28 Oct Slice of Life: I Just Guess…
“So tell me, how is it going with your reading goals?”
“Not so good.”
“Hmmm. Why is that?”
“Well, I’m supposed to use my strategies when I come to a word I don’t know, but I don’t.”
“Okay. What do you do?”
“I just guess.”
It took all my self-control not to burst out laughing. This may not be the best answer from a reading perspective, but from an assessment perspective I love it! I love that this student knows his goal and how he is progressing towards his goal. I love that this student is in a classroom environment that makes him feel safe to share how his learning is going for him. I love that he opened the window for me to truly understand him as a reader.
So often I find myself teaching the same strategy lessons over and over again. This reader made me realize he doesn’t need those lessons. He knows the strategies and he even can show me how to use them, but in the moment he chooses to guess.
“That is really interesting. Why do you think you do that?”
“Well, usually it works. If I guess it is usually right and it does not take as long as using the strategies.”
“Can you show me how you guess?”
He shows me how he uses the context of the sentence and the story to think about what would make sense. He explains how the word just comes to him when he guesses in this way. What is interesting to me is that he is actually using the strategies in his goal. He just does not perceive himself using them because the process has become more automatic for him. It does not feel difficult enough to be a strategy so he assumes he is guessing.
This reader does not need another lesson to see me explicitly model a strategy. He needs me to notice and name what he is doing as a reader. He needs me to validate what he is doing and show him that he is not randomly guessing –he is actually strategically reading for meaning.
Student errors are our windows into what to teach next. Objectives are important, but we also need to observe and listen to how the process of learning is going. Our readers need to check in with us, ask questions and show us what is working for them. When we take the time to listen and observe, as well as teach, we can differentiate our instruction to meet then needs of the learner. We find that the more we include our readers in assessing the process of learning the more we understand how to scaffold their next steps instructionally.