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.