Course Reflection: Portfolio



I had the opportunity this term to participate in a class for Teaching Struggling Readers and Writers.  For this class, I completed fieldwork at a progressive school in Ann Arbor called Summers-Knoll.

Two major objectives that I had the opportunity to master in action during my fieldwork at Summers-Knoll were the following:  

“Use a variety of formal and informal instruments to assess the ability of struggling readers and writers.”

“Communicate and work with other professionals, parents, and community members in order to help struggling readers and writers.”

 I had the opportunity to partner with my cooperating fieldwork teacher, Elaine to help a struggling reader and writer this semester.  This particular struggling reader and writer was at first hard to figure out.  Through informal observation, I noticed that he was highly disruptive, excessively energetic to the point of distraction, eager for attention, and seemingly bored with the tasks at hand.  I then decided to cooperate with Elaine and interview her regarding the classroom dynamics, Bora’s behavior, and his literacy practices.

 After discussing Bora’s condition with Elaine, I learned more about his behavior issues.  I learned that his family just had a newborn baby, which may have influenced his search for attention through disruptive mannerisms.  I also learned that he had to move from Turkey to the United States only two years prior and had been moved down from a third grade classroom to a first grade classroom because he knew little English at the time.  Therefore, he had studied most of the content before, leading to boredom from not studying anything new; yet, at the same time he was learning a new language, which was difficult.  Elaine had already found him to be at a first grade frustration level in the English language through an IRI/miscue analysis and shared the results with me.

I then formally assessed Bora.  After assessing Bora through a list of “The First Most Common English Words” taken from The Reading Teachers Book of Lists, Third Edition by Edward Bernard Fry, I learned a bit more. Bora often rushed through words, confusing a few of the sounds, especially confusing “h” with “th” in words like “the” and “he”, “his” and “this”.

After assessing Bora again through an interview, he got comfortable and started to share about his family and then told me about the similarities and differences between Turkish and English.  He showed me that the alphabet is nearly the same as the English alphabet and was therefore not a hindrance or stumbling block.  He also said: “Turkish is the easiest language to learn probably because the words sound the way they look.  They are spelled the same way they actually sound.” 

I researched Bora’s claims and found confirmation in a study by Paul Shoebottom, a master of ESL teaching.  Shoebottom affirmed that Turkish is highly phonemic, meaning that words are pronounced the way they are spelled and spelled the way they are pronounced.  Because of this, Bora struggled with taking time to sound out English words, because he expected them to be clear and phonemic like they are in Turkish works.  He expected to be able ot read just as quickly as he did in Turkish.  Elaine and I discussed his problem with rushing through and confusing sounds, relating it back to research on the Turkish language to English comparatively and each of our interviews and observations of Bora. 

Furthermore, Elaine knew from her interviews with Bora and his family that his parents and grandparents spoke, read, and wrote both English and Turkish at home, transitioning from one to the other with ease.  However, Elaine did not know what I found out in my interview with Bora about his literacy outside of school.  Bora had told me that outside of school he only read Turkish books, which really dampened his ability to learn English through holistic immersion.  He needed outside practice! 

He said he read solely Turkish at home because he didn’t need help to read Turkish and it was so much clearer.  Elaine was already doing phonemic intervention with Bora in which she had him read nonsensical words which forced him to go beyond rote memorization of how words look to the actual blending and sounding out of phonemes in words.  This was how he needed to learn.  Yet, Ellaine needed to know that he wasn’t practicing at home, but was only sticking with Turkish, because it allowed her to see a next step to take to bring Bora to literacy immersion that made sense. 

Each of our communications through interviews with Bora, our communication with each other about valuable and new information gained in each of our interviews, and backing up that communication with solid facts all led to the ability of the teacher to also communicate with the parents.  Communication can at times seem tedious and unimportant considered to instruction itself. Yet it is so vital for positive intervention for every child to have a team of responsible adults around him or her.  In this case it resulted in the blessing of top-down immersion for Bora in English that will help him grow in his decoding and eventually comprehension skills so that he can be truly bilingual.

