Feeling like a reader

I wanted to show you this example of Indi, reading. I think it is a good example of what we are working toward achieving with many of our students.

Today, Indi felt like a reader.

She was able to read her book to us, from start to finish, with no ‘tricky moments’. Yes, of course it was largely memorised. Yes, of course she used the pictures as cues for some of the words. But the main things I want parents to understand is that because she had already done the hard work in decoding the words and in learning her sight words, she was then able to enjoy READING it to Mum and Dad with no, ‘tricky moments.’

Indi was able to feel like a reader. Indi was able to enjoy the story. Indi was able to enjoy SHARING the story. And for any student (regardless of age), isn’t that what what want them to experience?

So what has been done to get here?

  • She has been learning her sight words via flash cards at least every second night (many children need to do this each night, but Indi has a good memory so doesn’t require as much repetition at this stage). The sight words in this book were: the, my, is, said,
  • She went on a ‘picture walk‘ through the book before reading. This is where she looked at the pictures and identified what she could see about them (in this case naming the animals).
  • She had talked about, looked at and decoded the ‘story words‘ before reading. In this book they are: nose, long, longer
  • Now read it it her Learning Coach.

These activities meant that when she brought her book home, although by this stage the story was memorised, she had actually done the hard work already and it was time for her to enjoy it. Notice however, that she is actually reading and not just ‘reciting’. She is reading the words at the same time that they are being pointed to (our next step is to have HER pointing to the words as she reads). At the previous stage, she would recite rather than matching each spoken word with its written form – that’s ok, she still felt like a reader, which is the purpose of our efforts!

This process is one of the BEST ways to build confidence as a reader.

So when we send books home with your child and you can see that it seems like it has been learnt off-by-heart….it probably has! It probably has, because they have already worked hard with us using all the strategies mentioned here as well as a few others, to decode the words. Reading it to you at home is their opportunity to feel like a reader and to enjoy sharing this moment with you!

Be careful, it’s catching!

When Indi arrived home from school yesterday she wanted to, ‘do some learning like the big kids’. So while they logged on to access their work, she logged in to her Reading Eggs and spent the next hour quietly working too.

I love how, given the right environment, a desire to learn becomes contagious. I love how we are able to build the self esteem of learners who were previously embarrassed about their work and ability so they are able to feel truly successful, and I love how our students are proud of each other, of themselves and become role models for others.

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The road (or roller-coaster) to success

Michael Jordan I can accept failure

Diaz started working with us at Back to Basics Tuition in October 2014. As if being 15 isn’t hard enough already, Diaz was starting to suffer at school. His grades had dropped, he wasn’t speaking up in class, and overall, he was really struggling with his Math. Grade 9 is a year of consolidating previous Math learning, and often, applying it in new ways. It’s an important year; it is really the final stage before hitting the serious senior years. And for Diaz, it was looking like his choices were going to be limited. Diaz is a talented basketball player and improving his grades was vital as he was looking ahead to a possible basketball scholarship to the States!

When I first assessed Diaz, it became clear that he really did not have a solid foundation in Math. He had massive gaps in understanding and it was no surprise that Grade 9 was difficult. It was going to be a challenging road ahead for him, but a challenge he was up to. We worked with Diaz on a foundation Math course where we literally went back to basics. Starting at a Grade 4 level in certain Math strands, we built up through the grades the strands and knowledge he needed to succeed. We worked over the next 14 months, covering 4 ½ years worth of structured Math. From here we focused on working with him on understanding his classroom level Math, and learning to apply that understanding.

Michael Jordan some people want it to happen

Diaz has learnt that learning is really a rollercoaster, both intellectually and emotionally.  There has been the occasional session where we have not  focused on completing Math work, but have needed to focus on helping him understand himself and to remind himself of why  he is putting in all this extra effort, and additionally why he is worthy of us putting in this extra effort. Finding the internal desire to keep this going when his friends are doing ‘fun’ things is something that has been a joint effort between Diaz, his parents and us. But Diaz has always been worth the effort. There is something very special about him and even when the road got tough, there was no way we were going to give up, give in, or turn away.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. When I get feedback like this, I find my eyes getting a little… ‘leaky’.

Diaz exam

“I can’t thank you enough. So overly privileged to have been able to come to you and like Diaz said to me – Mum, I’ll never forget what Kate, Dave and Mitch have done for me and continue to do for me. I tell him all the time to be humble and never forget the people whom have helped him along the way, and he never will!”

Diaz is pretty much a part of our family now. And man, are we proud of him! Is it over? No way! We will continue to push him, challenge him, and show how proud we are of him. And while we see him maturing into a wonderful young man, and when he is on that world stage, we’ll be able to say, “We knew him when he was a just boy, stumbling in the classroom. Look at him now!”

These words from Ben Simmons are echoed by ‘our’ Diaz:

Ben Simmons