Dialogue Journal 1
When I think about learning to read and write, it always gives me a headache. I came from a home where my mom read to us every night and I loved listening to her because of the pictures I had running though my head as she read. It was always better than any movie I had seen. But, when the time came for me to start reading to her and to myself I struggled. I would always pick up a book she had read to us and I would re-tell the story. Thank heaven I had 6 younger siblings, so she never really had the time to be sure I was reading the actual words on the page. My dad was not a reader, my sister and I share the same problem as he does, no one worked with him and he is only now discovering reading with books on CD. He loves Harry Potter and actually read the series after he listened to them on CD. He decided that the CD’s took too long and wanted to read them at his own pace. We were all shocked and thrilled for him.
For me reading was almost impossible. The letters jumped around on the page and they flipped, flopped and just confused the heck out of me. I was not taught phonics, I was taught to recognize a word (whole language) and yet every time I looked at the same word the letters were in a different spot. My mom was leading by example and her love of reading was contagious, yet at the same time I found it so much work that I rarely read. I would listen to her read to the younger kids before bed and she would always say I was too old for those stories and to go read something more age appropriate. What is age appropriate for a 4th grader that can’t read?
From the readings I pulled picture walks, I used those to help me know what a story was about. Dr. Seuss’s books can almost be read just by looking at the pictures and saying what you see. I could fake it pretty easy with those books. Testing was not a constant thing when I was in school and so it was a teacher that caught my inability to read well, I was in 4th grade at the time. She recognized the tactics I used to get out of reading out loud and my book reports. My mom and she talked during conference and every book I did a report was one that my mom read to the family at night.
With my parents on board and my teacher pushing me, things changed. Instead of listening to my mom read, my mom listened to me. In the reading there is information on those who struggle to read and write and that they need to spend more time doing both, of course that isn’t what I wanted to do. I was slow and I found reading upside down was easier, but my mom couldn’t follow the words as well so I read and I read and I read….until I thought I would never read again and eventually something clicked. My ‘click’ book was, The Outsiders. I read it my freshman year and WOW…Boom…Bang… it was like when my mom read. I could see the movie in my head and I loved that book. Next we read, To Kill a Mocking Bird. I also love that book, in the reading this is referred to as Critical Literature. I was forced to see how people of different races were treated, in my town everyone was white and this was a change for me. I did ask myself why people of color were treated so badly in the book and even asked my parents about that time in history.
Reading became something I looked forward to doing; I still groaned when we had a huge amount of reading for homework, I had a life for heaven sakes. But, as time progressed I found myself reading more. I think that my mom and my teachers did a fantastic job of modeling reading for me. My 4th grade teacher read, The Bridge to Terebithia, to the class and I cried as I did when she read, Charlotte’s Web. I read both of those books to my children a few years ago and I cried again, they laughed at me saying they weren’t that sad…they are heartless children at times. I now try to model reading, writing and lifetime learning for them. I read over 150 books last year as did my husband, yet two of our children don’t read for pleasure yet, and it breaks my heart thinking about what they are missing. They read to me and my husband is always bring home books from the library they might like and taking them with him to pick out books. From the reading I understand also that a balanced approach is the most effective and we both stress all academics, but reading is by far one of my favorite things to do and I would like them to experience that feeling also.
Writing is a whole other ball of wax. I have awful handwriting and I have tried to improve it, but it takes so much work that I give up and continue to wonder what I wrote. I love to type and so I try to never handwrite anything. As a child I hated writing because without phonics I couldn’t spell at all. I flunked most spelling tests and hated vocabulary tests. My biology teacher refused to let me creatively spell anything; he graded my spelling as well as my knowledge of the subject. I learned to spell words I could barely pronounce, so I could pass his class. As I grew-up I tried to write more, but it seemed too much work. I did write a story when I was about 7 and I don’t know why I didn’t continue writing. A few years ago I decided to write a book. I sat down in the summer and after a month I had written 3 books. I edited each and then got bored, a friend of mine is editing for me currently pushing me to self publish. My friend next door writes for the local paper and I envy her that talent.
