Generalization/application of skills...HELP

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by peachacid, May 8, 2013.

  1. peachacid

    peachacid Companion

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    May 8, 2013

    I work with a student who is basically an emergent decoder, though his comprehension skills are excellent. In fact, he tested on grade level for verbal comprehension (he is seventh grade). We use Wilson to improve his decoding skills.

    He is doing a great job at reading the sound cards, and can tell you that a says /a/ and even that a can also say /A/ (lower case = short vowel; upper case = long vowel). However, he has trouble applying this to reading words in sentences. I remind him constantly that he knows the sounds, and help him break apart words, but it seems that he just guesses at words. Every time. The problem that compounds this is that since he understands what the story is about, he can guess at words that make sense.

    Has anyone had success in getting students to generalize skills, or apply decoding skills they learn in isolation to context? My current strategy is to have him look at the letters and analyze the sounds they make, but it doesn't seem to STICK. This is definitely part of his disability (he had seizures when he was a baby that caused some damage) but I know if he could decode he could read so well... Thoughts????
     
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  3. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    May 8, 2013

    There could be a couple of issues that may explain it on a more cognitive level, such as poor working memory or executive functioning issues that limit his ability to apply skills in context, but those tend to not lead you to very practical solutions.

    My first question would be what steps are you using to help him integrate letter sounds into words. Teaching a sound in isolation then expecting it to be used in the context of a passage may be requiring too much. Instead, focusing on decoding individual words, and then target words within sentences, may be helpful. For example, you might start off with short /a/ by just using flashcards with letters (a, t, s, b for example), then move to flashcards with decodable words (using only letters that have been taught), then move to decodable sentences, then decodable paragraphs, then passages. If you notice him breaking down at a particular point (e.g., good with letters but not words), the you may need to break that skill (decoding words) into further substeps, such as just blending two letters together (e.g., not even working on "cat" and "tap" but on "-at" and "-ap").

    The bottom line is to identify exactly where his ability to "transfer" is breaking down, and to provide instruction at that specific point, then gradually building up to higher level skills or harder transfer settings without hitting an error wall.

    Another issue could be that he has learned those letter sounds to some degree, but not as well as he needs to, so he may need more practice with those letter sounds - more repetitions, more multi-modal instruction with those sounds (e.g., magnet boards, sand tracing), etc. Sometimes it appears as though a child has mastered a skill, but it hasn't yet become automatic, so when it comes time for application in an instructional environment with higher demands on working memory and executive functioning, those skills aren't used because they require active processing, and there isn't enough room available. Teaching to automaticity is a way around this - moving it from the part of the brain that processes new or novel information to the part that processes information more automatically.

    Hope this helps a bit...
     
  4. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    May 8, 2013

    One other note because you mentioned seizures. There are definitely situations in which kids may have had such significant trauma to the brain that things like working memory are so impaired as to render certain tasks extremely difficult. I do believe there may come a point where you start to consider accommodations in addition to interventions (e.g., teaching words as sight words if the student's visual-spatial processing/working memory and orthographic/logographic fluency are higher than the student's phonological processing/working memory), but that would generally be something tried after quite a while, and likely in the context of a school-based neurological assessment (though not necessarily). I wouldn't recommend canceling good phonics instruction at this point, but I did want to acknowledge that the possibility may be there at some point given potential neurological issues with seizures.
     
  5. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    May 8, 2013

    Sorry - one more comment. There may be a few specific strategies at different breakdown stages too if you can let us know at what point he's breaking down. For example, if the issue is attending to the skill in a larger context of a passage, one strategy might be to simply go through a passage and underline all short /a/ sounds as he comes to them. This might be help cue his brain to pay more attention to short /a/ by externalizing the attentional expectation with the underlining strategy.
     
