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Helping a Bit Older Student Remediate Reading—Without Hurting Her Feelings


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I have a new foster daughter who is ten years old starting fifth grade, and doesn’t read beyond picture books.  She struggles with some vocabulary in books like The Little Engine That Could.  While it is possible there could be an undiagnosed learning disorder at work here, I think it is equally likely that she simply entered kindergarten at a disadvantage, never having been read to or having heard a wide vocabulary and correct grammar in regular use, and just never caught up.  I am wondering how to best approach helping her work on this without embarrassing her or making her feel that I am treating her like a baby.  

I am going to be using OPG with the readers from AAR to continue phonics work with my six- and seven-year-olds, and while I already have and like both programs, I am open to something different if it works well for older remedial learners.

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Well reading picture books is an excellent way to grow vocabulary and sentence structure!! Definitely do those as well as read alouds and audio books. How is her listening comprehenson?

How is her phonological processing? Can she rhyme, blend, segment words into sounds, tell you the result if you change a letter in a word, etc?

Since you have AAR, I'd probably start there, jist at a more intensive pace. It's a little better if there is dyslexia than something like SWR. It's very possible she was never taught to read and that simply going through ANY program will get her there. If she bogs down, then evals and something more specific like Barton. 

You might look at something like NewsELA to get her in higher interest accessible material.

80% of reading comprehension is prior knowledge. Enriching her environment will probably help.

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I'd use ElizabethB's lessons and apologise if any of it seems babyish. Tell her it's not because you think she's stupid, that you're just using it as a diagnostic tool.

Then involve her in literacy culture as much as you can.

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I'd be sure to include her in read-alouds--picture books, Story of the World, and science books--and arts activities. You can pre-teach vocabulary to the whole group. Some teachers like to  have kids to listen for the target words and make a particular sound (like DING! or BZZZT! or OOOH!) when they hear them.

Edited by Carolina Wren
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I think sometimes picture books, especially older books like The Little Engine That Could, have trickier vocabulary than chapter books. Maybe she'd feel better about reading simple chapter books, or selections from readers? I also agree with reading aloud as much as possible, and maybe explaining as you go along, even when nobody specifically asks what things mean.

Is there also a way to have her help the littler kids with some areas of their lessons, as a way of boosting her confidence? 

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It sounds like you have a handle on getting her back up to speed.  She might enjoy something called "Decodable Chapter Books."  They are written at a low level (intentionally avoiding words that can't be easily sounded out) but a higher interest level.  Here is a link to some: https://amzn.to/2CC46M3 

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13 hours ago, Michelle Conde said:

I have a new foster daughter who is ten years old starting fifth grade, and doesn’t read beyond picture books.  She struggles with some vocabulary in books like The Little Engine That Could.  While it is possible there could be an undiagnosed learning disorder at work here, I think it is equally likely that she simply entered kindergarten at a disadvantage, never having been read to or having heard a wide vocabulary and correct grammar in regular use, and just never caught up.  I am wondering how to best approach helping her work on this without embarrassing her or making her feel that I am treating her like a baby.  

I am going to be using OPG with the readers from AAR to continue phonics work with my six- and seven-year-olds, and while I already have and like both programs, I am open to something different if it works well for older remedial learners.

I have done Spalding with older dc, including high school age. I just tell them it may seem simple in the beginning but we'll move as quickly as they are able, until things get trickier.

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I had her take the DORA today, and was quite surprised at the results.  The trouble doesn't seem to be in the reading process, but only in comprehension.  She actually scored really high in word recognition-far above grade level.  She maxed out on high frequency words and phonics, and was pretty close to grade level in spelling and oral vocabulary.  This last especially surprised me, as she is frequently asking me what words that we commonly use mean.  Words like "generous".  Her reading comprehension was at early second grade level.

So, I have never done anything in particular to teach reading comprehension, outside of scads of read-alouds, and audiobooks, and discussing stories we read, and WTM-style narrations.  Would you suggest something to really focus more on comprehension?  My 8-year-old foster daughter also needs work on comprehension.  I haven't had her take an assessment, but she can read a paragraph with lovely fluency and have absolutely zero idea what it said when she reaches the end.

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I've taught several foster and adopted remedial readers, including a few 10+ kids that could not sound out "cat".  And you are correct that most of the time it's simply lack of exposure.  

I have several tips.

First, if they are unwilling to read- get them whatever they WILL be willing to read. I mean, use the highest quality they will accept, but if they are digging in their heels think comic books, graphic novels, junky serials, ect.  Give yourself grace to what you need to do.  Homeschoolers often have high literary standards (guilty), this isn't the place for them.

Second, audio books. ALL the audio books.  In the car, before bed, during chores. You want to soak them in language.  

