Need Suggestions From The Educators Among Us!

Decorating By Shelle_75 Updated 10 Nov 2008 , 10:07pm by Shelle_75

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Shelle_75 Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 12:49pm
post #1 of 18

Hi all! I know there are several teachers among our "family" here, and if you have suggestions on my situation, I'd appreciate them!

My son is in second grade this year. He is (usually) a straight A student. This year, however, he is bringing home Bs and Cs on his reading tests, and getting a B+ over all. Which, I realize, a B+ is great, and I'm not complaining, but it's the few Cs on the tests that concern me.

They have a reading book, and every week they read a story in it. They go over in class what the main idea and supporting ideas are, along with a few other activity sheets relating to the story. Then they have a test on Friday. He is required to bring the book home and read it to us during the week. I've also been having him bring the book home on Thursday nights the last two weeks to go over the story again. He totally seems to understand what he's reading, and he answers any questions I ask him about the story correctly. The test on the story consists of 8-10 multiple choice questions, and two questions that he has to write the answer out to. The two problems we seem to be having are 1) The multiple choice questions seem confusing even to me at times, and 2) We don't seem to be concentrating on the right parts of the story to study at home. It seems like whatever part of the story I focus on with him at home, it's a different part that he's asked about on the test. I should add a third problem: at times he seems not to read the whole question on the ones he has to write the answer out to, he only answers part of what is asked or gives a slightly wrong answer. It's possible he could be rushing.

Any ideas how I can approach this with him, his teacher, or even change what I'm doing at home? I don't want to come across as a micro-manager to the teacher, but at the same time I want him to get the right skills now so he doesn't have bigger problems down the road.

Thanks for reading if you made it this far!

17 replies
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Shelle_75 Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 3:28pm
post #2 of 18

My apologies....totally meant to post this in the lounge!


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leahk Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 3:46pm
post #3 of 18

Here's my $0.02:
Speak to the teacher. Tell her just what you wrote in your post. Then you can ask her what skill areas her questions are focused on, so that you can practice those skills with him at home. If she is using tests from the reading series, there may be another version which she might agree to give you as a "practice test". Chances are she is asking questions that show reading comprehension skills, rather than the content in the story. Look at some of the tests- are the question similar types of questions: why did.... do ....? or sometime along those lines.
Once you know which skills she's looking for, you can try making up your own tests, and work on test taking skills with your son. Work on reading a question thouroughly, and reading all the choices for the multiple choice questions.
Hope this helps. Kudos to you for being an involved mom!

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darandon Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 3:57pm
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I would actually copy the email you sent to us and forward it on to her. I have sent the teachers my daughter has and most times they respond back during free time with answers or help. I don't think that they would think you were micromanaging. They would be very happy to know that they have a concerned parent.

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bellejoey Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 4:04pm
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I have worked with 1st and 2nd grade, teaching and aiding for 5 years. I still substitute teach every now and again. I am sure that other school teachers will step into this post, but because the school year is still very new, I would request a conference with teacher. She will and should know best how to address this ..ohh..he's sooo young too! It sounds like he is definitely having trouble reading and understanding the multiple choice questions and instructions. This needs to be brought up with the teacher right away. If he is having trouble now, she needs to know. Share with her that YOU also feel that the multiple choice questions are confusing as well. You can't help your child if you don't understand either. Maybe there have been problems like this that have already been brought up by other parents regarding their children as well. It sounds like you are doing more than enough reading and studying time at home with him. At the same time, you don't want to overwhelm him. You will NOT come across as a micro-manager. Go and see teacher, see what she can and will do and then just take it from there.

Donna (bellejoey)

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cous2010 Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 4:28pm
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I work with special education students as a Support Assistant and a Co-Teacher. I think contacting the teacher is the BEST idea. Teachers appreciate a caring and concerned parent and you contacting her might let her know that he needs some extra help.

I hope you two are able to get him some help in the classroom and at home icon_smile.gif Good Luck!

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absijails Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 4:33pm
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Teachers don't mind talking with concerned parents - especially parents that have seemed to think the problem through. You've obviously thought it through. Call or e-mail the teacher, whichever you are most comfortable with...and don't worry about thinking as a B+ as a drop if As are what you are used to seeing. It is.
Are they doing practice worksheets that are similar to the test? The wording the same, etc.? The brain is really quite amazing in it's memory techniques and if you are only doing the practice at home and not at school, he may not be doing quite as well just because the environment in which he is used to learning the information is different.
I would also talk to your son to see if there is anything else going on at it all subjects or just the reading that you've noticed the difference?
It will all work out. Just keep the channels of communication open with everyone!

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Narie Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 7:59pm
post #8 of 18

Talk to the teacher. What leahk said about understanding her focus is important. Also if he has not had multiple choice before that could be what is throwing him off. The written answer problem sounds like he is not reading the question carefully or asking himself in his own words what the question really is. It is important to correct these problems now, his vision of who he is as a student and how he approaches the written word is being formed right now.

