First grader Arianna swings her feet back and forth as she sings the alphabet song. Once she finishes her smile lights up the room.
“Arianna knows when she has done a good job,” said Erin Karrels ’06, a graduate student in associate professor Patricia Scanlan’s interactive literacy interventions class. “Whether it is a book that she brings from home or a challenge book that I provide, when she finishes she is proud of herself.”
The course, a requirement for reading licensure, focuses on literacy intervention techniques that can be used to improve a child’s reading. The students then apply those techniques to tutor first through fourth graders who have some difficulties reading.
“The goal is to meet the needs of the children and give them support when they find reading difficult,” said Scanlan. “This class gives the graduate students the ability to work with different ages of children. The mission is to get the child to have interest in reading by having a positive experience and gaining the confidence of being a strategic reader.”
The course objective
The goal of the tutor is to develop lesson plans that help the child grow to his or her reading potential. Multiple, informal assessments are given to each child so the tutor (graduate student) can learn the child’s strengths and needs and build a plan to help make the child become a better and efficient learner of reading.
Karrels finds it a constructive challenge to change from creating and teaching lesson plans for her classroom to develop one-on-one tutoring plans for Arianna.
“It is a different teaching experience from my normal kindergarten classroom. With this course I interchangeably work with kindergarteners to first grader Arianna,” said Karrels. “Children have different personalities and skill levels. In interactive literacy interventions we (as graduate students) are learning lesson planning, strategy development and how to continue teaching reading skills by building on the children’s strengths and focusing on their needs.”
A typical session between the tutor and child consists of word work exercises that aid the child in recognizing sight words, notice familiar parts in words and writing and connecting sounds and letters with words. Tutors use singing, writing or repetition to make learning fun for the child.
The last 15 minutes of every tutoring session the individual pairs come together with two other pairs and share something that they had read that day. It is another opportunity for the children to apply the strategies and techniques that they have learned.
“When I finish a book, I’m proud,” said fourth grader Bryce, another student being tutored as part of the program. “I look forward to reading the new books each week.”
His statement speaks volumes for how he’s grown through the tutoring sessions, as he was hesitant to read aloud when the one-on-one sessions began.
“We really are working on reading strategies,” said Tracey Starck ‘03 who tutors Bryce as part of the graduate class and teaches developmental reading at UW Oshkosh. “We sound out words, we spell words, we talk about how to comprehend the books, we summarize and we write.”
Bryce successfully demonstrates his reading comprehension by retelling what he has learned about ice boats, dragon boats and snake boats from Making Waves by Michele Spirn, the book he just finished reading. He later used some of those ideas to write a paragraph about the type of boat from the book he would most want to race.
In Bryce’s tutoring sessions, as well as in her reading classes, Starck’s goal is to convey an excitement for reading and learning. “It’s the idea of finding books that we love — ones that excite and interest us. We have to read other books as well, but it’s the books we love that really inspire us to be better readers,” she said.
For Bryce, inspiration comes in the form of Star Wars books. “He does a wonderful job of reading these during the group session each week.”