  6. peachacid

    peachacid Companion

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    May 8, 2013

    So what I usually do with him is sound cards (he is about 95% accurate with these -- stumbles on /ch/, /ph/, and sometimes on the vowels), then we read words with those letter sounds in them (both real and nonsense; he is at about 90% accuracy without prompting on these, and with prompting he's at 100% accuracy), then we read lists of words with those letter sounds in a book (similar accuracy levels), then we read sentences and passages from the same book, all of which have the sounds in them. He does very well with all of this. The breakdown comes when he is to read authentic passages. Even with unfamiliar words in the decodable book, he can apply the strategies we've talked about. But with authentic reading, or reading on the computer, there is a breakdown.

    I like the idea of underlining the sounds in a passage -- I will try that this afternoon and see if it helps.

    The other issue is that he does not remember his sight words from week to week. Some he is 100% correct on all the time, but others -- such as the word "the" -- he frequently reads, in context, as any other word starting with th that you can think of.
     
  7. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    May 8, 2013

    Cool - will be interested to hear how the underlining works. There are a few other strategies that may be helpful too if that doesn't work.

    In terms of the sight word issue, that seems to add evidence of some sort of executive functioning or working memory issue. Could be as simple as time of day (more fatigued later in the day causing lower capacity for working memory), or that some passages require more processing power given to the content of the passage, leaving less room for attention to detail. Could also be an over-reliance on context clues based on a poor history of decoding, and not inhibiting those guesses. A self-monitoring strategy may be helpful there, such as placing checkmarks on a self-monitoring sheet after double checking for reading each sentence correctly. Could start off with doing this aloud with you also checking for accuracy, and turning it into a game (e.g, if he makes fewer than x errors on words he knows, he gets a point). You could fade those strategies over time, hopefully leading to internalization of those self-management strategies. Just some thoughts...
     
  8. bros

    bros Phenom

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    May 9, 2013

    You might want to ask the parents about how the seizures affected his brain.

    When I was in HS, one of the fellow students in my Adaptive PE class had a massive seizure when she was 1 year of age, and is pretty much unable to use her left hand.

    When I was 6, I had a series of seizures that lasted 1 hr 45 minutes. When I came to, I had some memory issues (such as the fact that I wasn't able to remember anything that wasn't significant before the seizure i.e. I could remember my name, name of pets, family members, teachers, school, address, phone number, etc. but I could not remember what I had done the days or weeks before the seizure). Oddly enough, I can remember the first 15 minutes of the seizure.
     
  9. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    May 9, 2013

    Can you use a window at first to get him used to reading each word. This way, he only sees one word at a time. Move on to a line tracker and have him read word by word making sure he reads what is on the page.

    This practice is NOT for comprehension but for learning a new way of reading exactly what is on the page.

    Move on to phrasing after this method because learned.

    It is VERY hard to unlearn the guessing strategy. It takes time and a very directed approach to break the habit. The difficult part is that the progress made isn't measureable in the area of reading comprehension. Students will seem to be stagnant or take a step back while allotting reading time to unlearning habits developed because of ineffective instruction in previous years.
     
  10. peachacid

    peachacid Companion

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    May 16, 2013

    Some teacher along the way told him to just mumble nonsense if he didn't know a word...so now that's what he does. I have been concentrating on showing him the parts of the words he does know, and he has been reading MUCH more smoothly. He will shrug and say he doesn't know for a word, and I tell him, "Yes, you do know. Look at this first part..." and that's about all I have to do to get him to say the word correctly.

    He qualifies for ESY and is on the list to attend, but I know his parents are sending him to Puerto Rico for a few weeks...so hopefully he attends some of the ESY at least. Summer is so frustrating!!! We have 14 days of school left -- including teacher days -- so there is no time...and I am worried the progress he's made will be gone by next year. =(

    @Bros - His parents recently signed forms saying he could be tested by a neurologist to determine what's going on with his brain. He's 13. Why didn't someone recommend this YEARS ago??? It is so frustrating. Why didn't someone say, "Hey, this first grader doesn't know the alphabet. Let's do something!"? Why didn't his second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, or sixth grade teacher do anything? >=(
     
  11. EdEd

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    May 16, 2013

    Glad to hear you're making progress peachacid - hopefully summer won't be too much of a setback!
     

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