Just because the students are small, doesn’t mean the hurdles are any smaller. Stephanie Carlisle, a graduate student working toward a masters in Teaching at Boston College, knows this. Twice a week she comes to Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton to work on basic-skills literacy with first grader Victoria Cole. Victoria is an amiable child and a willing student; the kind of student that any teacher would love. But, not unlike many of her peers throughout the public school system, she lacks the necessary tools to be a competent reader and perform at grade level. For the past two month, Ms. Carlisle has been working to get her there. ”
The thing that stands out the most about Victoria is her positive attitude. She rarely turns down a challenge; in her writing assignments, she would rather write words that are difficult for her to spell than change her creative ideas to make the work easier. Her hard work is paying off, too – in the weeks that we’ve been working together, Victoria’s reading and writing have come a long way.”
On any given day, Victoria can be seen, pencil in hand, working diligently to combine letters into words and words into proper sentences. When reading, she may furl her brow at a certain word, but she’ll sound out each letter until she gets it right. Recently, they’ve been working on “sight words”. These are words that a reader will know automatically (ie: the, when, other), and are a necessary bridge to becoming a fluid reader. Each sight word is written out on a note-card and together they work through a stack. For each sight word Victoria gets correct she colors in a big star in her tutorial journal, which Ms. Carlisle has drawn in prior to the start of the session. This opportunity to combine academics with coloring is only the start.
“One fun activity that we have done is the ‘Make Your Own Mad-Libs’ book. Victoria gets to customize the story by filling in the blanks and illustrating the pages herself. When we finish, she gets to take the books home to read with her family. This has been a great way to practice identifying and writing the letter combinations that we are learning, and the final product is a book that she can be proud of.”