Through observation in fieldwork, I also came up with my own self-determined objective as follows:

 “Immerse students in a literacy-rich environment that engages and encourages students of all reading and writing levels.”

In my fieldwork classroom, the teacher differentiated to meet the needs of learners who ranged all the way from a first grade to a seventh grade frustration level of reading, some of whom also were ELL students/non-native English speakers.  The environment was literacy-rich because there was a culture of writing for pleasure and storytelling to get a point across without worrying about mechanics, spelling, and grammar.  There were poems all over the room of different styles and difficulties.  Students got to choose their own books for private and paired reading time which allowed them to go in the direction of their curiosity.  Students consistently got to hear fluent English speakers reading in person and on tape.  Students got to explore books in pairs.  Creative writing prompts were used that involved everyone and brought everyone into the reading and writing process.  It wasn’t unusual to see a writing prompt poster for the students to write on that asked them their favorite smell, sound, or taste.  These kinds of involvements are important because they show struggling readers and writers that their ideas are valid, wanted, interesting, and equally desired contributions to society and that literacy is a vehicle to share their valued ideas with others.  The culture of acceptance regardless of failing mechanically with writing allows the students to remain interested in the art of storytelling while also realizing that there’s a point to work towards.  Elaine’s patience and virtue in helping the students is held in high regard in my eyes and I hope to create a classroom atmosphere as rich in acceptance, love, and broad-sweeping literacy as hers someday.


Fieldwork Reflection #5

Fieldwork Reflection #5

Every year, the headmaster of Summers-Knoll creates a book based on a theme.  The children have part in making the book.  This year the book is on trees.  The art teacher has had the students focusing on different types of trees and how they are formed.  Do they sink deep into the ground?  Do they branch out wide?  Do they stretch out tall?  The students are supposed to be observing trees any chance they get.  Are the trees old or young?  Are they bright and blooming or starting to wither? 

Each of the students has created pictures of trees in a variety of styles from different artists.  Some will be chosen to be in the book.  Authentic writing will also be chosen for the book.  This creates higher-order thinking for the students. They can think of trees as personified.  Is the tree happy, sad, telling a story?  They can think of metaphors and similes.  The tree is like a forlorn child, shaking, reaching up to its mother.  They can describe it in physical characteristics. The tree is covered in rough bark.  They can think of it in romanticized terms. 

Theme-based literacy instruction at Summers-Knoll is good.  It shows real life application for what the students are learning and allows them to be bigger than something they can do on their own.  It teaches them to value, appreciate, and peruse other students’ work.  It allows them to feel as though they are contributing to a whole, a larger, greater good of commonwealth of knowledge to all who will read the book.  It creates a sense of unity and harmony amidst differences.  In this way, Summers-Knoll practices truly reflect their desire statements for the school and literacy is held in high regard.

Fieldwork Reflection #4

Fieldwork Reflection #4 – Students in Elaine’s Class

Elaine’s class is made up of 14 different students.  Eight are boys and six are girls.  Her class is very diverse.  One child is Latino and one is African American.  Two children are Middle Eastern.  Four are considered Multi-Ethnic.  Six are Caucasian.  One is diagnosed as learning disabled; another is dyslexic.  Several have ADD/ADHD.  One child’s first language is Hebrew, while another, my case study student, is Turkish in origin.  All are learning French and Latin currently.

Along with these differences, each individual in the class is at a different reading level as well. 

I read with one boy, whom I will call Adam, who is at a first grade frustration reading level.  He struggles through reading the simplified version of the Magic School Bus books.  He says he doesn’t like to read.  Each of the Magic School Bus books has a word list in the front that includes words of whatever long or short vowel sound or consonant digraph is being introduced.  When I would point to them quickly, his interest was sparked.  He liked trying to figure out what brought all the words together in common.  He also was more encouraged to read when we took turns reading every other page because he wanted to know what happened next and because I was investing myself into the story just as much as he was.

