I just love discovering how smart kids are that school has made to feel less than adequate. It fuels my work and sets my determination to bring to light the truth. I just resumed sessions after a long bout of the flu. I sadly missed an IEP meeting and received the results after the fact. The result of testing was special education for 90 minutes a day to target math ( word problems are the challenge), reading and spelling. My reaction was utter disappointment. I knew that my client, we will call her 'dino' because 'dinosaur' was the first word she wanted to study, would not learn from phonics and syllable types that is traditionally taught in schools. I also knew that to expose her to this much of that type of instruction would confuse her due to the work we were doing together.
Turns out she isn't the only one identified in her class for the pull out group, she was one of 8. hummmm....Perhaps the problem is not the students, it's the teaching.
Dino came in with her spelling words for the week. She only has to do the first five on the list rather than all 10. Of course the only thing the words had in common was the phoneme /aɪ/. Her list of words to memorize included 'light', 'sight', 'mind', 'try', and 'tie'. Good gravy, what is the point? Memorize today (if you are lucky), forget tomorrow.
We went to work studying the first word, 'light'. We reminisced about one of the first words we studied together 'knight'. I asked he if she remembered the trigraph that represented the phoneme /aɪ/. She did. So she wrote the word, and told me what it meant. We then thought of new words we could make with the free base by adding prefixes and suffixes. I wrote a square for her and she filled in the matrix with the possibilities she came up with, 'lights', 'lighting', and 'lighter'. We talked about how the past tense of the verb was 'lit'. We talked about how the verb was different from the noun. No problem.
We moved through her spelling list and when we got to 'cry' the magic happened. She knocked my socks off. After we made our matrix for <cry> and included the suffixes, <-ed>, <-s>, and <-ing> we began writing word sums. <cry + ed--- > cried> I reminded her of the special relationship between <i> and <y> and that they sometimes change places. She wrote the sum and applied the suffixing convention without difficulty. Then we got to < cry + ing> . "hummm," she said. " I see a problem." I said, " Oh?, what is that?" ( she is seven by the way). She said, " if I write <-ing> after <cri-> then there will be two <i>s next to each other. "Good noticing!," I said. "How smart you are!". She made a silly face and wiggled in her chair. She then wrote <ng> after <cri> and looked up at me like, " Ok, now what?". My heart just leaped with joy. She remembered and applied knowledge, she made hypothesis and proved them right. These are the moments I live for.
So she not only learned the five words on her spelling test, she learned three relatives of each of those words for a total of 15 words. She didn't rehearse them until she could recite them. She studied them and applied suffixing conventions. She thought of all of the possible meanings of those words and used them in sentences. She engaged in discussion and made thoughtful hypothesis. This is what scholarship looks like.
Dino does not need to miss 90 minutes of class everyday to be phlogged with phonics. She needs to be in class where she will learn the content of second grade. Today I call the school to see what we can work out. Fingers crossed!