This past Friday was parent-teacher conference day. Since my first grade reading class is a class specifically designed to address the instructional needs of children who are below grade-level benchmarks, I was going to need help in convincing parents that their children were indeed making progress. The phrase "below grade level benchmarks," often translates in the mind of a parent that their child has a learning disability or is in dire need of a tutor or is struggling to the point of concern. All of this, of course, is untrue. In my opinion, my class seems to be filled with intelligent children who are creative, hard working and well-adjusted individuals who make some of the deepest higher-level thinking connections. However, today was a day in which I had to convince many parents of this. Society, I believe, has made many parents feel that if their children are "behind grade-level standards" today then they are doomed to struggle for the rest of their lives to catch up. It was my job to put these parents at ease so that they would not unconsciously transfer this anxiety onto their children. How could I do that? Enter, once again, my precious i-pad.
As I wrote in a previous blog, I had found an inexpensive recording app and downloaded it onto my i-pad so I could record my first graders reading and then re-play it for them to hear. I wrote of how the children would break into wide smiles at hearing themselves read and finally believe that they were indeed "readers." I also wrote of how the i-pad could be used to teach them strategies in decoding words as I could pause the recording and ask the children to ask themselves how they could have figured that word out. Now I was turning to my electronic friend to help me teach parents.
Concerned parents always come asking how they can help at home with their child's reading. I could verbally instruct them, but now I had a different strategy. Parents could now listen to the voice of their child reading on the i-pad while they followed along visually with the actual text that their child was reading. I could then pause the recording and feed the parents some prompts that they could use when reading with their child at home. Simple prompts that all reading teachers use, such as:
"Does that word make sense there?"
"What else can you do to figure out that word?"
"Try skipping that word, reading to the end of the sentence and then going back."
"Try breaking that big word down into a smaller word by covering some of it up."
"Do you see a smaller word in that big word?"
"Can the picture help you?"
"Use the picture and the letters-sounds together."
"Try re-reading that sentence again."
Parents were forever thankful. What seems like common sense to a teacher may not be so obvious to a parent who hasn't had training or experience. The i-pad was a wonderful way to give a 5-minute workshop to each set of parents who sat down with me to speak about their child's reading. I'm sure all teachers have given these types of mini-workshops to parents before without the aid of the i-pad or recording. The i-pad just helped to simplify the process that much more.
The best part was that I was able to e-mail these recordings of the children to their parents so they could use it at home with their child to see the pride in their child's face firsthand. Such an experience for a parent has to be priceless.