A quarter of my grade 7 students are at a beginning reading level. None are on grade level for reading. Can you help me help them?
— K., Alaska
Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. To answer your question, I consulted with a colleague, Rita MacDonald, co-leader of the NSTA-WIDA program. Making Science Multilingual. She says:
“Students who are not yet able to read and who will take a long time before they can read still have a need and a right to learn science. So, we need to:
- Reduce the reliance on text as a way of conveying important information… [by sharing it] through a variety of ways—not just [text].
- Immerse them in hands-on activit[ies] to experience science concepts.
- Surround activity with oral language, supported by writing key words and phrases on the board. Most meaning comes from immersion in an activity, to which we later attach language (spoken or written), so shared activity and conversation about it is a powerful way of conveying information.
- Set up student working groups to talk about ideas, so your non-readers hear the ideas without textbooks.
- Use video to convey info, and later use a short, simplified reading to reinforce the idea
A test that depends on reading will never give an accurate portrayal of what non-reading or non-English-fluent students know.”
Talk with these students’ English Language Arts teachers or school resource teachers and perhaps check out their school records for insights and ideas to help you. Don’t be dismayed. Just do your best to improve their reading; you won’t likely get them to grade level in one year but any improvement is great.
Hope this helps!
Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni from Pixabay