"Let me read it to you again!"
Today was one of my proudest moments as a teacher; for the first time, Suniah and Makiera read books all on their own! Both of these students developed a strong foundation in print awareness, alphabetic principle, and reading comprehension in my class last year, and this year they have learned to read several basic sight words. With knowledge of letter sounds, sight words, and "word attack" strategies, they were fully prepared to start reading.
I worked with Makiera first; we picture walked through the pages (essentially predicting what the book will be about based on the illustrations), discussed the relevant vocabulary, and reviewed some techniques of good readers. I read the title of the book aloud to her, then encouraged her to read the pages. She was great! She pointed to each word as she read, and used a combination of picture cues and beginning sounds to figure out unfamiliar words. Makiera read two level AA books (the first level of a series of leveled readers) with minimal assistance, putting her squarely at an AA instructional level.
Suniah was next and as a student she's naturally much more excitable than Makiera. When I told her we were going to practice reading today she nearly fell on the floor giggling! I was a bit more poised, but I think we were equally excited. We began by reading Big, a level AA book from Reading A-Z, and Suniah caught on fast. I then conducted a running record as she read The Funny Cat; she needed help with one word on the first page, but was able to use this information to figure out the pattern in the rest of the text and read the remainder of the book with only one more slip-up. Suniah was so excited to have read all by herself! She got to the end of the book and recalled, "That cat was so funny! He wore glasses!" We went back through the text and recalled all of the other things that the cat wore, and then she proudly proclaimed, "Let me read it to you again!" I happily obliged.
At the end of the day, I explained to Makiera's father and Suniah's grandfather what they had accomplished today. Both men were thrilled, and both girls were eager to reread the books for their families and talk about the text. Researchers and policymakers alike often note that the achievement gap is evident in pre-k; I see the realities of these statistics everyday in my classroom. However, on days like today, I am reminded of the tremendous power of my work to close that achievement gap and truly set my students on a different life path.