I read with another girl, whom I will call Alecia, who is a brilliant reader and writer. Her reading is quick and her comprehension is spot on.  I interviewed her and found out that she loves books and that her parents have let her help create her own library in her room at home.  I assessed Alecia with a running record and miscue analysis and found out that she is reading at a seventh grade reading level!  Never downplay what children can do!  I encouraged Alecia to keep reading and writing at higher levels and to continue challenging herself not matter what others do around her or say. 

A third student, whom I will call Thomas, is learning English as a second language.  For him, it is important to have intervention from teachers who understand the differences between his native language and English structure-wise, as well as alphabetically and phonetically.  He needs immersion in the English language without the feeling that he is betraying his roots. 

Elaine deals beautifully with the differences in her students.  She reaches them at different levels through differentiated instruction which involves personal journaling, one-on-one meetings, running records, miscue analyses, interviews, and a personal book progression, all of which is taken note of in their personal portfolios processed by their parents.  Differentiated instruction is key!

Fieldwork #3

Fieldwork Reflection #3 – Literacy Practices in Elaine’s Class

Elaine incorporates multiple opportunities for literacy into the day.  She has class reading time.  During this time, she either plays a cassette tape of a chapter book or she reads one aloud herself.  As pictured below, students gather around with or on their reading pillows to listen.  They take turns sitting on the couch.  This is solely a time for listening to a fluent adult read a harder text.  Elaine stops to check for understanding. The students are currently listening to, and quite enjoying as a consensus, the book Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

The students also have quiet reading time.  Each student can pick their own book to read silently.  Some just look at pictures while others are reading high-level books.  The point is that they should all have a book in their hands and become acquainted with it.  I have noticed that some students choose the same book over and over again.  After 15 minutes of quiet individual reading time, the students are able to read quietly with a partner.  Students utilize this time to listen to books of higher reading levels from the more advanced kids or they look at pictures with their partners at times.  Sometimes the students have me read to them from a book beyond their level.  One student always points to sections and eagerly says, “Now can you read this? Now this! What about this?”  This immersion causes students to desire a higher level of decoding and comprehension so that they can find out what the stories are saying on their own outside of the classroom .  Even the rowdy students quiet down to hear.  Because they are allowed to choose their own books, they are very interested in what they have to say. Elaine is smart. 

Elaine utilizes the quiet reading time as a time to work one-on-one with struggling readers and writers. She checks up on how each person is doing and implements interviews, miscue analyses, running records, formal and informal assessments and further interventions for individual learners during these times. 

Beyond these experiences with prose, Elaine brings various styles of poetry into the classroom.  Each morning the scheduled student for the day reads the poem aloud in front of the class or points to each word as the class helps them read it aloud.  They discuss the poem, the poet, and the writing style and then they create a poem together as a class that mimics the writing style of the author.  This exercise provides opportunity to be exposed to and learn new vocabulary, new writing styles, and new levels of comprehension, especially with the common usage of metaphors and similes in poetry.

Students also get to keep their own journals.  They write their own stories in their personal notebooks, which allows for differentiation.  Without worrying about mechanics, Elaine encourages them to focus on the meaning of the message that they want to portray through their story.  This allows for freedom of flow in regards to creativity, because the struggling students aren’t focused on being nailed for poor grammar, spelling, or other mechanical issues.  Instead, they are being accepted.  Their ideas are being validated.  Their creativity is being reinforced.  They are enjoying the art of writing without worrying about their failings on the science end of the process.  This is important, especially for struggling readers and writers, to make sure that they don’t get discouraged and that they see a purpose in their pain of struggling to write. 