Third, to combine the top two tips, immersion reading is a remedial God-send. Often older kids aren't interested in the books they are capable of reading...but arent capable of reading the books that interest them. Enter immersion reading.  They can read along with any audio book they choose, and if you get a nifty Kindle it will even highlight the words as it goes. 

As far as phonics instruction a very willing child can benefit from an Orton Gillingham program.  But I wouldn't want to overload a child already getting special instruction at school.  And speaking of school, start the IEP fight as soon as you can.  Some of my kids I barely finished getting it in place before they went home (but once they have it, it lasts 3 years in my state). 

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4 hours ago, Michelle Conde said:

I had her take the DORA today, and was quite surprised at the results.  The trouble doesn't seem to be in the reading process, but only in comprehension.  She actually scored really high in word recognition-far above grade level.  She maxed out on high frequency words and phonics, and was pretty close to grade level in spelling and oral vocabulary.  This last especially surprised me, as she is frequently asking me what words that we commonly use mean.  Words like "generous".  Her reading comprehension was at early second grade level.

So, I have never done anything in particular to teach reading comprehension, outside of scads of read-alouds, and audiobooks, and discussing stories we read, and WTM-style narrations.  Would you suggest something to really focus more on comprehension?  My 8-year-old foster daughter also needs work on comprehension.  I haven't had her take an assessment, but she can read a paragraph with lovely fluency and have absolutely zero idea what it said when she reaches the end.

Wow, what interesting results! Have you done narration with them? I would start there and see how it goes. If nothing else, seeing how they narrate might help you figure out where the reading comprehension is breaking down. I mean, is it a lack of vocabulary, is it trouble with certain kinds of sentence structure, is it that there are lots of new concepts in the reading, etc etc etc.

I feel like my kids understand readings better when they already know the subject matter a little bit. Like, the first time we read a book about Vikings they might be a little thrown, because everything is so new, but the second book we read about Vikings is a lot easier.

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Coco give you some very good advice there. On the read what they're into, if you need inspiration, you could try Book Whisperer.

7 hours ago, Little Green Leaves said:

narration

Yes, narrative language affects comprehension. Here are the charts on narrative development if you want to see where she is. Affects both narrative and expository writing, meaning it can go in the IEP if it's an issue. https://mindwingconcepts.com/pages/methodology

Consider this series for some targeted work on her reading comprehension.

https://www.teachercreatedmaterials.com/shell-education/series/close-reading-with-paired-texts-211/  

I just watched a webinar on it and am getting it to use with my ds. It teaches the "Fab Four" as a process to improve reading comprehension.  Maybe start with https://www.rainbowresource.com/product/060093/Close-Reading-With-Paired-Texts-Level-4.html? 

Here's a video where she demonstrates the fab four and reciprocal (discussion based, I share, you share) teaching. I'm usually one to poo poo strategies and want things to just evolve naturally. However I think a little effort turning it on, cluing people on the things other good readers do naturally (skimming to see what the reading will be about, asking questions, bringing attention to what they didn't know, etc.) can be good. Not enough to kill reading but just as an exposure, getting the juices going on how to turn it on. 

  

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8 hours ago, Little Green Leaves said:

I feel like my kids understand readings better when they already know the subject matter a little bit. Like, the first time we read a book about Vikings they might be a little thrown, because everything is so new, but the second book we read about Vikings is a lot easier.

Absolutely!!! In fact, they'll say 80% of reading comprehension is PRIOR KNOWLEDGE. This video is making the rounds right now, and it addresses things that we do naturally as homeschoolers. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiP-ijdxqEc

 

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11 hours ago, Rosie_0801 said:

Maybe some root word study? They may not realise parts of words can have consistent meanings.

Rasinski has fabulous materials on word roots and building vocabulary that I'm getting ready to order. Good stuff. And what's interesting is he tries to get his stuff contextualized, going WHOLE TO PARTS and not exclusively parts to whole. So we're so concerned about spelling and parts to whole instruction, but he's saying to build comprehension we have to get them working whole to parts as well. So Close Reading strategies, word roots, etc. can be whole to parts.

If you really want to fall down a rabbit hole http://www.timrasinski.com/presentations/vocabulary_presentation.pdf  he has data showing (page 2) that COMIC BOOKS will exposure you to 3X as many uncommon/rare words as listening to adult college educated conversations and almost 2X listening to adult expert witness testimony. Way more than children's picture books also. Totally blew my mind.

That pdf has tons of great stuff on reading comprehension. Basically hits lots of areas in jist and lets you say ok, what do I need to hit with my student?

