Here at The Learning Room we believe in celebrating the successes of our students, big and small! Whether a student has achieved a personal or academic goal, student success is at the heart of our work. In our series, Student Spotlight, we highlight what a partnership with a Learning Room academic coach can do for struggling learners.
As a kindergartener in December Will was struggling in both reading and math. Will had us all perplexed. Even though he could count to 50, Will wasn’t able to read or write numbers over 7. Even though he knew all of his letter sounds, Will struggled with blending sounds together to decode words. Even though Will knew sight words in isolation, reading them in sentences was very difficult. This left Will, his parents and teacher very frustrated.
Enter The Learning Room
Working with Geena for two hours per week, Will is now working at, and in some areas, above grade-level expectation in math, reading, and phonics. Not only can Will read and write numbers beyond 100, he is also a very successful kindergarten reader and writer!
So...how did we do it?
Every student that comes to The Learning Room begins with an assessment. During their initial meeting, Geena suspected that a thriving mathematician, reader, and writer was hiding inside Will. He simply lacked the strategies to retain and apply what he was learning. Geena quickly realized that a consistent learning routine and predictable instruction would help Will over the hurdles that made school a challenge. Will’s success is a great example of a team effort. Geena worked very closely with Will’s mom to build an environment that Will’s learning could thrive in. The practice he worked on in sessions was carried over and reinforced by mom which helped Will use them successfully in school!
What we did
In this section, Geena will take us through Will’s learning journey from the beginning of instruction in December to now!
Will was certainly an unusual case. I’ve worked with many struggling learners in my almost decade as a teacher but Will stumped me initially. He knew so much, but also struggled so much. After collaborating with Will’s parents, we felt that a lot of Will’s struggles stemmed from lack of exposure to concepts and strategies. My priority from day one was to help Will feel successful and give him strategies to boost his confidence during the school day.
During our sessions, we follow a very consistent learning routine.
1: Number recognition
2: Fact fluency
3: Problem solving skills
1: Letter sounds
2: Sight words
3: Segmenting and blending words
4: Read a familiar text
5: Read a new text
6: Write a sentence (time permitting)
7: Read aloud (time permitting)
While the activities we use to target each piece are swapped out to keep Will engaged, the skills we practice stay the same until he’s mastered them. As of April we’ve completely phased out letter sounds and are about to phase out number recognition.
In December, we began with numbers to 10 in math. As Will mastered each set of numbers we increased by increments of 10 until we reached 100. Initially, number recognition was our main focal point since Will couldn’t master skills like addition, subtraction, comparing numbers and more without being able to accurately read and write numbers. Will is now a number expert and knows numbers beyond 100! As Will became comfortable with reading and writing numbers I started sprinkling in fact fluency, problem solving and number sense practice. As Will masters skills, I switch out the foundational skills for new and harder skills. For example, for summer instruction we’re adding a calendar routine to build Will’s number sense for two digit numbers.
In reading, we began with letter names, sounds and building CVC words to decode. Will initially struggled with blending sounds together. He could read each sound in cat but would struggle when blending the sounds into one word. We tackled this with consistent practice and heavily focused our reading work on decoding CVC words. One of Will’s favorite activities is “word building,” where we would begin with a CVC words like bag. We would then change one sound at a time, creating new words to read. For example, switch the /a/ sound with an /i/ sound. What’s our new word? This was tricky for Will at first, but now he’s been asking for 4 and 5-sound words since 3-sound words are “too easy” (his words!)
At the end of the day, Will’s biggest struggle was that he had simply not been taught strategies to help him get ‘unstuck’ in school. Our sessions rely heavily on explicitly showing and practicing different strategies so that Will can choose the one that works best for him when presented with difficult tasks during the school day.
While I am Will’s academic coach, Will’s mom is the ultimate teammate in his learning journey, and I’m constantly thankful that he has such a strong advocate and support to reinforce and practice what we work on in sessions. Having a strong team support at home makes all the difference with struggling learners!