This time of year can be bittersweet, with many students demonstrating remarkable growth and others still struggling with some basic skills. Awana, uniquely, can do both, depending on the day or even the hour.
I recognized her needs early on and have been working intensely with her one-on-one in addition to our small and large group lessons. Awana started making connections in December when she wrote her friends’ names in the Writing Area. She recalled the formation and order of the letters for most of her friends and had developed the fine motor skills needed to write those names. She could not, however, identify the letters or the sounds in their names. That “wow” moment taught me the importance of Awana’s friends as a reference point for her further growth in literacy along with the need to build on that foundation with instruction that helped her make connections between words, letters, and letter sounds. If Awana chose to draw and write about dogs, we thought about the sound in dog. Awana thought about the dog, listened for the /d/ sound, said, “like in David’s name,” and then wrote the letter D.
As I worked with Awana with this plan in mind, I noticed that her friends’ names weren’t the only useful resource. Our transition chants involving letters, which we sing every day, also helped her make connections during choice time and small group. For example, we move from the daily schedule routine to a letter exploration activity by chanting, “Big ‘L’! Little ‘l’! What begins with ‘L’? Lunch, lunch, /l//l/ Lunch.” Recently, the class wrote a letter to the mayor about the littering problem in Newark as part of our study of the environment. To help us get writing, I thought out loud for the children, saying, “Hmm…litter, what do you hear in litter.” Before I could “struggle” with the difficult challenge, Awana’s hand shot up. She responded, “/l/, Big ‘L’! Little ‘l’! What begins with ‘L’? Lunch, lunch, /l//l/ Lunch.” She then proudly came up to the board to add the letter “L.”
And yet Awana does not always retain the information. Many times during the day she responds by shrugging her shoulders and remaining silent or just calling out random letters (or sometimes numbers). I realize some of the inconsistency may be developmental, but I have never seen such dramatic differences in the same child within the same day.
There is also the issue of her mother. Awana receives the least amount of support from home out of all of my students. I hope to send my class off in June with a toolkit filled with games their families can play over the summer to help them retain the skills they have gained. Awana will need this support the most, but given the difficulty her mother has had in keeping appointments with me this year, I fear that Awana won’t get it and these hard-won skills may fade.