Nonreader to Skilled Reader (Pt.II): Eli's Story

Read Part I of Eli’s story here.

Eli and I have had less than two hours of tutoring one-on-one after school together, and I’ve already noticed—along with his teachers—that there’s a noteworthy change in his attitude. He willingly attends our sessions, and his homework-related temper tantrums have significantly reduced.

Using simple poetry makes tutoring seven-year-old Eli a delight.

    I show Eli Tip, Top, Tap, a poem I’ve used on other students that is easy, engaging, and relatable. As part of our lesson, we search online for appropriate pictures that match the poem.

Using this poem lets me reinforce the sound-symbol relationship through repetition of the words “Tip, Top, Tap.” By stretching out each word and spreading out the sounds (T-I-P ), Eli is able to hear three distinct sounds, instead of just one. This makes learning easy. Adding an action to reinforce each letter—such as crossing my index fingers to form the T shape—increases additional connections.

Eli_ TipTopTap.png

When Eli asks, “Can I write my own poem?” he has gone from engaged learner to active learner.  He changes only one line of Tip, Top, Tap, but the poem becomes his. He has ownership of the poem, helping him feel more connected to the learning process.

At our next session, the first poem Eli reads is his own.

Each time Eli and I work together, he becomes more of a skilled, accomplished reader. Not only is he connecting the letters and sounds, but he’s taking away much more than that:
· Reading is meaningful.
· Words consists of letters.
· Letters give consistent sounds (especially in the beginning of learning to read).
· Words work together to create a picture.
· Reading and writing poems is fun.
· I can do this.

Although we have only worked together for a couple of hours, I’m surprised how quickly Eli is learning; how speedily he is connecting the dots and engaging in reading to make sense of the text. My teaching is targeted to meet his needs and he is growing as a reader. Through these sessions, Eli can take away more from the traditional classroom.

Finally, after nearly three years, Eli’s progressing as a learner, reader, and student.