When Older Children Struggle With Reading

When Older Children Struggle With Reading

During my time as a classroom teacher, I taught a variety of different grade levels in a seven-year span. While this had its challenges, it also allowed me to experience first hand the ways that literacy instruction differed in primary and upper grades.

My initial teaching experinces were in the primary classroom. I have a strong background in early literacy development and I taught first and second grade for four years.

 

In the primary classroom, identifying reading difficulties is fairly straightforward. Maybe not why a child struggles or specific disabilities like dyslexia, but at least identifying that a child is struggling is simple for a classroom teacher. In kindergarten through about mid-third grade, students read aloud, all the time. Almost every literary activity is oral. They read to partners, read to stuffed animals, read to a teacher, segment sounds out loud. When students are learning to read, it is a noisy process.

 

When a student struggles, you can hear it. You hear that they mix up their b’s and d’s, or that they make the short i sound in the word hen. You ask them questions about what they are reading, and they answer out loud. You follow up to determine what specific comprehension skills they struggle with.

 

At home, students read out loud to their parents. If your child struggles with their reading, you know. You can identify if they are missing words or don’t understand the text. In short, the process of learning to read is a loud one. A beautiful, exciting, and noisy undertaking.

 

After my four years in the primary classroom, I moved up to 5th grade and then eventually to 7th and 8th grade reading. As I moved out of the primary classroom, I noticed a distinctive shift, reading became a silent, internal process. Students were very rarely asked to read out loud, and as a result, identifying reading difficulties became much more difficult.

 

Think about it, if you have a child in 4th grade or higher, when is the last time you had them read out loud to you? As students internalize the reading process, it becomes silent. While this is a natural progression, it can do a major disservice to older readers who struggle.

 

As I have moved on in my career to become an online reading clinician, I have noticed that many parents of older children don’t know why they struggle with reading or what their specific struggles are. Usually, I hear that they struggle with comprehension. However, when I have the student read a text out loud to me, I find that in reality, their reading level is low. They can comprehend texts at their instructional level, but their instructional level is below grade level.

 

When asked to read grade level text silently in class, they cannot answer comprehension questions correctly. In many cases, this may not be due to a comprehension issue necessarily but is due to the fact that they cannot accurately and fluently read the text. Without asking the student to read aloud, this can often go undetected for months or even years.

 

In order to serve the student and increase their reading skills, the correct diagnosis of the issue is essential. This is why the reading clinicians at RW&C give each student a variety of assessments to determine the underlying reading issue. Our online tutoring program is then adjusted to fit the needs of each student in order to ensure reading success.

 

Older students are given phonics assessments to determine if the issue is related to letter sounds. They are also given fluency and comprehension assessments as well as writing and phonemic awareness activities. Simply because a child is older does not mean that they have mastered all the basic skills necessary to become fluent and competent readers.

 

I have often heard that when it comes to reading, it is not the age, it’s the stage. This could not be more true. It does not matter how old a child is or even what their grade level in school is. If they have not mastered the basics of reading, they need direct instruction.

 

Coming from a classroom background, I know that often upper-grade teachers are not trained in early literacy and often do not have the resources that students need to master early reading skills. If your older child struggles with reading, they may not get the help they need in school.

 

With our one-on-one online tutoring program, we can help your child whatever their reading issue. Our clinicians are trained in all aspects of literacy instruction and can tailor their sessions to meet the needs of your child. Don’t wait and hope that they will catch up, get them the help they need today.

 

Contact us to get started and learn more about our online tutoring program.

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.
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Helping Your Child With Reading: Phonemic Awareness

Helping Your Child With Reading: Phonemic Awareness

 

learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayPhonemic awareness is the foundation of reading success; however, many parents have no idea what it even is. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words without the association with specific letters. One way to think about phonemic awareness activities is that you should be able to do them in the dark. There is no need to read or use letters, just sounds.

 

Your child should begin to understand basic phonemic awareness concepts like rhyming and initial sounds around the age of three. As they advance in the understanding, most kids should master more complex skills like segmentation and substitution around the age of five or six.

 

Even older children will still need phonemic awareness skills like phoneme and syllable segmentation to read and spell more complex words. If your child struggles with phonemic awareness, it is very likely that they will have reading difficulties.

 

mosaic-booksHere are a few activities you can do to help your child develop phonemic awareness:

 

  • Rhyming games: ask your child to produce words that rhyme with ______. This is a great activity because you can do it anywhere. I often play this with my four-year-old while we drive to school. You can also increase the difficulty by making it a game for points where you take turns and whoever cannot come up with a rhyme loses.

 

  • Beginning, middle, and ending sounds: Knowing the first sound in a word is important to develop reading skills later. You can say a word and ask your child to repeat the first sound (important note, this is about sounds, NOT letters. If you say bird your child should say the /b/ sound, not the letter name b). You can repeat this activity with middle and ending sounds. If you are feeling ambitious you can also do initial sound sorts. You can purchase them online or you can create your own. Basically you find objects or pictures that have the same beginning sound. Your child would take two to four beginning sounds, mix them up, and sort them. You can also do this with middle and ending sounds for an extra challenge.

