We have all had students behind on decoding skills: one month behind, two, three, twelve, twenty. But what do we do when parents struggle with decoding words? How can we serve children and grow their confidence and fluency when they go home to parents who can’t read the spelling lists either? They say apples don’t fall far from trees, so let’s help our apples AND let’s help the trees they come from too!
One of my students (we can call her Sally) came to me with an IEP for reading at the beginning of the school year. This was nothing new to me. Students come through my classroom door with IEPs each year. It was clear Sally was reading below level, and when tested, she read around a first grade level.
Throughout the year, Sally continued to fall behind on decoding skills and spelling tests. Her listening comprehension skills were on grade level, but she didn’t have the fluency to unlock reading passages independently.
Finally, her special education teacher and I met and changed her spelling list to the words she did not know on the Dolche 220 and mixed in a few fourth grade Tier 3 (science and social studies words). She has made it through most of the Dolche and is now working on 2nd grade words.
Last week, Sally was given the word disappear on her spelling list. While at home, one of her parents read it as dis- a – pear (like the fruit). After hearing this is how Sally was practicing at home, the SPED teacher came to my room for a suggestion on how to help her practice words at home.
Immediately, my mind went to an Explain Everything I made for Sally at the beginning of the year. This file covered all the words on the Dolche 220 and read them aloud. I suggested that each week Sally should type her words in Explain Everything and with teacher assistance, she could read her words into the Explain Everything. This could be saved as a video and sent home each week for her to practice.
Now Sally and her family members can grow their fluency together. After the Dolche 220, I believe our path should lead to reading and spelling words that should be identified for every day safety, such as caution. I look forward to continued growth for this child and for our community.