This morning is our last Tuesday together due to school starting soon. Mornings are typically hard for her, but she was lively this morning. I introduced her to a word ladder. She had been able to manipulate letters last week to create new words and I thought this activity would be great for combining reading directions with letter manipulation. I modeled the first two and she soon caught on. She read the clues immediately, but had trouble with guessing the words cot and pot. She was able to read the words, once they were created. The rest of the word ladder is did on her own. She wants to try another word ladder next week.
Then we read our new story and wrote about her favorite part. She is reading level e texts and the stories are getting longer. Her fluency is improving and I noticed today that she is including expression based on the characters' dialogue. This is something we have worked on through Readers Theatre. She was very silly and playful today, writing about the book. She was noticing mistakes and laughing at herself. This does not happen much. She is very serious about her work and it not playful when it comes to writing. At one point, I had to remind her that we were running out of time and needed to finish. It was great to see her being silly and able to enjoy the process.
Today, when I was working with Sam, we had to dig deep to write about her opinion from the book, Prairie Lotus by Barbara Park. She is already very reluctant to write because spelling is hard, so we started with a word sort she has been practicing. I let her speed sort it and she did it correctly. Then I gave her a "test" while letting her use the key words at the top if she needed them. She got all of them correct. This was a sort I created using features she still hadn't mastered despite completing multiple word sorts that build and expand on each feature. We celebrated that!
When we started to write using a web and a more structured organizer from Writing Revolution, I noticed several things. One was that she still struggled to organize her ideas despite having read the text, discussed it, and completing an organizer. When it came to inference and character motivations, she still benefitted from prompting with linking words like why, when, and because. This is despite the fact that each time we completed a portion of the organizer, we then worked to write a sophisticated sentence using the same types of words.
It's a very delicate balance approaching a sophisticated task like this with an adolescent who has developed coping mechanisms to deal with the difficulty of reading and writing. Now I'm thinking that we need to really work at the paragraph level, then on transitions to make it flow.
Sam is an kid who thinks and feels deeply about things, but she isn't accustomed to being asked to do it in a book and in her response to reading. She has the "finish the worksheet" mentality that so many fifth grade students leave elementary with.