Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Decoding Delicious

My reading clinic friend reminded me of something recently. We were reading a book and he read through it really well, reading or figuring out almost all the words with little help from me.

Then we played a game with words from the book. He looked and looked at the word delicious but couldn't get it. I gave a few hints about the word but he still didn't get it. I picked up the book again.

"I can read it," he said.

"I know," I said. "I just going to find it in the book so you can see in there if you want."

I turned to the page, the page he had read a few minutes before with little, if any, pause. I held it close. He looked toward me.

I asked, "Would you like to see the word in the book?" He nodded.

I lay the book before him. He stared at it. We read the sentence together, skipping over the word. He read it again and said the word delicious.

We talked about the fact that he struggled with the word in isolation but could read it (figure it out) when he read the sentence. "You are using context," I said. "Looking at the words close to a tricky word helps you figure it out."

I pondered this later, thinking about how interesting it was that the word was so difficult when it was alone but easier to discover when looking at in with other relevant words. Context aids understanding.

The same is true about the kids we teach. We may see behavior in isolation. We see something and cannot decode the meaning. Why does he do that? What will help her do something different?

We must see the child in context. Is the behavior related to a trigger, another event or particular group of event? What about his family life or her sleep patterns? Sometimes when we see the child in a larger environment, we can understand what is really happen. Context aids understanding.

A little while back, I blogged about my friend and his library books. This week, he brought his new library books with him to the reading clinic. We don't need these books. I have other books that are planned for the tutoring time. When he wanted to bring his books with him, I could have forced him to leave them in his classroom. We have limited time and a plan for that time. Those books are not a part of that plan.

But because I have some larger context (he can't take the books home), I know why he wants to bring those books. He wants to share these books that he chose from the library. Maybe he just wants to talk to someone about something.

So, if we have a little less time for word work or must write a shorter sentence about his reading, we will. I'll plan time for us to look at his books, for him to share them with me. We'll read a sentence or two from one of the books at some point. I'll listen to him talk about them. Because I know why.

Context aids understanding.

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