Every weekday I get to sit knee to knee with a variety of second graders as my coworkers and I complete preliminary testing for our literacy research. This might just be the greatest job in the history of jobs.
Many of these children are woefully behind as readers, indeed, they are behind in many areas of English language development. Some are from households in which English is not the primary language. Others are children living in extreme poverty where parents are doing their best just to stay afloat. Still others come to us from families where reading is not a priority. Whatever their circumstances, achieving the ability to read at grade level by third grade is critical.
Each one of these children is a priceless gift. I absolutely fall in love with them. Right now our team is administering pre-tests to students who qualified for the program. Many of our test questions are well beyond these students’ current capabilities, making for some amusing responses.
When shown a set of footprints one child told me, “Oh, I know this one! It’s printfoots!” Close, oh so close.
Another child when asked what word means the same as “peer” replied, “Beer. Like Coors–that’s what my daddy drinks, but it makes my mom mad when he drinks too many.” Hmmm.
I love it when a student knows an answer and then says, “My teacher taught me this.” They are so proud of themselves.
The children seem to love coming to work with us as much as we enjoy working with them. One little girl today smiled at me when I called her name from the classroom door and said shyly, “I was hoping and hoping you would say my name.”
Another told a co-worker, “You make me feel smart.”
Not all of the comments are sweet. A child this afternoon asked, “Why you always asking me questions. Don’t you know this stuff?” Well, I know some of it.
After looking at one set of photos after another and trying to pick out the right one from a verbal prompt, one child sighed and said, “These are the most boringest pitchers I ever seen.” Sorry, kiddo. I’m at the mercy of the test designers.
One of the assessments we administer asks the students to respond orally to the following prompt: “‘Jan threw the ball into the street.’ Now say this sentence in passive voice”
The correct response would be, “The ball was thrown into the street by Jan,” but the second graders have no idea what they’re supposed to do. Most just repeat the sentence back to me, but last week a little girl whispered the sentence. I thought it was a fluke until I later asked her to put a sentence in active voice. She hopped up and down and shouted the sentence. She might not know how to change the voice of the sentence, but she sure knows the difference between active and passive.
Probably the best thing about this stage of the project is getting a ringside seat into the ways these children think about their own thinking. Educators call this “metacognition.” The more confident among them will say things like, “It must be this picture, because the mom looks like she might be mad. In the other pictures she just looks like a regular mom. And if someone ate all my cookies, I’d be mad.”
In November we will began small group interventions with many of these students. That will be fun, as well, but I will miss this one to one interaction, even when it’s with kids who think my questions are lame and my pictures boring.
Peace (and read with your kids), People!