Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Meeting the teacher.

I just got back from a meeting with my 3rd grade daughters teacher. A couple of weeks ago she had contacted us to develop an “academic plan” because our daughter had scored below proficient on the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Tests (PACT). Overall the meeting went relatively smoothly, but we did throw the teacher some curveballs.

First, the teacher was rather surprised when we informed her that we thought that daughter was getting a little too much homework. For example last night our daughter had to put her 15 spelling words in ABC order three times (30 minutes), do a reading worksheet, (30 minutes), a math worksheet (20 minutes), study her 1, 2, 3, and 5 multiplication facts (20 minutes), and read for 15 minutes and fill out her reading log (20 minutes). On top of this, I had to take her to soccer practice (1.5 hours), feed her (30 minutes), shower (30 minutes)… you get the idea. I got the impression that the teacher wasn’t receptive to our complaint, but she did say she would consider splitting up the ABC order and the writing the words three times into separate nights. We have noticed that combining these two exercises intimidates our kids and causes them to get a little whiney. The teacher did say that the homework should only take them 45 minutes a night, not including the studying and reading… she obviously doesn’t have kids of her own. I am considering video taping our daughter after school so the teacher would have more realistic expectations. It was also mentioned that many kids turn in wrong and incomplete homework that it’s obvious the parents haven’t checked it. Maybe our high expectations contribute to the problem. When it comes down to it, if her teacher assigns it, then our daughter will do it and do it right.

The other issue that the teacher and we both agreed on was how the district handles after school tutoring. She was required to have an academic plan because she didn’t meet standards, but she didn’t score low enough to qualify for the tutoring program. Talk about stupid. Maybe next time we should tell her to do worse on the tests…

Now on to the crux of the problem, her reading comprehension. She is bright and doing well in every other subject, but reading is a struggle for her. My guess is that a large part of her problem is recognizing new and/or long words. For some reason she gets really frustrated when we ask her to sound out the words. I have discovered that she will often read a passage and say that she understood it, but when I ask her to read it out loud, she will not know several key words. I know there are some good teachers out there… any suggestions?


elementaryhistoryteacher said...

I agree. That amount of homework for your age child seems like alot. Many teachers think about how much time an assignment would take in a more structured school setting. They forget that homework is done at home.....there are many distractions even with involved parents like you and your wife. A 20 minute assignment at school could take up to 15 minutes longer at home.

The only advice I can give about the reading comprehension is read, read, read. While I am not a worksheet queen I have found that small short reading passages 1/4 to 1/2 a page long are perfect to help kids build their comprehension by teaching specific strategies like word attack, sequence, main idea, etc. I would expect that you might have a teacher resource store somewhere close by. Here in my area we have a store called The School Box which has numerous resource books for teachers and parents. These resource books are targeted to specific reading levels and targeted to specific skills. You could do a passage or two per night to improve her skills. Of course, we want students to read chapter books but it's very easy for kids your child's age to become lost in the numerous details of the story. Shorter passages are great for building skills. I usually advise my parents to have kids use a 3x5 post-it note when they finish a chapter in a novel type book. When they finish each chapter they can jot a line or two about the details on the post-it. This builds comprehension, summarizing, and writing skills. Stick it on the page at the end of the chapter and move on. When you finish the book all the stickies can be read through to refamiliarize yourself with the details. They can be mixed up for practice with sequence too. My students find this is beneficial before they take an Accelerated Reader test.

Hope some of this helps!:)

rory said...

Elementaryhistoryteacher, thanks for the great advice. My girlfriend and I just read your post and thought your suggestions were excellent. We had already thought about the reading books and the small passages, but the index cards/sticky notes suggestion is a very ingenious idea. My blog is already paying off.

rory said...

p.s. we are actually going to try that idea with all of our kids.