Thursday, February 5, 2015

Using the visual strength to compensate for lack of linguistic

I couldn't not write about this, as it was such an amazing revelation today, but I'm stumped and thought I'd put it on "paper" to see what my colleagues and friends say about it.

One of my eighth graders is really struggling to read.  His fluency scores tipped me off that there might be some phonics issues underlying, so I gave him a screening test for phonics.  It was a quick and simple one that tested nonsense, single-syllable words, and he passed it with flying colors!  He also passed the next section of it, which was real multisyllabic words.  In the past, I would have stopped there.  He passed.  No deficits.  But something was telling me to dig a little more, so I gave him a multisyllabic nonsense word screening.  What I found on this assessment stunned me.  

He couldn't put two syllables together to create a multisyllabic word!

Now I was confused by this because he can clearly read multisyllabic words, as was demonstrated by the first screening.  So what happened?  I couldn't figure it out.  Until today.

We were sitting together at a table working on silent-e syllables.  He was flying through reading the single syllable nonsense words.  And then he got one wrong.  He stopped, and I tried to talk him through it, but he couldn't do it.  

"Miss," he said.  "I can't think of a word that looks like it."

"What do you mean?" I asked.  

"I mean, I usually just look at it and think of a word that looks like it and then change the first letter or whatever."

Oh my goodness, I thought.  He's using his visual strength to cope for his lack in linguistic.  I almost fell out of my chair.  How do you teach a child who has come up with such an amazing coping mechanism to forget it??   He's fourteen.  Is it possible to fix this?  

I'm considering working a phonics program with him that starts with phonemic awareness using color tiles instead of letters to appeal to his visual side in hopes to strengthen his linguistic, but . . . . he is fourteen and he leaves me in four months for the high school.  Time is not on my side.