tinker with text
Literacy-Based Maker Education
I was feeling disheartened this week. It’s been a slow start-up to my program for several reasons and so this week, I finally completed my required student pre-testing. Seventeen Level B reading assessments and seventeen fluency tests (ugh). Thank goodness the LAT offered to do all of the Level A screens and we did the necessary paperwork together.
The scores were low. I’ve seen some of these kids for two years and some scores never change. No one ever gets past #25 on a certain subtest. After the testing, you input those numbers into the computer to produce reports with standard scores and percentiles. Print the reports, attach them to the protocols, analyze, plan accordingly, file. These numbers used to interest me and I actually enjoyed making charts for comparison … but no more.
Now, let me say something about the fluency test. They get 3 shots at reading 3 different passages in one minute. The passages are at grade level but I already know from the previous test that they are nowhere near grade level. They’re supposed to keep going, even if they skip words. So, there is no context clues or meaning because the key words are too difficult for them. It sounds something like this: “The ____ lived on the _______ _______. They _________ meat for the _______.” That’s not reading, people! Thanks, this test just confirmed again that this child is not reading at grade level.
When I met a new student and I explained that I needed to do some testing with him, he said, “Is it reading?” And he said it like there was something disgusting in his mouth. It killed my spirit. What are we doing?! What have we done?!
It reminds me of the quote by Mem Fox, “When I say to a parent, "read to a child", I don't want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate.” The same goes for how a child responds to reading.
Then I started telling him about the drive from his school to my school. I said, “You’ll drive past farms with horses and goats and llamas. Oh, and there’s lots of orchards with bright red apples that you just want to pick! The airport is right there too and sometimes it looks like the planes are taking off out of the trees.”
“What are we going to do at my school? Well, we’re going to make stuff with Meccano or K’nex to give us ideas about writing. Then we’re going to read our own writing and share it with other people. We’re going to use the computers with a headset so that you can dictate your writing, if you want, and then print it or post it online. We’re going to read instructions on how to make a stop motion animation movie using Lego and my phone. We’re going to check out some YouTube videos about building a cardboard town and then read Iggy Peck, Architect.”
The eyes … I wish you could have seen his eyes. They got bigger and brighter. He was spellbound, as if I was telling a story of a magical land. He’s hooked and I bet he told his parents the same story at bedtime that night, at least I hope he did.
You ask how I plan to work makerspace into a reading intervention program and still have time for the reading and the intervention? Well, I’m not sure about all the in’s and out’s of it yet; but I’m reading, writing, reflecting, noticing, learning, and connecting with those wiser than me that are walking down this road too. And I know it will work out over time and be something special. How? Those wide eyes told me something. That’s my data!
Vicki Den Ouden is an Elementary Reading Intervention Teacher from BC, Canada. She loves to dream, learn, teach, and create.