Jerrod is a 12-year-old seventh grader enrolled in a large middle school. He experienced a great deal of success during his elementary school years. His parents reported that Jerrod could recite the alphabet by age 3 and seemed to relish his time playing rhyming games. He experienced little difficulty learning that speech sounds correspond to letters and letter combinations.
A review of his records indicates that Jerrod’s word decoding and reading comprehension were at grade level in elementary. Jerrod took great pleasure in going to the library every week with his grandparents to pick out books to read. His grandparents always praised Jerrod for his ability to tell them about the books he had read.
Currently, however, Jerrod is struggling with the reading demands placed upon him. Ms. Xavier, his English teacher, reports that Jerrod received A’s and B’s on his book reports during the first nine weeks of school. For the most part, her students were allowed to write reports on books that they had selected. Ms. Xavier states that Jerrod’s grades for the current nine weeks, however, are not up to her expectations. He is receiving low C’s and high D’s in her unit on American Poets. Most of the activities require Jerrod to write his interpretations of various poems.
Ms. Simone, Jerrod’s science teacher, reports that he is experiencing a great deal of difficulty understanding the 7th grade Earth Science textbook. She says that Jerrod sounds like a great reader because he can sound out and re-blend even the lengthiest and most difficult of science terms. Yet she believes that he comprehends very little of the important information that he reads. Jerrod seems to understand more if material presented in the text is preceded by a classroom discussion or combined with experiments or other hands-on experiences. Mr. Rockford, Jerrod’s World History teacher, reports a similar situation in his class. Jerrod reads his history text fluently, but he doesn’t seem to understand and remember the big picture when tested on it later.
Jerrod’s mother and grandparents are beginning to worry because Jerrod looks frustrated when his homework requires him to do a lot of independent reading. Recently, he said, “I don’t know why I can’t answer the questions or write the report because I read every word!” He is also losing interest in reading for pleasure, except on Sunday and Monday mornings when he wakes up early in order to read the Sports section in the newspaper. Although he is no athlete, he remembers every statistic found in the paper and states strong, evidence-based opinions about the coaches and athletes that he reads about each week. His grandfather has introduced Jerrod to the Business section of the newspaper and Jerrod seems quite adept at decoding the intricacies of stock quotes.
- Strong phonological abilities (rhyming skills, speech sound-letter associations)
- Excellent word decoding skills (pronounces difficult words, reads fluently)
- History of success in elementary school
- Remembers and analyzes facts from the Sports section of the paper
- Adept at interpreting the stocks in the Business section
- •Has a support system in his mother and grandparents
- Enjoyed checking out books at the library
- Wakes up early to read the sports statistics
Areas in need of Improvement:
- Struggling with current reading demands
- Receiving low grades on poetry assignments
- Not exhibiting adequate comprehension of science or social studies texts
- Difficulty remembering the big picture from social studies readings
- Appearing frustrated during homework and becoming impatient with himself
- Beginning to lose interest in reading
Possible Management Plan:
Help Jerrod develop an understanding of the reasons behind his recent difficulties in reading. It is important to make Jerrod aware of his strengths and areas in need of improvement, as well as instill in him a sense of hope for improvement. Develop a management plan with a balance of accommodations and interventions, as well as an integration of Jerrod’s strengths and affinities.
Leveraging Strengths and Affinities:
- Make use of the support system that Jerrod has in his family. Involve the mother and grandparents in helping and encouraging Jerrod along the way.
- Provide opportunities for Jerrod to read about areas of interest or affinity, such as sports statistics, in order to expand his knowledge in a certain topic.
- Encourage subscriptions to special interest magazines, and trips to the library or bookstore for leisure time to try to keep Jerrod’s pleasure in reading alive.
Accommodations and Interventions:
- Ensure that Jerrod is familiar with the important concepts and information contained in his textbooks before he reads independently. Use advance organizers, or previews of what the reading passage will cover, to provide him with a framework for the reading task.
- Introduce new vocabulary words to Jerrod before he reads a passage, especially with technical vocabulary words and abstract concepts that are typically found in content area textbooks such as science and social studies
- Teach Jerrod how to create concept maps out of his reading as one technique for consolidating and organizing concepts he is reading about. Jerrod should keep these maps as study tools for upcoming tests.
- Relate textbook readings to Jerrod’s personal and/or prior experience. Provide him with as many direct experiences as possible, such as conducting experiments, working on projects, etc. Activate his prior knowledge about a topic by beginning with guiding questions, having him talk about what he already knows about the topic, list things he would like to learn, and make predictions about what the reading will be about.
- Model the processes for Jerrod that you go through when invoking strategies of higher thinking during reading. For example, show him how you elaborate on a reading passage by making connections between the text and your own knowledge about the topic, cite the evidence from the story that you used to make an inference or draw a conclusion, and describe the picture that you create in your mind to help you understand and remember what you read. Then, provide Jerrod with guided practice using each of these techniques.
- Teach Jerrod how to use reading comprehension strategies such as paraphrasing and summarizing. For example, guide Jerrod in differentiating main ideas from supporting details, deciding what to include or exclude in a summary, condensing a long passage into a brief restatement, etc.
- Give Jerrod a higher order thinking strategy to follow when reading, such as RIDER (Read-Image (make a picture)-Describe-Evaluate (check to make sure image is complete and accurate)-Repeat (with next sentence or paragraph)). This technique for visualization and active reading can be applied to reading literature, thinking through science problems, memorizing historical events, etc.
- Encourage Jerrod to monitor his level of understanding while he reads, for example, “Does what I’ve read make sense to me so far?”, “Do I need to reread any parts or talk with someone to understand better?”, etc. Encourage him to use self-testing techniques as a guide to determining which information he has mastered and which needs more attention.