Three Waves

December 4, 2013

One of our guests was the one who’d told me the “trick.”  I’d been telling him about the 4th grader I’d been working with (around the corner at our local elementary school), and he said he’d been a teacher, too.  Since I’d explained that my young charge couldn’t read, our guest patted his own arm 3 times, beginning at the top, then in the middle and at the wrist, one pat at a time, at first slowly, then in quicker succession, then finally sort of sliding down all three spots into one smooth motion – to illustrate the trick of sounding out an unknown word for a beginning reader, then blending the sounds together to form the word.  When I’d shown it to Pete (name changed), he’d grasped the concept immediately and had begun using it.  He used it today during our 45 minutes together as he was reading me pp. 8 – 17 in The Cat in The Hat, and I was thrilled to see him do it.

A focused fiend in figuring out and finding new words, Pete’s attention and determination are unwavering as he both reads and listens to me explaining things during our sessions together.  I sit in awe and delight as I watch the lights in his eyes shine brighter as he reads line after line.

Today, we began with planning a paragraph.  (Our assignment by his teacher has been to tackle the theme of topic sentences as we ferret them out in pre-written paragraphs).  Because he’d been so excited the other day as he was telling me all about his sister’s upcoming birthday events, I thought he might want to use those experiences to write his own paragraph with his own topic sentence.  So today we began with Pete first taking notes about the birthday excursion.  When he told me about the laser tag, I said, “OK.  Write ‘tag.'”  He did.  For the bowling, I said, “Write ball,'” so he did that, too.  And so he continued punctuating his animated descriptions of the activities with his one-word notes.  In trying to steer him towards writing the topic sentence for the paragraph that we would write tomorrow, I asked him what each of those activities had in common, expecting him to say something like, “They were things that we did.”  But he said that each one involved speed.  Oh.  “Right,” I thought.  That certainly was a common theme.  My incorrect low expectation was duly noted and corrected mentally.  His astute answer will be the perfect jumping off point for his topic sentence when we pick it up again tomorrow.  He was excited about finishing it.

When he’d read today’s first page of The Cat in The Hat, I knew he was ready for me to say to him, “Now read it with expression.”  He took the bait and he re-read the sentence.  I grinned at him and said, “Do it with more,” so he took a deep breath and tackled it again, reading like the champ that he is – like he was onstage.  He read the whole page that way.  I pumped my fist up in the air and practically shouted.  He beamed, and continued reading.  Time was growing short but he finished 3 more pages.  At the end, and as the rest of his class was gathering their things together for recess, he finished his reading and I shot both of my hands in the air, declaring him the undisputed reading champ of that 4th grade table in the back of that room.  I signed his tiger paw sheet (the school’s redeemable reward system) and he got his own things and went into the line by the door.  After I’d gathered my things and stopped behind them in the hallway, he looked back at me, grinned and waved.  He did that 3 times:  three waves and three grins.  My heart was full and I left Garnett Elementary School for the day.


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Location, Location, Location.

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