Today I worked with Kim on a passage we had read during our last meeting. The piece talked about Otto Frank and the various obstacles that he faced as a prisoner during the Holocaust. This is a subject that Kim has some serious background knowledge with! Last week, when we used this passage, I asked her to read a few paragraphs and interact with the text along the margins. I helped Kim to use questioning skills when meaning was foggy, circle unknown words, and comment on ideas that were intriguing. The result was, at least six words circled, some good questions that directly addressed where Kim needed clarification and a few strands of comments that showed she was interacting with the text using prior knowledge and new questions that she had. Not too bad, however she voiced that she struggled through and didn’t, “get it”.
I decided to take this passage, and break it down with Kim this week. She had read it already, found some questions and words of interest and her background knowledge would help her through.
I wanted to see where exactly Kim was getting stumped. Could she use her prior knowledge and context clues to help her gain understanding of a more complex, expository text?
I read a paragraph and Kim followed along in her copy. She voiced that she didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘advantage’ and so she didn’t understand the phrase, “It was an advantage to speak German, since that was the language of the camps, ruled as they were by the SS and Kapos.” – The Hidden Life of Otto Frank by Carol Lee – We discussed how the camps functioned and why the German language was important. Kim still wasn’t linking the context clues, her prior knowledge and the word ‘advantage’ together. I explained the word to her using this sentence, “Kim has the advantage when she plays games at the fair with her friend. She has played every game at the fair already, and won almost every time!”
We went through this process again with another paragraph and I noticed more of the same. I asked Kim if she knew how to help herself find the joys of reading. She didn’t have any ideas. I said what if it simply meant to read more. I asked her if it was reasonable to ask her to look up an interesting word, just one, each time she read and recorded it with pictures and comic-like bubbles in her word journal and to be sure that each time she read at home for herself that it was something that she liked to read. That was it; just begin with interesting books, a bit of word study and simply read a bit every day.
My reasoning for this conversation is multilayered. Kim keeps giving up on what she’s reading. We’ve tried on-level and personally interesting books, we’ve tried books that were probably harder, but very interesting to her and we’ve tried incentives, such as, when we finish reading this book together, a movie pass will be waiting for you so you can go see the film at the movies! None of it seems to be working. Kim has yet to find that joy in reading a great book, and the places that it can take you.
My plan is this…keep working together with The Fault in our Stars, which is what Kim had been reading during sustained silent reading and claimed she loved the book, yet the last time I saw her she gave up on it and returned it to her teacher. Despite this, I gave her my personal copy of the book and said, I have cried my way through this book so we could work together – you’re turn to do the reading now! (All said with a smile, however I want her to be held accountable for some reading!) I asked Kim to read a few pages each night and select one word to interact with in her word journal so we can discuss its’ relationship to the book and our lives. During our tutoring visits, I read from where Kim has left off and model the use of context clues and how to relate new words to your own life to help remember them for the future. Mostly, I want to discuss the juicy aspects of this read and talk about it, to get her hooked into the characters and the woven symbolism throughout the book. I’m also wondering if inviting her friend in to read the book as well and hold more of a literature circle format would be helpful to pull in that fun aspect of reading.
We’ll see! Any suggestions! I would love for Kim to find pleasure in reading, however this is something I cannot do for her! But I will do everything I can to lead her up to it! We’ll see how it goes with this new read! Until next time…