I’m a math coach, but I love the opportunity to sit in on English language arts (ELA) trainings because it gets the mind turning about parallels between the two content areas. Math and ELA are different in a lot of ways, but I’m curious about how they are alike.
A couple weeks ago I sat in on Independent Reading Level Assessment (IRLA) training. Our trainer strongly advised against coaching an early reader to chunk text because she said it was developmentally inappropriate. She said the appropriate scaffold would be to coach the student to use the initial consonant sound and use context clues. She made this assertion strongly and nonchalantly, confident that it was the right move in the given situation. She went on to say that we need to take into consideration what students CAN do and build from there. She warned against instructing above where they were, saying that the students development in literacy can look like Swiss cheese, with major holes in underlying concepts.
I wanted to jump up and cheer.
It was great to hear her say this and gave me more confidence when giving the same advice to teachers who are dealing with struggling students in mathematics. So, a fourth-grade student can’t add and subtract using the standard algorithm… Do they understand the bundling of 10 ones into a 10? Ten 10s into 100?… And so on? How about decomposing? Can they skip count by 10s and 100s? Did they ever make sense of counting on or the importance of “making a ten?”
Let’s take the time to figure out what students CAN do and build on it to move them forward to where they need to be.