Literacy involves several sub-skills such as phonological awareness, decoding, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. For a student to become a proficient reader s/he must master these sub-skills. However, many elementary school students often experience problems when learning to read. Sometimes learning to read is difficult because reading requires the proper mastery of a code that maps human speech sounds to written symbols. As it may seem, however, mastering this code is not a natural process, like development of language, and thus requires intensive instruction.
Reading can be difficult if students do not get quality instruction in these codes. An individual literacy assessment case study on a fifth grader, Kelly Peter who is having literacy problems will be carried out in order to identify his areas of weakness in learning literacy. This will lead to an intervention program to help him improve his literacy levels. The intervention will involve a combination of three strategies which will be targeting to help Kelly read from the ‘the same page’ with other students.
To assess Kelly’s literacy I will spend a minimum of 20 hours of his school time with him, during this time I will diagnose his weaknesses and duly embark on carrying out a one-on-one coaching to help him improve on learning literacy, I will also keep a log of the proceedings in order to apply them in making a verdict on the efficacy of the intervention and its future applicability in a class setting. NB: Kelly was selected randomly among a list of six students in his class who were experiencing literacy problems.
Kelly is an eleven years old Latino who hails from a relatively poor family; he lives with his elder sister who is in the eighth grade in the same school. Both his parents are menial workers, who most of the times are constantly out of home for work engagements in other cities. Kelly literacy problems seems to be complex, first he is an English Language Learner (ELL) and second his home environment only adds to his problems as there is no one to assist him or encourage him with his school work, he has only his elder sister who is a eighth grader and therefore seems to have more work and hence have no time to assist him.
When at home, Kelly likes ganging up with his neighborhood kids to play soccer along the streets. His previous test score indicates that he was among the last six students in his class of forty five students. Methodology 1. Literacy Assessment: To measure Kelly’s literacy ability I carried out a miscue analysis test assessment which involved reading of two interesting short stories. I gave him a storybook that comprised of ten different interesting short stories, and then I gave him the freedom to choose one story that was interesting to him.
I first read the story aloud emphasizing on correct pronunciation, punctuations, and in a steady continuation, as I read I made sure that he was keenly listening. His tasks were simple; first to read the story aloud while I listened, and then re-read the story gain silently for deeper comprehension, thirdly to narrate the story in his own words shortly afterwards, and lastly to explain the contextual meaning of ten vocabularies that I selected from the story.
For the first task, I gave him five minutes since he was only required to read and the story was not long, the second task took ten minutes because it required more conceptualization of the content of the story, the third took five minutes, and the last task consumed ten minutes. I recorded any mistake he made across all the four tasks. I gave him a five minute break and then repeated the process again with a different story of his choice. My observation on Kelly’s performance on the two stories were that he seemed to have minimum problems in reading fluency, though he experienced some pronunciation problems here and there.
His greatest problems were in comprehension and vocabulary. Though he read the two stories with a relative fluency he was not in a position to narrate it using his own words even after I gave him the permission to reread the story for a third time and two minutes after rereading it. Again, on the part of vocabularies, Kelly, had a lot of difficulties in explaining the contextual meaning of ten selected vocabularies from each story even after I asked leading questions using the stories context.
My deductions to his predicaments were that lacked proper mastery of both comprehension and vocabularies. He could not retell the story in his own words because he did not understand the meaning of most of the words used; therefore his greatest problem was on vocabularies. [Unrau, N. , (2008)] 2. Intervention Program According to the National Reading Panel (2000) report, they found out that vocabulary instruction that is appropriate to the child’s age and ability led to great gains in comprehension, and that vocabulary learning promotes other further learning across the content areas.
Again, based on this report Kelly’s literacy problems was obviously as a result of poor vocabulary levels – his inability to connect contextual meaning with words read in a story. This gave me a reason to choose vocabulary as my area of focus in the intervention program. In the intervention my plan was simple; to choose at least three literacy-based strategies, to select materials and resources that were easily available, interest arousing, in line with Kelly’s academic grade, and relevant to my area of focus.
