On Tuesday, I was working with classroom teachers using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System for the first time. We were in awe at the amazing information we were learning about students. One of the teachers shared an observation she had made about one of her strugglers. She said, “It was so strange. Every time she came to a word she didn’t know, she kept looking at me. She wanted me to give her the word.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I had just finished reading What Really Matters in Fluency by Richard Allington. In that book he warned that the tell-tale sign of a child who has been “remediated” is one that exhibits just that behavior! These readers are often interrupted by well-meaning adults who want to “correct” their miscues. Instead of learning to monitor their own reading and developing strategies for solving unknown words, strugglers learn to let other people do the work for them.
The bright side of this story is that the Benchmark Assessment invites “talk” about each book that the child reads. During the assessment conversation, this reader shared how she pictured the red eyed tree frogs. We shared our response to her response. She lit up. No longer did she seem meek and unsure of herself.
As I reflect on this experience, I am realizing that we often make the mistake of emphasizing the struggle with struggling readers. I am wondering how we can shift the emphasis to reader and in doing so, help children emerge more confident and proficient?