As a child the only thing we wrote was Thank You Cards and I hated them. My mom would get the cards and write what she wanted us to write and we would copy it, no true meaning just copy cat work. I have to force myself to write Thank You Cards to this day. In school any papers I needed to write my mom helped with. I would write them out and she would type them, I think many things got lost in translation between my thoughts and her typing. I finally learned to type in college, it was just too expensive to hire a typist.
Being in and out of classrooms I find that I love many things that came up in the reading. Reading centers, literary circles, Basal Readers, literature focus units, and of course my favorite…the teacher reading out loud. In the classes I have been in I have worked with many EL learner and I can’t imagine being dropped in a room full of Spanish speakers and be expected to understand and test in Spanish, especially if all we spoke at home was English. My son is in Chile for the next two years and he is struggling with the language, he hates that he can’t understand them and they can’t understand him. I think the EL student feels the same way most days.
When I was a teen my mom volunteered to teach English to immigrants. We had a family over a few times a week to talk with and play with. I enjoyed that time, but I don’t really know how much help we actually were for their English skills. The reading talked lots about EL students and how they learn best. I thought the idea of teaching them to read in their native language first was brilliant, yet almost impossible to do in most school districts. The cost and the staffing would be a nightmare.
I have subbed in many EL rooms. One experience I had still makes me laugh. I was teaching a group of students and when the bell rang only half left and the others stayed for the next sections. I was hungry and told them I was going to sneak a snack before the next hour. They nodded with smiles. The next week when I was subbing in another room, one of the girls saw me in the hall and asked why I had eaten a shoe. I was confused to say the least and I asked her again what she thought I had done. I told her I didn’t eat a shoe and she said I did I ate a shoe between classes. I was so confused and then it dawned on me what she might mean. I asked if she meant had I eaten a sneaker. She nodded and I laughed telling her that I had eaten a few crackers but had said I was going to sneak a snack, which I had meant to mean eat really fast while they were between classes. I gave her the definition of sneak and we both laughed. Me more than her I’m sure.
Teaching EL students is difficult; we have many languages spoken in our district. In the reading they talked about Cognates and how they are similar spelled words and similar meanings in more than one language. I think those words are very important to an EL learner. Having something in common with another language speaker would be helpful. But, I wonder if Cognates are why so many people think you can just speak louder and a non-English speaker will know what you are saying. In some of the EXCEL classes I have subbed in I see a much higher percentage of non-native English speakers. They are behind in what they should know, making Cortes’ Contextual Interaction Model very relevant to schools today. “What context do they do well?” I think that is an important question to ask when working with EL learners at any age and any subject.
In the reading on Linguistics, I found it interesting how we all learn to speak and read our language. My 2nd son was speaking in full sentences at 18 months and yet struggled with reading. My next son was not speaking at all until 2 ½ and he excels at everything in school except gym. Why? My husband and I both modeled for them by talking with them all the time. I carried on conversations about everything even before they knew what was going on around them. Chomsky claims that language is innate and children just learn it, each of my children spoke clearly at different times, but they all developed language. Vocabulary was another thing from the reading I found interesting. Reading develops 10 times more vocabulary than vocabulary tests, yet I know I skip many words I don’t know…of course I can imply meaning from the reading and what is going on, sometimes I am right and sometimes not so much. The more I read I do notice that my vocabulary grows; now I just need to use more of those new words in conversation to make them stick.
Taking apart words into more manageable parts is an important skill in learning to read and write. When my first son was learning to read the teacher used root words. Knowing the root words helped him with meaning and even some spelling. Also in the same chapter of the reading I found that conversational language is different from academic language. Talking with a friend is very different then talking in front of a group of teachers or students explaining a theory. Along with that also is reading for fun or pleasure and reading for knowledge or school related reading. I find I would rather read a good mystery novel any day compared to a text book on almost any subject. I realize they each have their place, but if I can’t sleep warm milk has nothing on reading a text book….snore.
I enjoyed the reading and discovered quite a bit I was unfamiliar with along with a few things I already knew.