Elaine has created a literacy-rich environment and the immersion keeps the students intrigued with the process of extracting and infusing ideas into words and phrases and finally stories.  She is a fantastic teacher. 


Fieldwork Reflection #2

Fieldwork Reflection #2 – Summers -Knoll

I am doing my fieldwork for my education class entitled Teaching Struggling Readers and Writers at a unique and relatively new school in the Ann Arbor area.  Summers-Knoll is a highly progressive school that celebrates differences of many kinds, including, but not limited to, differences of culture, religion, ethnicity, background, socioeconomic status, and academic need.  The school welcomes students from all around the bell curve; some students have special needs while others are highly gifted.  Some students are twice exceptional, meaning they both have a special need in one area and are uniquely gifted in another area.  Some of the students have diagnosed or undiagnosed ADD or ADHD while others know multiple languages.  Some students have dyslexia and others have no special need or sign of outward giftedness.  All children are given the opportunity to learn English, French, Latin, and Mandarin.  All children are given project-based, authentic assessments rather than testing or strict grade reports to send home.

Summers-Knoll makes experiential use of the surrounding area, including a nearby park and the downtown Ann Arbor area.  Though the school branches out to give the students multiple experiences, the school itself strives to create a tight-knit community atmosphere with close communication to the parents of each student.

The school strives to maintain a homey feel for the students, creating an atmosphere of trust and familiarity.  Couches, such as the one pictured below, are not uncommon.  Reading nooks are also provided.  Art and music remain an integral part of the system and creativity abounds.  Students are taught to find value in themselves and celebrate the world around them.  Most learning is project-based, active, hands-on, engaging, and filled with vibrance and life.  Students don’t do a lot of sitting at their desks for extended periods of time.  The school is filled with artwork and open spaces for learning.  Exploration, discovery, and the art of doing are key to Summers-Knoll. 

I started my experience in Elaine’s classroom.  Elaine is a bright, positive teacher with 14 students in her classroom alone.  Just outside of her classroom is the reading area.  There are books.  Lots and lots of books. Books galore.   Summers-Knoll is into literacy.  Summers-Knoll is into top-down immersion into the wide world of globally and communally important literature.  Pictures of the library hall area are shown below. 

Posters to generate thinking, reading, writing, and creativity are regularly hung around the school.  One poster, pictured below, is a literary conversation starter asking students for their favorite smell.  Simple posts like these show Summers-Knolls dedication to having a literacy-rich, idea abundant environment. 

Case Study

Summers-Knoll Case Study


Stephanie Emington









My name is Stephanie Emington and I am a student at Concordia University studying elementary education with a major in Language Arts.  This case study was birthed in a college class for educators entitled Teaching Struggling Readers and Writers.  The study focuses on a first grade struggling reader and writer from a private school called Summers-Knoll in the Ann Arbor area.  The study will introduce the school in general, the student’s classroom and cooperating teacher, and the student himself.  We will call the student Aslan and the teacher Melanie for privacy purposes.   

Summers-Knoll School Background and Beliefs

The case study subject attends Summers-Knoll school in the Ann Arbor area.  The school has easy access by bus route to the downtown area as well as to County Farm Park, providing a rich opportunity to embrace holistic, real world learning experiences.  Summers-Knoll is highly focused on making connections to the local and global community by providing the students with realistic and enriching, cultural experiences. 

As a private, nonsectarian school, Summers-Knoll serves students from kindergarten to the eighth grade.  Each class in the school contains approximately 14 students, creating a tight-knit community atmosphere.   Summers-Knoll’s communal atmosphere is furthered by is extreme openness to parental input, which is encouraged by the headmaster, whom we will call Michelle. 

Summers-Knoll school is progressive and thrives on the teachers’ united dedication to fostering a nurturing, positive, creative environment for the students.   All students are welcome, whether they struggle, have special needs, or are highly gifted.  Teachers aim to support students as fully realized human beings with a heightened desire for rich, academic exploration.  The educational program is rigorous, creative, engaging, interactive, adventurous, unique, and largely indirect.  Summers-Knoll also places a high emphasis on becoming an accepting community that teaches students to value themselves and celebrate the diversity of others.  Teamwork and collaboration are highly encouraged. 

