Some of you might remember the post I wrote back in August when I was surprised to discover that the Boy, a second grader, had been placed in a split first/second grade class with mostly first graders. I was sad and nervous because all of his friends would be on the other side of the school, and I was afraid he would become disconnected from them. Also, I was worried that it was a comment on his low reading level.
Well, the school year is creeping (lurching?) towards its end, and I thought I would give you an update.
In short, it's been fine--great, in fact. I really like his teacher. She is so encouraging, and she is his biggest fan. She "gets" him in a way that his teacher last year never did. She understands his strengths and she helps him work on his weaknesses. She is particularly good with reading and writing. His first grade teacher last year gave students a lot of worksheets for which they would cut out letters, paste them back on, and write words and maybe sentences. This year's teacher, in contrast, has the students (second graders and first graders) read actual books--daily--and discuss them and write in journals. They talk about detail, voice, narrative structure, and grammar. I am blown away by how well her first graders are writing and reading, especially compared to the work I saw from the first graders last year with the other teacher.
As a second grader in this teacher's class, my Boy went from reading way below grade level to reading almost at grade level. Several things contributed to his progress. At the beginning of the year, the teacher made sure to give him easy books to build his confidence. Then, she gradually moved him along. Also, he has participated in a program called Natural Reader that has helped his fluency. Most of the second graders in his class worked regularly with another teacher who would visit the class a few times a week.
In addition, we had him assessed by Lindamood-Bell. Some of you may be familiar with their program. I've had many friends who worked for the company, and I've always heard good things about the work they do with students. During February, they had a discount on their diagnostic evaluation, so we took the Boy. He scored in the 99.9th percentile on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. However, on the Symbolic Imagery Test, he scored in the 7th percentile. This means that he had great trouble visualizing letters and words in his head. We were not surprised by this low score. The Boy has a terrible time with spelling. Terrible. And he can can see a word, learn it, and then not recognize it two lines later. So he wasn't learning sight words, which meant his reading fluency was very low. In short, he's probably dyslexic (he has many of the symptoms, including the fact that he holds his pencil in a fist grip), but they don't really use that label because it's not very specific.
He spent four weeks doing work at Lindamood-Bell. He had instruction four hours a day with one other Boy. It's definitely a pricey program, but it costs less for "group" instruction (which for him, consisted of just him and the on other boy). Despite the fact that he sometimes he was sad about having to work so hard each day, he really thrived there. The teachers were fantastic, he really liked the other Boy in his "group" (who was a fourth grader), and he made great progress. His symbolic imagery is much better, so now he can "see" words in his head. As a result, his fluency has gotten much better. Mostly importantly, he seems happier.
Spelling will always be a challenge for the Boy*, and we'll have to keep practicing his imaging skills. But, all in all, it's been a great year for his learning. I look forward to lots of reading practice over the summer, and I think that now, sometimes, he even likes to read a little bit--if it's the right content at the right level. He's definitely proud of the work he's done.
And his regular school teacher was very supportive, and after he finished the program, she had him give some spelling lessons to the class. That made me very happy.
On the social front, he has maintained all of his good friendships from last year, and he has made another good friend from the grade below him. They are still all girls, but they are the best kind: the kind that love bugs, nature, camping, and my Boy.
*My husband has the same symbolic imagery problems. And he does not spell well. I remember one of the first little love e-mails that he sent me, saying I was his "sweat hart." From him (who has a BS in aerospace engineering), I learned that spelling skills are not, in fact, always correlated with intelligence. He tells me that, even now, he cannot picture the word derivative in his head or be sure how to spell it, even though he's probably written it thousands of times in his life. For those of us who are good spellers, isn't that wild? The brain is a very interesting place. And a bit quirky, I'd say.