– Maurya Buchanan, Pearson
The Trouble with Ducks
That first day of a new school year is always exciting and filled with my 3 P’s—promise, plans, and progress.
My name is Mrs. Fletcher, mother of three energetic boys, 14 years married to Ron who teaches high school. I’m the second grade teacher at the Oxfordtowne elementary school. I’ve been teaching here for 6 years, and this is my journal. It’s hopefully about the ways I helped my second grade students become better readers.
This past summer one of my students, Olivia, fell in love ... with ducks. She discovered them at the zoo near her home, squawking and paddling around in the duck pond. I overheard her talking to her newest best friend Ana before class started.
“I know all about ducks. You can ask me anything and I know the answer.”
I couldn’t help but smile. One of the ways you can recognize a second grader is they like to tell everyone about the facts they just learned.
“Did you know that baby ducks are called ducklings?” Olivia proudly told me later that morning. “And that the daddy duck is a drake. I learned all about ducks at the zoo. I fed the baby ducks!”
In the week before school began, I looked online at the previous EOY—that’s end-of-year for new readers—benchmarks for reading. I needed to find out where my new crop of kids finished up before starting this year.
Since last year, my school has been using a program called aimswebPlus. I plan on using it to give Olivia and my other students a beginning of the year benchmark assessment. We always give a beginning-of-year—BOY—test to all students when they start a new school year. It’s a chance to really find out where they are and compare the test results of last year’s BOY test to EOY test. From what other teachers tell me, using aimswebPlus to compare EOY to BOY provides accurate facts. Up until now I’ve given the kids some exercises the first few days to see how the students are doing after the summer break. It used to be the best I could do, and I always worried I missed some of the kids who are really struggling.
This year I’m starting with last year’s spring benchmark data from aimswebPlus. I’ve also heard that the tests involve less paperwork and grading. I love that idea! Plus it’s fast and you can see where they stand compared to each other. I can also find out how well they perform in the foundational skills of reading and math as soon as they finish the test. That can make a big difference in how fast I can put a lesson plan together and teach, and how fast they improve.
I gave almost half the class the aimswebPlus assessment on the computer and the Oral Reading Fluency—ORF—test one-on-one. After I checked the ORF results, I saw that Olivia had slipped further backwards during the summer. Summer slide affects some kids more than others and Olivia was not where she needed to be to meet the end-of-year targets set for second graders—below grade, not quite at risk for special ed, but still needing extra instruction. I tried to find books that would engage and motivate my students to read. I believe that enjoying what you are reading is a big step to becoming a good reader.
Olivia seemed to have fallen in love with ducks so I looked for books about ducks. Her scores showed her Lexile range at 290. “I’m a Duck” by Teri Sloat was a good choice. “Lucky Duck” by Barbara Derubertis would be harder, but she could start by listening as my parent volunteers read to her, and then she could begin reading by herself.
I remembered another book I read that my second graders loved called “Make Way for Ducklings.” The story was full of good characters and words that could help Olivia read at the grade level standards set for her age. It was above her Lexile score, but the kids loved it last year when I read it. My only concern was that, like many second-graders, Olivia might get frustrated as she struggled with the new words. She might give up. It was a reach, but I decided it was worth a try and added it to the other books as a goal for her to reach at the end of the term. She could read the other books and hopefully work her way up to the ducklings.