Summers-Knoll does not give out report cards with grade markings.  Instead, parents are given student assessments through a portfolio system of multiple pictures and homework done throughout each period.  A lot of the instruction is top-down.

Summers-Knoll Literacy Approach

            The literacy approach of Summers-Knoll, like the school, heavily involves global and cultural exploration and exposure.  Students are taught French, Latin, and Mandarin along with their English studies.  The approach to English language learning is top-down and involves major literacy immersion.  In English, students are given the opportunity to read multiple styles and genres of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction through group, partner, and individual study.  For bottom-up instruction, students practice individual and group journaling strategies.  Differentiation is the key, though there are no ELL instructors or pull-out programs at Summers-Knoll.

Melanie’s Class

The case study student, Aslan, is in Melanie’s multi-age first and second grade classroom.  This class is in high need of differentiated instruction.

The class consists of eight boys and six girls for a total of 14 students.  Six of the students are Caucasian, four are Multi-Ethnic, two are Middle Eastern, and there is one Hispanic and one African American student.  Two students are technically learning English as a second language,  with their first languages being Turkish and Hebrew.  One student is diagnosed as learning disabled and one is technically dyslexic.  None of the students have been officially diagnosed with ADD or ADHD but several of them display multiple characteristics of the disorder.  As for literary levels, one student is reading at a sixth grade instructional and seventh grade frustrational level, according to a miscue analysis and running records.  Another student stumbles over simple sentences at the first grade level.  With such a broad-sweeping degree of abilities around the bell curve, finding time for authentic, differentiated instruction is of real importance for Melanie. 

Melanie’s Literacy Approach

To reach students at multiple levels, Melanie uses a variety of group and individual practices to foster deep literacy learning.  Every day, students have quiet reading time on their own and then with a partner.  There is also a set time in which Melanie implements chapter book reading, in which she either plays a cassette tape or reads aloud while the students lay and listen on the ground and couches. Throughout this time, Melanie pauses to initiate frequent checks for understanding as a group.  Currently, the students are entranced by Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty Macdonald.  The eager smiles, attentive eyes, and quiet posture of the students suggest to me that most of the students enjoy the story and are excited to hear about how the characters’ problems will be solved.  

Morning poem classwork and individual and group story-writing time are also literary practices implemented on a regular basis.

            As a routine, Melanie posts a poem in large print on the wall each day.  She starts off the school day by introducing the poem.  The scheduled student for the day will either stand in front of the class and read the poem aloud or engage the class by asking for their help in reading the poem aloud as he or she points to the correlating words.  Reading new poems frequently provides exposure and development of vocabulary, language skills, and writing styles. This practice is one form of top-down immersion for the children in Melanie’s class.  After morning group poetry time, the teacher leads the students into brainstorming together to create a poem that mirrors the same writing style as the author that was read that day.

            In addition to writing a poem each morning as a group, students have individual writing time in which they get to construct their own personally concocted stories.  This time allows for differentiation.  Students who are more advanced can write more extensive stories with complex plots and developed vocabulary.  Frustrated students can scribble down their thoughts and then orate to Melanie later so that she can write in academic English next to their scribbles.  In this way, the students are fostering an appreciation for writing and storytelling without dabbling and dawdling in the complication of mechanics.  This shows the class that their ideas and stories are important, valued, and wanted.  It creates a culture of storytelling and literacy.  The encouragement to write at every level helps the students to continually grow in appreciation for learning.  There is a tangible excitement about the creative production process; students also realize that they need to develop their skills in order to progress and their willingness to learn in order to enhance their stories is evident. 