The following materials were utilized; grade recommended textbooks, interesting story books, charts, real objects, flashcards, tape recorder, and the internet. The three literacy-based strategies were; KWL charts, synonyms webs, and semantic maps. [Unrau, N. , (2008)] Having already discovered Kelly’s strengths and weaknesses it was easy for me to make an impact in his literacy development. For instance, in regards to the two types of vocabularies i. e.
word-recognition vocabulary and meaning vocabulary, Kelly fared contrastingly whereas he was impeccable in word-recognition vocabulary on one hand; he was extremely poor in the meaning vocabulary on the other. My approach was based on four main levels of word knowledge in vocabulary learning i. e. (1) unknown (I have never heard of that word before), (2) knowledge that word exists (I have heard the word before), (3) partial knowledge (I have vague idea or general understanding of the word) (4) complete knowledge (I am comfortable enough with the word’s meaning that I can use it in many different ways in my speaking and writing).
To build Kelly’s vocabulary base, I also majored my instructions on the two different types of words i. e. receptive (words I can understand when I see them in books) and expressive (words I use in my speech and writing). [Blachowicz & Fisher, (2005)] Apart from the three strategies which I employed in my intervention program, I also put into consideration three things: (1) characteristics of the word learner (Kelly) (2) characteristics of the words to be learned, and (3) the level of word learning desired.
Again, though the learning of words meaning may vary in their inherent difficulty, it is assumed that all words need a meta-cognitive approach in which the learners should (1) attend to the word and recognize it as unknown, (2) desire to know the word and actively engage in the learning process, and (3) integrate both information definitional information and contextual information, as well as new information and known information, e. g. in the learning of the word “bulge”, Kelly was required to say the meaning of the word (i. e. to protrude, to be big, to expand, or a swelling), how the word is typically used or in what context it typically comes up (i. e. when one is hit by a hard object, when yeast is put in baking flour when cooking cakes), and how it relates to what she or he already knows (e. g. when baking powder is put into baking flour the flour bulges).
I employed the KWL (already Know-Want to learn-have Learned) strategy as my first shot; this was paramount since it allowed me to gauge his preparedness. I supplied him with a worksheet which was to act as a guide through out the intervention program.
As part of my preparation, I collected enough stories from textbook, story book, and we-based stories which were packed with various kinds of new words, made and also collected vocabulary charts, and assembled real objects. I guided Kelly into filling the KWL chart depending on the story in discussion, in the first column he recorded what he already knew about certain words presented at the beginning of a session for instance when learning about vocabularies related to a market situation I would guide him to give and write the meaning of few vocabularies such as a trader, purchase, hire purchase, demand, supply etc.
in the second column he recorded the vocabularies that he wanted to know their meaning upon reading the story. In the last column which was supposed to be filled at the end of every session to indicate what was learned during that particular session. After reading and understanding the story I would guide him into revisiting the first column (K) to see whether any of the prior knowledge could have been inaccurate. In case of an inaccurate knowledge correction was duly done.
Then again column number two (W) would be revisited to countercheck whether the learned knowledge gave the meaning to all the vocabularies, in case of any vocabulary whose meaning was not found in the learned story then I would guide him into looking for its meaning through the use of the word synonyms. Every progress or a fall or even a striking observation made was candidate to my log, this log enabled me change my approach every when necessary according to his response. E. g. when learning about market vocabulary, the session progressed this way;
Teacher: tell me what you know about a market. Kelly: a place for buying things like shoes, fruits. Teacher: what about wholesalers and retailers? Kelly: yes, we buy things from the shopkeepers. Teacher: do you know the difference between a wholesaler and a retailer? Kelly: hmmm…no. I therefore guided him into indicating those vocabularies he already knew about and those that he did not know but wanted to learn about after the session. To look for the meaning of words that the stories did not yield, I guided Kelly through the semantic mapping strategy.
Semantic mapping is based on the notion that there exist multiple relations between a concept and the knowledge that is associated with the concept. Using the semantic maps it was possible to consider various schematic relations that compose a vocabulary (concept). This did not only enable the finding of meaning to new words but also it made retaining of such meaning for a long time. For vocabularies a list three types of associations were listed i. e. associations of class – the order of things the concept falls in; associations of property – the attributes that define the concept, and; associations of example – examples of the concept.
