Day seven – Another Student, Another IRI

Whew! Back from a three-day weekend and jumping right back in. Another student joined Adam and I, Franklin (another pseudonym). This meant that I had to administer another IRI (Hooray!), and tweak my plans to account for two students. I also had to pass in my Reading Assessment Report on Adam (which came back puzzlingly devoid of any feedback). Read about the last IRI I did here: Day three – the IRI

After a brief introduction between the three of us, Jenn took Adam and Franklin and I got to work on the IRI. Now this was the third time I gave the IRI, and told Franklin that, it was Franklin’s first experience with the assessment. I felt more confidant than the last time, but that isn’t saying much. We started with the word lists, on which he did well. He began reading through the words very rapidly and I had to slow him down so I could keep up. As the words became more difficult his pace slowed again. He has strong analysis skills, as evidenced by lists six and seven, although 25% of list seven were not sight words he was able to figure out all but one on his second try. I noticed his analysis skills in particular with the word “Partial”, he slowed his pronunciation and pronounced it in chunks phonetically. He definitely will need some vocabulary identification work and time to read to improve his fluency. Moving to the passages I began with the first Transitional selection about foxes. Franklin didn’t have much background knowledge of foxes so I gave him some before he began. His oral reading was a little halting, he repeated phrases, he changed a couple words as he read but nothing that changed the meaning, e.g. ‘the burrow’ instead of ‘their burrow’. The follow-up comprehension questions showed me that he was making meaning while he read and not just word calling. While reading the second Transitional passage, “What is a Lizard?” he stopped and asked me to tell him the word “jungles”, when he heard it he immediately said “Oh, I thought it was jungles but. . . ” And I immediately thought, “Why did I just give him the word without making him at least try it?” It was an instant response. During SSR last year I had a student who would come up to me and ask me about words pretty often, either how to pronounce or the meaning, and I would just tell him. My reasoning was that this was a time for him to read for pleasure and I didn’t want to not ask me his questions because he was scared it would turn into a lesson. Thinking about it in more detail though, I realize that I modeled a few strategies for him, I’d look it up, I’d read it aloud in context, I’d ask him to give me some context about the plot. I guess he was learning and I was teaching without either of us even knowing it! (Wait, should I admit that?)

Back to Franklin, he knows a bit about lizards so he had more background knowledge than me for this reading. It is important to note that he couldn’t make a prediction about what he might learn from the text. This will be another focus with Franklin.  Other than me giving him the work ‘jungle’ he struggled with ‘scaly’ but did come up with it. Comprehension was again good; he was able to provide the answers to the ‘right there’ questions and provided added one inferred answer! I skipped the last Transitional text and asked Franklin to read the first Basic passage, “Disappearing Forests”. I provided some background knowledge about the rain forest. Again predicting what the passage was going to be about was challenging, even after I directed him to the word ‘disappearing’ in the title. The questions that asked Franklin to infer were difficult, his answers didn’t quite address the questions.

I stopped there. Based on the IRI and my observations, Franklin’s needs fit into the Transitional Stage of Literacy Development (I’m surprised an acronym hasn’t been made out of that – SLD?). If I were to gauge on simply his oral reading I would think the Initial SLD is a better fit, but his comprehension and already image of himself as a reader and writer make it clear that Transitional captures the whole picture better.

That said I’ve taken goals from both Initial and Transitional as found in  Becoming a Reader by O’Donnell and Wood:

  1. Increase fluency in reading and writing through practice.
  2. Vocabulary building (sight words and word identification strategies)
  3. Develop awareness and use of study strategies (introduce new strategies to compliment the ones he already has)
    1. Support strategies Zachariah already has through modeling and practice.

Initially I had #3 and #3.1 as separate goals, but once I re-read them I realized that they are really focused on the same thing.