Initial Observations of Aslan: Behavior

I noticed that Aslan was engaged in very distracting hyperactive behavior the majority of his time spent in the classroom.  He had a hard time sitting still and was constantly talking to his neighbors or stirring up trouble by intentionally irritating fellow classmates with such behaviors as poking them with pencils, stealing their erasers, or commenting with negative humor about the quality of their work.  He seemed to quarrel with the other students a lot and always sat at the edge of his chair.  He often would crawl on his hands and feet out of the room during group reading time while Melanie was reading aloud.  He found humor in annoying his classmates and creating new antics and scenarios as the days went on.  He had excessive energy for the daily classroom tasks.  I also discovered that he was very creative in his disruption.  He often proclaimed loudly that he was bored or “didn’t want to” when it came to participation in class activities. 

It was not uncommon for Aslan to be sent out of the room until he could calm down so as not to disrupt the other students.  He often got in trouble during French writing time for talking to others too much; he was usually teaching other students how to write in cursive or quarreling about table space.  His biggest time of disruption daily was in art class.  Even if he did have a good day in Melanie’s classroom or in French, his disposition consistently turned sour upon entering the art room and he became loud and noticeably disdainful. 

Aslan’s relationship with the art teacher was poor on both ends.  His disruptive behavior became expected and upon his arrival the teacher would say such phrases as “Aslan, what are we not going to do today?”  Later when she was practicing calming meditative exercises with the students, Aslan wiggled and exclaimed, “This is not helping me!”  The upset teacher replied in a raised voice, “Aslan, you are ruining everything!  Please leave the room.”  I found this very unfortunate. 

A final behavioral observation I made about Aslan was that he seemed to struggle a lot with fear of people seeing his work if it contained mistakes.  He begged Melanie to let him write, but then during writing time he didn’t want to do his work.  After misspelling French words and writing a story that he found dissatisfactory, Aslan ripped up and threw away both, destroying all of his precious work. 

First Interview with Melanie: Aslan’s Background and Behavior

After observing Aslan for extended periods, I decided to engage in discussion about his background with the main classroom teacher, Melanie.  Melanie was very kind and gave me plenty of background information.  Regarding Aslan’s behavior, she affirmed that his misbehavior was a consistent issue and had been since his arrival in her classroom.  She told me of some incidences; he had stomped on another child’s foot and had stolen a boy’s lunch and smashed it on his head.  In her opinion, Aslan’s misbehavior was a cry for attention wherever he could get it.  She told me that Aslan’s parents just had a baby five months prior and with the new addition there was a possibility that Aslan was desperate for attention.  In addition to this, Aslan just moved to the United States two years ago from Turkey. 

According to Melanie, Aslan lived in Turkey for six years and learned little English while he was there.  After his move to America, in order to adjust to the language difference, Aslan’s parents chose to move him from a third grade Turkish classroom to a first grade English classroom.  As a result of the shift, Aslan is being taught some of the same content he learned before in Turkey and therefore gets bored at times.  At the same time, he is still learning the ins and outs of the English language.  

Interview with Aslan


I noticed during French writing practice that Aslan was much more eager to tell other students how to say and write Turkish words than to do the rest of his work, explaining to the other students “how they write it in Turkey” and demonstrating “how they say it in Turkey.”    I expressed interest in his language mastery and asked  if I could interview him.  He gladly obliged and surprisingly he sat comfortably still during the entire interview, remained positive and engaged, and offered very knowledgeable answers.  Melanie later stated that it was probably because he was glad to have all of the attention solely focused on him, so he didn’t need to earn it or act up to get it. 

I began my interview by asking Aslan questions about his life both inside and outside of the classroom.  I first learned that, although he acts up in art class, art and science are his favorite subjects.  He said that he is actually interested in learning, despite how it looks outwardly.  I also asked him about his home life.