Notice and Note is another good one. You front end the instruction, running through the strategies, and then just hold them through the year, applying them as you go. https://accidentalenglishteacher.com/2015/12/29/short-stories-picture-books-and-video-clips-for-notice-and-note/?fbclid=IwAR1TBcGsFgBG65z7vtAWnfm5n19uJF1FMJMh1dfuBG5klI2lMkZ0mTLmVcI  The main books for Note & Notice will be at your library (fiction and nonfiction), but here's a blog post to get op started. Anything that promotes engagement, attention, asking questions, pausing to think whether they understood or got anything out of it, actively reading to look for something is GOOD. And since you can implement Note/Notice for free, hehe, that makes it even more good.

I would probably do the Close Reading/Fab Four first, just because it has big gains and comes in at a more foundational level for reading comprehension. Then maybe after Christmas polish with Notice/Note. Word roots the whole year, either with something like https://www.teachercreatedmaterials.com/estore/files/samples/51103s.pdf  or their content vocabulary root based workbooks. I'm going with the student workbooks for their Building Vocabulary series, just because I think that slow drip drip will fit ds.  https://www.teachercreatedmaterials.com/p/building-vocabulary-2nd-edition-level-4-student-guided-practice-book/100899/

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13 hours ago, Michelle Conde said:

My 8-year-old foster daughter also needs work on comprehension.

So maybe do the Fab Four with them both! Just a light tough, not anything too much. They have a *large sample* on google https://books.google.com/books/about/Close_Reading_with_Paired_Texts.html?id=O2yWCgAAQBAJ  If you scroll through it, you'll see she even uses props and creates little characters for her fab four steps. So perfect for 8 and 10 year olds. 

It's not a do this every day for a year workbook. It's a series of 12 lessons to get them experience in the concepts so they can just do them.  Then they just carry it over to their other reading. In the webinar she showed kids using a file folder with post its, collaborating on their answers for each of the fab four, as they read chapter books. Narrative is step 4! It just pulls things together into one tidy system of what it means to engage actively with a text.

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20 hours ago, Coco_Clark said:

I've taught several foster and adopted remedial readers, including a few 10+ kids that could not sound out "cat".  And you are correct that most of the time it's simply lack of exposure.  

I have several tips.

First, if they are unwilling to read- get them whatever they WILL be willing to read. I mean, use the highest quality they will accept, but if they are digging in their heels think comic books, graphic novels, junky serials, ect.  Give yourself grace to what you need to do.  Homeschoolers often have high literary standards (guilty), this isn't the place for them.

Second, audio books. ALL the audio books.  In the car, before bed, during chores. You want to soak them in language.  

Third, to combine the top two tips, immersion reading is a remedial God-send. Often older kids aren't interested in the books they are capable of reading...but arent capable of reading the books that interest them. Enter immersion reading.  They can read along with any audio book they choose, and if you get a nifty Kindle it will even highlight the words as it goes. 

As far as phonics instruction a very willing child can benefit from an Orton Gillingham program.  But I wouldn't want to overload a child already getting special instruction at school.  And speaking of school, start the IEP fight as soon as you can.  Some of my kids I barely finished getting it in place before they went home (but once they have it, it lasts 3 years in my state). 

 

Neither of them has been getting any special instruction in school.  I’ve only just had the ten-year-old come to me, but when I was home crisis schooling the eight-year-old at the end of the year and talked to her teacher about her struggles, her teacher had no idea that she didn’t comprehend anything she read and that she didn’t have any understanding of place value at all.  They have been attending a pretty rotten public school with low standards, and no one who cared about their education so long as they didn’t flunk entire grades.

17 hours ago, Little Green Leaves said:

Wow, what interesting results! Have you done narration with them? I would start there and see how it goes. If nothing else, seeing how they narrate might help you figure out where the reading comprehension is breaking down. I mean, is it a lack of vocabulary, is it trouble with certain kinds of sentence structure, is it that there are lots of new concepts in the reading, etc etc etc.

I feel like my kids understand readings better when they already know the subject matter a little bit. Like, the first time we read a book about Vikings they might be a little thrown, because everything is so new, but the second book we read about Vikings is a lot easier.

 

I haven’t done narration with them yet.  I have done reading exercises from school with dd8, and we would read the short, simple story aloud, then read the first question.  She wouldn’t know.  She also wouldn’t know from rereading for the answer after reading the question, even one sentence at a time.  Eventually what worked is that we would look at each question and I would ask her to identify what it was generally asking about (where something happened, or who they met, etc.).  Then we would go through one sentence at a time and ask if that sentence talked about a where, or a who, or whatever the question was about.  If it did, she would read the question again and then reread the sentence, often a few times, to figure out if this sentence answered this question.  It wasn’t a problem of understanding individual words; it was all simple language.  But this was really hard slogging for her.  