After the IRI Franklin and I talked about the program, he expressed (a couple different times) a desire to be ready for school next year by studying. I was thrilled to learn that he likes to read and write (and he said this in front of Adam, so this could be a good match). I asked him what he wrote and he said that he would take words that he liked (but dont’ know what they mean) and make up a story using them (awesome huh!?). I talked about Shel Silverstein and we went to the library to show him some poetry. He asked if he could take one of the books out to take home and read and I said absolutely! and he picked out a book by Silverstein to take home.

Adam rejoined us and we did some creative writing, responding to these prompts:

  1. What if furry ninja squirrels ruled the world? (there is a story behind this one but I won’t share it now)
  2. What if time froze and you were the only one who could move?
  3. Respond to a picture: Write a story that explains why this person was turned to stone and sunk into the ground. (The picture was taken in Amsterdam by yours truly)
  4. Write from the perspective of an inanimate object – lamp, hat, toothbrush, table, pencil, orange, conch, ham sandwich, couch

Franklin wasted no time getting to work. He did take issue with his handwriting, which after we compared is no worse than my own and better than Adam’s. He tore a couple pages out of his comp book and started over a few times too. I urged him to just write, that it wasn’t getting passed in or graded (I should have mentioned these things before hand) and that it was just an opportunity to write. That eased his mind and we continued. Adam needed more time again to finish writing. Between this and his knowledge of all the books that Franklin talked about earlier I am beginning to doubt Adam’s claims of not liking to read or write. I’ll have to keep a watch on that. When we shared the two boys just talked about what they wrote about, I read mine. I wanted to model sharing exactly what I wrote, mistakes and all, to get them prepared to do the same tomorrow. In my classroom, I usually give the writer the choice of reading it verbatim, paraphrasing, or having someone else read it for them (this is a last resort option that I don’t offer up front). With only two and the trend towards just talking about what they wrote (which is fine but we need balance) I will let them know before they write that they will read their words afterward. I have really enjoyed and benefited from the requirement to put my purpose into words. I always try to ask “Why am I doing this?” but often I offer myself a very generic answer. Having the goals to tie the purpose to also ensures that what I am doing has meaning.

Purpose plays a big part in how we read. To demonstrate this I used an exercise found in Cris Tovani’s, I Read It, but I Don’t Get It. It centers on a short text that describes a house. The first time through I asked the boys to underline anything they thought was important. Adam immediately started to underline, Franklin was a pensive and then looked up and asked “How are we supposed to know what is important?” He was looking for a purpose for his reading! (This supports his placement in the Transitional SLD) I told him that was a great question but that this first part was purposefully vague. When they were done I asked what they marked and why. Adam said he underlined a line that let us know what the two characters were doing and also just kind of underlined everything. Franklin said he underlined the driveway and said that he was looking for answers to Who, When, What, Where, Why. Again I was very impressed that he had given himself a focus for reading (superstar!). We discussed the difficulty of knowing what was important with no purpose. Then they read it again in the perspective of a home-buyer, then again as a burglar. They had a much easier time picking out the important parts of the text and I think planted a seed of the importance of having a purpose while reading. Tomorrow I’ll ask Adam to think about the purpose the writer had for writing Hatchet and reference this activity.

You can get the text and instructions for this activity here:

Thinking about how this impacts my teaching makes me realize that this is a prime example of me knowing good strategies, being aware of best practices and not using them. I’ve had the Tovani book for almost 4 years – I’ve never used this activity before, even though I highlighted and post-it noted it and have done the exercise in a class as a student. I have so many resources that I feel overwhelmed at where to start looking for inspiration. Add to that all the electronic resources available and it gets hard to manage. The Gdoc that is being created through this class with strategies and activities will be a great place for me to start when I begin to plan for next year. These are the strategies that I use: ones that teachers share, you know they work and when you know the person telling you about it you can ask them follow up questions. I don’t know if Tovani would respond to an email about a specific strategy in one of her books (though to be fair I haven’t tried).

Franklin is confusing me, making a prediction was almost impossible for him but setting his own purpose for reading is sophisticated thinking. The inconsistencies bear watching and the holes that are appearing after only one day give me a good place to start working. Tomorrow’s post will focus more on this.


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