  At home, Aslan speaks both Turkish and English, as do his parents and grandparents.  His family also reads and writes in both Turkish and English.  It took the student about half of a year to learn to speak basic English.  Along with the two languages, Aslan also speaks, reads, and writes in full German and partial French, Latin, Spanish, and Mandarin.  He was very excited to share the Turkish language with me. He began by explaining that theTurkish alphabet has four more letters than the English one and that there is no x or y within it.  He insisted that Turkish was the easiest language to learn because the words are “spelled just like they sound”.  He said that it was hard for him to learn English because words are not always spelled the way they sound and vice versa.  I realized that Bora was struggling with the wide variety of sound and letter correlation in English phonics.   

Aslan said that when he is at home he sometimes speaks Turkish and sometimes speaks English.  However, the student only reads Turkish books at home because he can decode and comprehend them easily on his own.  This is a second problem.  Reading solely Turkish outside of the classroom  allows for little English practice and immersion other than in school.  Melanie was unaware of this until I told her what I had learned.    

Aslan also said that it would be hard for him to translate a Turkish book into English and he guessed that he was at a third or fourth grade reading level.  In all reality, his miscue analysis and running record recorded him at a first grade frustrational level.  Aslan’s main mistakes were with words that included the “th” sound, like the, then, there, and this.  He often exchanged “this” and “his”, as well as “the” and “he”.  He read through the words very quickly and didn’t correct them upon making mistakes.  However, when he saw that I made a light mark next to them with my pencil, he asked why, and insisted that he had correctly said the word until I explained it to him.  He rushed through the words during every assessment. 

External Theoretical Support for Turkish English Language Learners like Aslan

Aslan’s struggles with phonetics and the differences between the languages of Turkish and English are backed up solidly by research under Paul Shoebottom.  Paul Shoebottom  has a masters degree in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Birmingham in England and wrote The Differences Between Turkish and English for the Frankfurt International School.  Shoebottom’s research is in agreement with Aslan’s interview about the Turkish language.  The Turkish alphabet is, in fact, similar to the English alphabet, with a few additions.  In agreement again, Shoebottom states that Turkish students struggle with the “th” sound in words such as “then”, “think”, and “clothes”.  He also states that they struggle with words beginning with “w” or “v” which was again confirmed by Aslan’s missed words on the word list.  An additional challenge for Turkish learners is the consonant split.  Words like “strength” can be hard for English learners because it is rare in the Turkish language to group three consonants together.  

The most prominent part of Shoebottom’s study to me was that which showed the phonetics of Turkish.  According to Shoebottom, Turkish is, in fact, as Aslan said, a phonetic language.  He says that words are spelled the way they are pronounced and pronounced the way they are spelled.  This makes it easy for Turkish students to quickly translate Turkish from paper and page to the mouth.  This makes it harder for Turkish students to decode English words.

Second Interview with Melanie: Aslan’s Literacy

After interviewing Aslan, I talked to Melanie again.  She told me that there are a few books that he will listen to, such as The Magic Tree House.  She also showed me books from Brand New Readers that Aslan liked to read.  She said that he has a good visual memory, but needs to work on his attention and motivation.  She stated that the major problem was that Aslan tended to guess on words rather than sounding them out, something I noticed during my 100 Basic Word assessment and miscue analysis.  

Strategies for Intervention

Overall, as found through the interviews and assessments, Aslan’s major issues are these:  First, he needs to be able to keep his attention and not be a distraction to the rest of the class or himself for that matter.  Second, he needs to stop guessing on words and actually sound them out because English is not as phonetically consistent as Turkish.  Third, he needs to start being immersed in the English language outside of the classroom as well.

Here are a few solutions I propose.