 

  • Segmenting and blending sounds: According to many experts, these are the most important phonemic awareness skills when it comes to reading development. Children must be able to stretch out sounds in words and put them back together. An easy way to do this is to say a word like cat and have your child tell you the sounds (important note, your child should say /k/ /a/ /t/ the sounds, not spell the word cat). You can also say the sounds in a word and ask your child to put it back together. Another way to practice is to use rubber bands. Have your child hold a rubber band on their thumbs and literally stretch the sounds in a word. Then they can put it back together by blending it into a word. You can also use blocks or other objects you have around the house. Line up the objects and say a word. Have your child pull down an object as they say each sound. The number of objects should match the number of sounds.

 

748fa-alphabet-1219546__340252c2bcc0_pixabayPracticing these phonemic awareness skills with your child will strengthen their understanding of the foundational elements of reading. If you have an older child who struggles with reading, you might try some of these activities to see if they are able to do them.

 

If you child struggles with these activities or other phonemic awareness skills, it is imperative that you get them help from a reading professional. Without phonemic awareness skills, your child will always struggle with reading.

 

Our online tutoring program offers phonemic awareness support with each and every session. Our trained clinicians understand this foundation concept and can use it to help with reading and spelling at every level. If you want to learn more or need to know more about phonemic awareness, contact our office today.

 

 

 

Becky Welsch

RW&C, LLC

www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.

Teaching 8th Grade is (not) Terrifying

Death stare from a 13 year old, anyone?

Death stare from a 13 year old, anyone?

A little background about me: I am a teacher. I have been teaching for seven years. During this time I have taught 1st grade, 2nd grade, 5th grade, and 7th/8th grade. When people ask what I do, I get a variety of responses depending on what grade I am teaching that year. With first and second I usually heard about how “cute” the kids are or how “fun” it must be. With fifth, people didn’t have much to say, with middle school, the result was almost resoundingly “bless your heart” or “I could never do that” or something with a similar sentiment. The general public is terrified of groups of 12-13 year olds. But I am here to tell you, middle school kids are just like 1st graders, for better or for worse.

I would run from this too

I would run from this too

Games. Middle school students and 1st grade students play the same games. Like really, they do. When I taught first grade I had a student come in from recess with a giant mouth shaped bruise. I was horrified. I frantically ran through what the phone call to parents would sound like in my mind. I asked the student where the bruise came from. They were playing zombie tag. Apparently someone took it a little too seriously. Teaching 8th grade, I had a student come in from lunch with a skinned knee. I assumed he got it playing basketball or soccer. Nope. Zombie tag. At 13.

"teacher, I hurt myself"

“teacher, I hurt myself”

Boo-boos. A large part of being a first grade teacher is doing injury and illness triage. When a 7 year old told me he didn’t feel well, my general response was to “get a drink.” Usually in about 10 minutes, he forgot he felt bad. And guess what? This trick works in middle school as well. I also spent a lot of time putting on band aids in first grade. Usually the wound that required bandaging was so minute that one would need a magnifying class to see it. Last week I was giving the AIMS test in an 8th grade room. An 8th grade student raised his hand because he was bleeding (the wound was minute). I got him a band aid. Five minutes later he called me back over with a sheepish look on his face. He asked me to put it on. I put a band aid on a 13 year old.

 

"OMG, I don't care what you think, but really I do."

“OMG, I don’t care what you think, but really I do.”

Approval. Every child I have worked with really just wants you to like them. First graders try to accomplish this by giving you wonderful masterpieces and works of art. I have home-made ornaments on my Christmas tree and a box of special treasure that six year olds have gifted to me over the years. Usually with a touching sentiment about being the “bestest teacher ever” (I try not to let this go to my head by reminding myself that I am literally one of two at this point). In 7th and 8th grade, they also just want you to like them. I never received any works of art from my middle school students, but they expressed their need for approval in other ways. For example, I had a group of 8th grade boys who would stay after school every day to talk to me about “The Walking Dead” (wonder where they go the idea for zombie tag…). I practically had to chase them away. Every Monday they would come in and ask me about the show and try to spoil the episode for me because I always DVR’d it to watch later. They wanted me to like them and that show was our connection. And ultimately, that is all any kid of any age wants. To be liked and valued.

 

 

Grapes

I hate grapes. With a deep, burning passion. Hate, hate, hate, hate the stupid things. Why, you may ask, why does someone hate such an innocuous fruit? Middle school. I hate grapes because of middle school.

I have lunch duty in the cafeteria during 7th and 8th grade lunch. My administration decided that there needed to be a certified teacher on duty with middle school instead of just aids and cafeteria workers. Somehow I drew the short straw and am the lucky lady who gets to spend 40 minutes of my day with hormonally fueled pre-teen students. Awesome.

Most days it’s not so bad, except when they serve grapes. Grapes are too throwable. They are too crushable. It is way too much fun to try to launch them into your friend’s mouth or squish them under your feet. The crunching sound of a grape as you slowly squeeze it between your fingers is entirely too satisfying. I get it kids. Grapes are fun.

But it is not fun when you have to be the grape police. I have to “gently” (read: scream at the top of my lungs in an already noisy, echoey cafeteria) remind kids not to throw grapes across the table. And I have to not so gently remind them not the chuck them at the back of my head (read: scream at the top of my lungs and threaten to send them to the principal). Throw in the cafeteria “boss” (aka a cafeteria aid on a power trip) who is constantly demanding that kids sweep the floor, and this 40 minutes becomes pure hell.

So my plea to school districts everywhere, stop with the grapes. Just stop. Find a fruit that is not quite so fun. Like orange slices. No one has a good time with orange slices.