California Standards for the Teaching Profession: Standard One
1.1 Connecting students’ prior knowledge, life experience, and interests with learning goals
1.2 Using a variety of instructional strategies and resources to respond to students’ diverse needs
1.3 Facilitating learning experiences that promote autonomy, interaction, and choice
1.4 Engaging students in problem solving, critical thinking, and other activities that make subject matter meaningful
1.5 Promoting self-directed, reflective learning for all students
 During the course of my Kidwatching Journal (KWJ) experience with an emergent reader, I have learned a great deal of things. Not only have I advanced in my basic knowledge of how people learn to read, but I have also learned firsthand how to assess what a reader is having difficulty with, and what kinds of strategies I can show them to further their understanding of texts. In the course of our meetings, my young reader, Savannah, has gone through several stages of thought. As a result, I was able to put my newfound knowledge to use by showing her several strategies modeled in class and in the course reading materials.


During out first meeting, Savannah displayed some interesting, yet fairly characteristic qualities of an emergent reader. She was familiar with the parts of a book, such as the cover, where the title is, where print begins, and so on. She was not, however, capable of distinguishing between capital and lower case letters, or between periods and commas. Savannah shared that her mother occasionally read with her at home, and that her mother was teaching her to read by sounding words out. As we began to read together, Savannah was determined to sound each word out. Conversely, she seemed determined to reject any strategy I might suggest that strayed from her pattern. Because her sight word knowledge was limited to only a few words, the process of sounding every word out did not lend itself well to a focus on meaning. 

As our meetings progressed, Savannah proved to be adept at remembering stories almost word for word after they were read to her, though her focus began to move from phonics to picture cues. She could tell a whole story in a reading-like manner without referring back to the words. In one meeting, I asked Savannah to pick a book for us to read. She chose a picture book that had a few words on the first and last pages. I faded out after reading a portion of the first page with her. She continued the story, explaining each drawing in depth. When she reached the last page, Savannah exclaimed, “We forgot to read the words!” She flipped back to the front page and searched every page for text, and when she found none, reread the last page.


 Until almost half of our meetings were finished, I was worried about Savannah’s abilities as a reader. After some thought, I came to a new conclusion. Savannah already has a great many strengths for being an emergent reader, especially considering that she has rarely been read to outside of school. In the beginning, she was very focused on using phonics to understand print. Though many people who boo-hoo focus on phonemic awareness, it was a strength for Savannah in that she knew it was a tool she could use in order to read independently. This is an important step towards fluency. Until they know that they can acquire strategies to derive meaning from text, emergent readers cannot really begin their process of learning. Savannah was testing the usefulness of phonics by using them. She did the same with the discovery of picture cues. As she learned a new strategy, she focused on it, and tested its viability while reading with me. 


 When I realized that Savannah was in a process of testing strategies, I began to help her develop confidence in her successes. I also tried to combine her current strategies so that they could complement each other rather than being used somewhat unsuccessfully.
 After the meeting when Savannah noticed that she “forgot to read the words,” I began using oral cloze techniques in simple text. It was quite a success. Savannah had trouble at first, but began to see that the words she already knew could help her figure out the words she was not sure about. She began to request that I cover more words in each story with Post-it notes so she would have more opportunities to guess was words could fit in each spot. 
 Once she was familiar with this idea, I introduced a combination of graphophonic and semantic cues. In reading a new text, we looked at the sound of the first letter in a word she was unsure of, then read the sentence with that sound in place of the word. Next, we looked at the picture and talked about what kinds of things we saw. When she tried the sentence again, Savannah said the word without pausing. She looked up at me, amazed that she figured it out on her own.


 I can only hope that Savannah will continue to grow in her confidence and ability to read independently. Her self-stated goal this year was to be able to read chapter books. I trust that her teachers will continue instruction to her her reach that goal. One thing I learned in the process of working with Savannah is that not everything is what it seems on the surface. It takes quite a bit of attention to decipher what each child’s needs are when it comes to reading instruction. This means that, when I have my own class, I need to stay conscious of what is happening as children read. I have seen how this can be facilitated in small group guided reading, as well as in one on one instruction. I hope that I will be able to provide the necessary help when the time comes.

 Back to Standard One
 On to Standard Two