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11 minutes ago, Michelle Conde said:

 

Neither of them has been getting any special instruction in school.  I’ve only just had the ten-year-old come to me, but when I was home crisis schooling the eight-year-old at the end of the year and talked to her teacher about her struggles, her teacher had no idea that she didn’t comprehend anything she read and that she didn’t have any understanding of place value at all.  They have been attending a pretty rotten public school with low standards, and no one who cared about their education so long as they didn’t flunk entire grades.

 

I haven’t done narration with them yet.  I have done reading exercises from school with dd8, and we would read the short, simple story aloud, then read the first question.  She wouldn’t know.  She also wouldn’t know from rereading for the answer after reading the question, even one sentence at a time.  Eventually what worked is that we would look at each question and I would ask her to identify what it was generally asking about (where something happened, or who they met, etc.).  Then we would go through one sentence at a time and ask if that sentence talked about a where, or a who, or whatever the question was about.  If it did, she would read the question again and then reread the sentence, often a few times, to figure out if this sentence answered this question.  It wasn’t a problem of understanding individual words; it was all simple language.  But this was really hard slogging for her.  

Poor kid, that sounds tough and it sounds like you were really thorough and patient helping her with the reading exercises : ) How sad that the school didn't realize she had a problem.

Do you think she understands simple stories when they're not for school? Is it possible that some of this is anxiety about being asked questions?

I'm sure others will have better advice.

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1 hour ago, Little Green Leaves said:

Do you think she understands simple stories when they're not for school? Is it possible that some of this is anxiety about being asked questions?

 

With my kid, there just aren't the synapses for paying attention. Maybe it's the same for these kids. Their brains are not trained to pay attention because there's been so little worth paying attention to and so much *not* to pay attention to. 😞

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2 hours ago, Michelle Conde said:

It wasn’t a problem of understanding individual words; it was all simple language.  But this was really hard slogging for her.

Listening comprehension and reading comprehension go hand in hand, so the work you're doing with read alouds, etc. will help. Sorry they have such a long haul and were slipping through the cracks. And who knows, maybe something would be identified if they convened the IEP team. But if they're homeschooling permanently, maybe now just do your stuff and see what happens.

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2 hours ago, Michelle Conde said:

Neither of them has been getting any special instruction in school.  I’ve only just had the ten-year-old come to me, but when I was home crisis schooling the eight-year-old at the end of the year and talked to her teacher about her struggles, her teacher had no idea that she didn’t comprehend anything she read and that she didn’t have any understanding of place value at all.  They have been attending a pretty rotten public school with low standards, and no one who cared about their education so long as they didn’t flunk entire grades.

 

The school is never aware, good district or bad district 🙄.  In fact, in my experience the "better" the school, the easier to fall through the cracks. 

I've seen middle schoolers that can't read and no one ever noticed. Or a 4th grader that was getting GOOD grades in math but couldn't add or subtract numbers over 10 because she didn't have enough fingers.  That's the hilarious (sad?) part- a lot of the time these kids grades are just fine.  Especially the ones that can work the system.  My adopted 11 yr old has atrocious vocabulary/ comprehension/ reading skills but tests far above average.  He know how to work the fill in the dot system.  

I know in a covid year this is meaningless but get them the IEP and the specialized help.  Its appealing to just do it yourself, and true that you can do a better job.  But it will follow them for years, no matter what their case ends up doing.  

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Thank you all.  I have struggled to get a moment to get back to the computer and respond, but I appreciate the suggestions and will refer back to them as I make a plan to work on this with them.

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I found the book 7 Keys to Comprehension  , by Chryse  Hutchins and Susan Zimmerman useful with my DD.

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Junior Great Books is a good program to teach comprehension and to get kids talking about stories.  You could use it with both of them together, as it is discussion as well as text-based.  

Two things I did with DD for comprehension as part of reading aloud (lots) early on were:

—I’d read a chapter book over a period of time, and at the start of each session I would verbally summarize the story so far, and remind DD of the last thing that happened when we stopped reading last time.  This set the stage for the new reading but it also taught focussing on the text and summarization.  After a while I started to say, “Can you remember the last thing that happened?” And casually get her to take over the summaries sometimes.  This didn’t have a testing ‘feel’ because it was so casual and because it had been modeled for so long.  That kind of scaffolding is really helpful in natural learning.

—When I got to a word that I wasn’t sure she knew, I’d read the sentence it was in, define the word quickly and verbally, and read the sentence again, and just keep on going.  That way she heard the word, heard the definition, and heard it used twice.  That was immensely more helpful than a standard vocabulary program.  

Something else you might try, since listening skills might be an issue—when you’re in the car, make up progressive stories with them. Everybody says two sentences, and the stories can be silly or fun but they have to follow the stuff that has been said so far.  That is an engaging way to get them paying attention.

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