Miss A is into week 3 of her series of lessons. She is a very quiet English As A Second Language student who is already showing that she is much more capable than her initial testing indicated. (The kind of surprise that I like!)
Miss A has moved from reading Level 6 to Level 9 books. She wrote 16 words independently at the beginning of Reading Recovery, and by the end of last week she was up to 33 words that she can write by herself.
CHOOSING A TOPIC FOR WRITING
Immediately before the writing section of the lesson on Friday she read Kitty Cat And The Paint. Miss A was invited to show me the part of the book that she liked the most. (She really enjoys the Kitty Cat books. She began tentatively contributing to conversations over a Kitty Cat book. I saw her first smile and heard a giggle.)
In this story curious Kitty Cat would not move away from a can of red paint despite Fat Cat telling her to go away. Angry Fat Cat chased Kitty Cat and in the process knocked over the red paint.
Miss A is not one to freely talk. She quickly told me that she liked the page because Fat Cat ran after Kitty Cat. When I asked why Fat Cat did this she told me it was because she stayed at the paint. I would probably ask other students to tell me more detailed information but I want Miss A to feel comfortable with the process of composing and if I ask too much of her she tends to ‘freeze’.
I said, ‘Let’s write about that. How are you going to start your story? About Kitty Cat or about Fat Cat?’ She said ‘Kitty Cat stayed at the paint’. I had her write that part down before I asked her what happened next. ‘Fat Cat ran after Kitty Cat’. I asked her to read what she had written so far and got her to orally add her ending. I repeated it back to her and offered her an alternative. ‘Do you want Kitty Cat stayed at the paint and Fat Cat ran after Kitty Cat or do you want Kitty Cat stayed at the paint and Fat Cat ran after her? She chose the latter. I would have accepted either response.
Miss A independently wrote Kitty, Cat, at, the, and, Fat, ran (for the 1st time) and her.
I decided that stayed was a good opportunity to show her how a known word could help to write a new word. At the moment she does a lot of solving ‘in her head’. I decided that she could use counters and sound boxes to hear the parts of stayed. She was able to write ‘s’ and ‘t’ in the 1st 2 boxes and wrote ‘a’ in the 3rd box. Then I quickly wrote day on her practice page. (I already knew that she could write this word but to save time I wrote it.) I then asked her to circle the 2 letters that made the ‘A’ sound in day. I then told her that day and stay sound and look the same so she added y to make ay in the 3rd box. I asked her how she was going to finish the word- with d or ed and she correctly wrote ed.
The other 2 words that required assistance were paint and after. She heard pa–t for paint and a-t –for after. I wrote the letters ‘in’ for paint as Miss A could not hear them even when I stretched the word aloud for her. She added the ‘f ‘for after following my slow stretching of the word. I then wrote the familiar word mother and explained how the ‘u’ sound at the end of both mother and after was represented by ‘er’.
The only other teaching decision I made was to have Miss A change her lowercase ‘c’ to ‘C’ for Fat Cat and change ‘P’ to ‘p’ in paint. I could have also asked her to make the ‘s’ smaller for stayed but I let it go. During another lesson I will spend time on the placement of tall and ‘hang-down’ letters.
The whole process from the beginning of composing to the finished writing takes 10 minutes of the lesson so the teaching decisions, prompts, and the writing of known words and letters, must be fast. I have to decide what are the best ‘teachable moments’ in the limited time that we have. It is more efficient to show Miss A how to solve words (e.g. analogy- using what is known to get to the unknown) compared to learning to spell specific words. That being said, the more words that Miss A can write on her own, the more time and energy there is to write many varied words. I chose the word after to be a word that would be useful to learn so she wrote it 4 more times on the practice page.