First, behaviorally, Aslan needs to be given some attention without distracting from the class.  As a high energy student, meditative exercises don’t do much for Aslan.  When the art teacher kicked him out of the classroom, I asked him what would help him to focus.  I asked him what he would do for a warm-up if he was the teacher.  He proceeded to practice some jumping and afterward he was able to calmly focus on the task at hand.  The teacher could, instead of doing her own exercises, give each child a day to plan exercises with her to help warm-up the class with.  The teacher could also let each child lead a quick exercise before the class starts.  In this way, both hyperactive/energetic and calm students could get their energy out and focus before the class begins.  It also provides a way for all students to get some craved-for attention without it all going to the student who misbehaves.  This gives the students buy-in.  Somehow Aslan needs to realize that he is part of a bigger class where everyone matters, yet still be shown that his energy and creativity are valued and worthy of attention as well.

            Second, Aslan needs help working through phonics explicitly.  Somehow he needs to be taught to slow down and read.  Melanie includes Aslan intentionally and intensively in group poem reading and writing time, uses phonic intervention teaching explicitly in a one-on-one meeting with him during individual and paired reading time, and encourages him in his personal pursuit to write a narrative story.  She is currently encouraging him more because he ripped the last story out of his notebook. 


To focus Aslan’s attention on sounding out words, Melanie tried a one-on-one exercise with Bora.  To get him to slow down and sound out words phonetically, she chose a book called Mouse in the House.  In this book, which he assumed would be easy, there are plenty of short words.  However, these words are not ordinary words.  They are nonsensical sound words like zingy zangy zoo.  Instead of spouting out words by memory or quickly guessing words like sight words, Aslan would need to try and truly sound these words out if he was going to succeed.  Bora did try to sound the words out and it worked out to give him the phonetic exercise that he needed.  He is still working on this book. 

I think the next step for Aslan is to partner with his parents and grandparents to get him reading English, not just Turkish outside of the classroom.  Perhaps having him read to the class eventually would give him the attention he desires, show his achievement, and give him a sense of desire to learn.  Out-of-class immersion will help make English language learning real to Aslan.


Summers-Knoll is an excellent school with teachers who go out of their way to differentiate for their students.  Melanie does a tremendous job assisting each one of her students, especially with so many around the bell curve.  She has done a novel job of assisting Aslan who is not only a struggling reader and writer, but who also technically should require ELL outside support.  With a new baby in the home and a still new adjustment of changing countries and changing grade levels, Aslan may need extra care and support to show him how to receive healthy attention, rather than that gained by disruptive misbehavior.  Melanie’s print-to-speech intervention using Mouse in the House and nonsensical phonemic words is brilliant and helping Aslan a lot.  Allowance for him to exert excess energy through exercises before class in school and English immersion with his family outside of school could  be positive action steps to be taken to provide Aslan with the differentiated education that Summers-Knoll boasts of and so clearly seeks after. 

Strategies for Teaching Struggling Writers: Encouragement

Proper instruction for struggling writers provides balanced instruction in writing strategies in coordination with the process approach to writing.  The five steps in the writing process are prewriting, composing, revising, editing, and publishing, all of which can and should be explicitly taught.    Interactive parts of writing that underachieving writers struggle with and include producing appropriate content in adequate quantity, organizing the content, and using appropriate grammatical and mechanical elements.   In order to instruct how to write, teachers can apply strategies of modeling, formal and informal lessons, guided writing, strategy instruction, and conferences. All of this is important.  Yet, despite all of the strategies that can be used, one of the major pieces of developing eager writers is urging the students that their voice is important, that they have something to say that, whether large or small, is important to the world, or even just one person.  Writing conferences help spur young writers on and encourage them to pursue their passions whether they are brilliant writers or poor ones.  These same conferences are helpful in pinpointing the struggles students may be facing and designing a strategy to combat those struggles and span those hurdles.

 In order to make writing more personal, teachers can have writers use journals, logs, and writer’s notebooks.  Students need to be provided with opportunities for meaningful practice.  They need to be explicitly taught how to write, but furthermore struggling writers need to be encouraged that their voice is important enough for them to develop their skills that will lead to them bridging that gap.