistance team? There is a huge discrepancy between his oral skills and his reading ability.

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July 24, 2022 7:26 pm

Dear Dr. Fayne:
My heart was aching while reading your descriptive review, “Hiding Out in Kindergarten: Edwin,” because of how clearly you explained this student’s withdrawal over the passage of time in the classroom. The observations you made of this student painted a clear picture, and I was rooting for his success in just a few sentences.

One passage that you wrote that stands out for me is: “while he knows his letters and sounds, he has very limited word recognition. He does not seem to know how to blend sounds into words.” I think this is demonstrates a Pat Carini-style method of description because you have detailed precisely what was observable in Edwin’s behavior without casting judgment onto it. You remark upon the specific challenges he is facing when reading, and this is in dramatic contrast to his pretend reading from chapter books.

Another element of your writing that I appreciated was the questions you posed about his behavior and the situation: “Why is he pretend-reading chapter books?” and “Should I refer him to the intervention assistance team?” These stood out for me because you appear to be employing a Notice/Wonder strategy, and sharing your thoughts about Edwin’s puzzling behavior and how you might navigate this challenge. You do not attempt to solve the issue in this moment, as more information appears to be necessary, but you also provide key details that need further study, such as why Edwin begins missing class so frequently and his zoning out as time progresses. You draw me in with your questions and cause me to ask my own! I am now wondering whether there is some medical or learning issue the parents have not disclosed or have not discovered, or perhaps some major life change outside of the classroom.

Have you read Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and what You Can Do about it by Kelly Gallagher? I thought you might be interested in this because of your understanding of the importance of reading for student success. Gallagher does a phenomenal job outlining the current crisis of readership in America and suggests real solutions without putting himself on too high of a pedestal as some God of Teachers. He mentions one statistic that, essentially, if a student is not reading at grade-level by the end of third grade, they likely never will catch up to reading at grade-level. It makes early intervention so much more important in that light.

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because you bring the reader along with you so well. I am enjoying seeing the world (or at least the classroom) through your eyes!


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