I developed the semantic maps in the following procedure: Teacher: tell me some of the things that come in your mind when you think of the word “hire purchase. ” Kelly: buying of goods and services. Teacher: listing things in the chalkboard that can be bought through hire purchase. Now that you mention buying, will it make sense when I tell you that purchase is buying of items using money? Kelly: ah! So hire purchase is the buying of items using money! Teacher: not really Kelly…, Please state, any other thing you know about the hire purchase. Kelly: it is acquiring of items with little money.
Teacher: yes, another thing. Kelly: it is acquiring things with little money and then pays little by little. Teacher: yes, good. And…ok, let’s record what you have said on the chalkboard This discussion always led to the emerging of the three basic kinds of association i. e. class, example, and property – hire purchase is a kind of buying, buying, acquiring an item without, acquiring of an item with little money, borrowing etc. these association were arranged in the chalkboard t form a semantic map. I then used the map to guide Kelly into refining his ideas to form the correct meaning of a vocabulary.
This method not only led to the unearthing of the meaning to the vocabulary but also led to the mastery of the word. Since it is known that synonyms are useful in helping to define adjectives and adverbs such a tall and big or badly and poorly. However, synonyms have slightly different meaning than the target word, and therefore they might be misleading. To counter this synonym webs may be used as an instructional strategy to teach word meaning. In the intervention program I used synonym webs to refine word relationships that are synonymic to the target word.
For instance, four steps were involved in this strategy; (1) I guided Kelly into defining the target word, and using several synonyms, e. g. good, nice, smart, beautiful, etc; (2) working with him to establish which words go-together such as tall and big, bright and clever, dull and dumb, etc. (3) then followed by the formation of the synonym webs e. g. for the word spin I helped him to make a four sided web , and; (4) creation of personal webs in the vocabulary exercise books – using the above example I gave Kelly exercise to attempt to build his own synonym web using other words e. g. car – vehicle, motorcar, automobile, etc. Kelly gave words such as throw, propel, weave, rotate, and turn among others. I used these words to build semantic webs for every word that was to be learned, then from there it was easy for him to point the most likely word for the answer, this made the learning more enjoyable. [Paul & O’Rourke (1998)]
3. Conclusions At the end of my intervention session I repeated with Kelly the first two stories that I used as part of my diagnostic test. I made sure that I even repeated the same criteria where it was practically possible.
The results were obviously very different; Kelly had gained a deeper sense of confidence with his vocabularies, the number of both his receptive and expressive vocabulary had tremendously been improved. I asked him about the experience gained and he confessed that the intervention had given him a new vibrant method of finding the meaning of new words whether from a story or just asked by a teacher. He admitted that he will practice this new approach in finding the meaning of more vocabularies that he will come across in future. [Paul & O’Rourke (1998)]
My assessment about the efficacy of the three strategies showed that KWL was effective in prompting Kelly to list out whatever little he knew about a concept (word), whatever little or much he wanted to learn about a concept, and whatever he has learned after some period of time. The other two strategies, synonym webs and semantic mapping were equally helpful. My overall learning was that the three strategies were better used collaboratively and not independently, they tend to supplement one another in the learning of different words.
For instance, while the use of synonym words may not be applicable to all words, semantic mapping can always be used to supplement it. My perceptions of the intervention results were that they could be realized with a small class and even in a bigger class. Kelly was a representative of low level group in a classroom who benefited from the intervention; hence it is obvious that the intervention could work well in a whole class situation. References: Blachowicz, C. L. Z. & & Fisher, P. (2005). Teaching vocabulary in all classrooms. Columbus, OH: Pearson Merrill-Prentice Hall, accessed on March 16, 2009
Paul, P. V. , & O’Rourke, J. P. (1998). Multi-meaning words and reading comprehension: Implications for special education students. Remedial and special Education, 9(3), 42-52, accessed on March 16, 2009 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel: Reports of the subgroups. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human development Clearinghouse, accessed on March 16, 2009 Unrau, N. , (2008). Content Area reading and Writing, (2nd Ed. ), Pearson, accessed on March 16, 2009
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