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.
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