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Monday, March 20, 2006



I see so many kids struggle with reading in my heterogeneously-grouped eighth grade classes. What can I do to help them?????????????????


Kat is a teacher of English in the middle grades. Her blog is A Teacher's Outlook on Education

Kat's cri de coeur:

Ah, so why not just differentiate? Well, from my experience, the people that cry "differentiate" the loudest are either administrators, superintendents, educational theorists, or special education personnel that do not interact in a classroom. Virtually all students are going to make an effort if the principal is doing the teaching for a day, and the principal will then crow about how successful differentiation is if you are good enough to do it. Differentiation is exhausting!

In my opinion, differentiated instruction does a grave disservice to both the highest and the lowest of our students. Some muddled middle group might get what they need, but the vast majority of the students are getting the proverbial shaft.

If my children could not read at grade level, I would want them getting direct suppport at their level. I would want them with their academic peers. If you cannot read "See Spot Run", exposing you to "Romeo and Juliet" is not the best use of your time. Surely it is more important that a child learns to read at their level and makes leaps and bounds of growth than feeling like a complete idiot in a class full of kids that know what's going on. I know. I was there.


There are several issues here:
-The late age at which reading problems are diagnosed. Why aren't reading issues caught sooner? Rather than blaming any one method of instruction, it seems clear that a child whose teacher observes him closely and knows what to look for would catch his reading issues, whereas a child lost in the shuffle or with a teacher untrained in how to spot vulnerabilities in reading would not. I have even met kids with severe language processing impairments whose problems were never flagged for intervention, or whose parents never followed up on the issue, allowing the school to drop the matter.

-The difficulty of catching a child up once s/he has been identified as being behind in reading. Here is a child who is learning to read, while other children are reading to learn. So the child needs reading remediation, but accommodation in subjects that s/he could otherwise do well in, if it weren't for the reading issues (including word problems in math and textbooks in science). This is assuming that there aren't any other processing issues or vulnerabilities.

-Which leads me to the source of my own experience. My students with LD have far more going on than just a delay in learning to read. They also have significantly delayed vocabulary acquisition, slow processing speed, working memory impairment, and attentional vulnerabilities. A few students even read "at grade level" but would not be able to function in a mainstream English class due to the speed and complexity of discussion and the writing requirements. Then there are the small minority of students who don't progress in reading remediation, despite the use of multisensory programs and small group instruction, which some people seem to think is the magic bullet. It isn't. Processing words phonetically requires several layers of analysis and a heavy demand on working memory, which some students find extremely laborious and difficult.

I believe we should stop equating LD with "dyslexia" since the categories overlap, but are certainly not one and the same.

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