Supporting kids who are below grade level


aura218
 said:

I’m a reading tutor for kids who are below grade level. This is a Title 1 school, which means poverty and the parents don’t speak English. The kids in my program do. I have a lot of discipline problems, ie, kids refuse to come in from recess to come to the program, kids being disruptive in group sessions. We don’t get the kids who are DIAGNOSED severely disabled. They’re all in grades 2-5. 

So, what should I  be doing to get kids who don’t want to come in from recess to come in? So far, a sticker/star reward system is helping the group sessions, but some kids still call out, interrupt me and other kids, and won’t write answers unless I tell them what to write. 

Any suggestions?

realsocialskills said:

Someone I know who does remedial reading has had success with some of these things:

Using computer or iPad reading games

  • Some kids who associate books with humiliation and failure don’t have the same association with computer-based things
  • But if you’re going to do this, make sure the games you pick are actually fun
  • It doesn’t work if it’s exactly like the thing that’s miserable for them off the computer
  • Particularly if it’s just a simulated standardized test

Having kids read plays together

  • This can work well as a group activity,
  • Particularly since all the kids are involved even when it’s not their turn to read
  • Some kids who don’t like taking turns reading stuff *do* like taking turns reading parts in a play
  • Also, again, it’s something they’re much less likely to associate with failure and humiliation
  • You can get books of kids plays that are designed for various reading levels

Use books with positive representation of kids like them:

  • Far, far too many kids books are about rich white kids
  • If all of your books are about rich white kids, you can end up inadvertently sending the message that you don’t respect your students (especially if you are white, but even if you are not)
  • Or that reading is rich and white
  • Having books that have poor kids, disabled kids, and kids of color can make a big difference
  • Particularly if they are good books
  • Particularly if they are books written by people from the same culture as the kids you teach
  • Immigrant kids come under *tremendous* pressure to assimilate and reject the cultures they came from
  • And it’s worth making an effort to make sure that what you do isn’t part of that

Do what you can to make it a safe space for kids who are struggling:

  • Do not let kids make fun of other kids
  • Do not have competitions between kids
  • Do not laugh at mistakes, even if they’re funny
  • (But do let kids laugh at *your* mistakes, even if they’re not funny)
  • Praise people for trying, not just succeeding
  • Because being willing to try over and over until you do something successfully is important
  • And for kids who have been humiliated for failing, it can be really important that you explicitly respect their efforts

Sometimes it helps to modify things in a way that work with rather than against kids’ behavior:

  • If kids are calling out, make a lesson where that’s *supposed* to happen
  • Have some time where you tell kids what to write and that’s ok
  • (And where if kids decide to not write what you tell them and to write something else, that’s also ok)
  • I can’t think of more examples offhand, but I know that this is something that people do successfully
  • Remember that the point is getting kids to learn, not getting them to obey you
  • (You do have to control the classroom to an extent - but it’s worth avoiding avoidable power struggles, and modifying your approach when kids refuse to cooperate with your initial plan isn’t a failure )

But also, are kids being pulled out of recess in order to go to extra lessons? That strikes me as inherently likely to end poorly. If that’s what’s happening, is there any way you can pull the kids out of something else instead?