Ask him to read the question that he did incorrectly and then ask him what the teacher wanted to know. He may well be answering the questions he thought she asked correctly. Think how frustrating it would be if you gave what you thought was the right answer only to have it marked wrong. Particularly if you don't understand why it was wrong.

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Bijoudelanuit Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 9:49pm
post #9 of 18

Definately contact the teacher... leave a phone message, send a note with your child... email them if possible. Email is so quick and easy, I love parents who email. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to have a parent who is concerned and wants to better the education of their child!

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funcakes Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 11:47pm
post #10 of 18

I read this post because I thought, now here is something I can help with, but nope I was wrong. I have taught first and second grade for more than two decades, but we never give out letter grades. We communicate with parents what skills each child has acquired and what they will focus on next. We use real literature to read and discuss all the story elements and work on reading with fluency and expression among other things. I just don't understand exactly what your child's teacher is trying to teach. I am so afraid that your little guy will learn that reading is not very enjoyable. Reading should be fun, my kids are so happy when we have extra time and they can read independently. I don't want my students to just know how to read I want them to love to read and continue to do so after they leave school, or what's the point in teaching reading???

Sorry for the soapbox speech...

I am sorry to say that I have watched so many kids take tests that I am completely jaded with them. The most gifted student I every taught could not pass a multiple choice test. He could find one way that every answer suggested could be correct and his reasons were always logical. I have watched other kids not read a single question, but make a "pretty pattern" and get really good scores.

So, talk to the teacher, she is there to help. Online and in teacher stores there are booklets (like black line masters) that focus on test taking skills. Kids actually have to learn HOW to take a test. You can find one that is specific for second grade. Teach him to start his answer to the open ended questions with several of the words from the question. Have him read the question and his answer and ask himself "have I answered what was asked" before he goes onto the next question.

Be really proud of the Hard Work he is putting in. You know the grades you get in second grade really don't keep you out of Harvard! Highly successful people are the ones that learned to work hard and keep going when they met a challenge, not the ones with the highest GPA.

Too bad you're not near Delaware. On route 95 there is this big billboard. It is a photo of Albert Einstein. The words next to it read: In school he was no Einstein! We must remember that each of us is an individual and has a gift and talent that can be expressed in a way that is unique. It's great to be a high achiever in school, but it is not the only way to be great.

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Shelle_75 Posted 24 Sep 2008 , 8:04pm
post #11 of 18

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful replies & suggestions. I will definetly be talking to his teacher. Like I said, it's not the B+ that worries me, I just don't want him to be having trouble with his test taking skills at such an early age, being as he'll need those skills throughout school.

Thanks again!

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absijails Posted 26 Sep 2008 , 11:40pm
post #12 of 18

funcakes, I love your soapbox about teaching reading. I only taught for a short time, but my mother has taught for nearly 30 years and I've heard her complaints about basal readers for most of them. I, too, think that reading should be taught from real sources and be made fun. Children need to feel really successful at reading, especially at young age.
As an aside... my best friend lives overseas and her daughter (in K) goes to a very small, private, English speaking school. She was given a reading test where she was asked to read a book with a pattern (I see a dog. I see a car. Etc...) Well, she got to the last page and told the teacher she couldn't read it. The teacher asked her why and the little girl said, "There's no 'a.'" The last sentence was 'I see pink soap.' She was told the test was over and she failed. I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it. She's 5. The pattern changed. She got every other sentence right, she didn't fail. I'm still steamed about it.
Anyway, Shelle_75, I hope it all works out for you and that your little boy starts doing better.

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Bev55 Posted 27 Sep 2008 , 12:59am
post #13 of 18

I agree with the other posters I believe your first avenue should always be with the teacher. I am a teacher, and I am always available to talk and work with my parents. In fact I have set up conferences with everyone of my parents. I hope to have them completed by the middle of October. At these conferences I'll discuss the problems and strengths that I've observed, and I hope my parents have questions about the educational plan that I've for their child.

As your son gets older the questions that are being asked get more abstract and requires more thought. It's not always just read the passage and find the detail you need to answer the question. Here in Florida I am teaching my third graders to read each question carefully and to put their thoughts in complete sentences. They will be required to give short responses to questions in the fourth grade so I am preparing them for it now.

I am glad to hear you are working with your child. I have many current students and past students who really needed to have a concerned parent involved in the learning process. I hope it works out for your child.

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tracey1970 Posted 27 Sep 2008 , 1:20am
post #14 of 18

I too agree with the other posters.

I am the Department Head of English and Modern Languages at the high school where I work, so I am sort of familiar with what you are saying. I think the US system is somewhat different from ours in Canada, but many things are the same. I am also used to teaching mostly 16, 17, 18 year olds, versus small children, but your concerns are system wide.

I would definitely start with the teacher. We always appreciate parents who take an interest in their child's education - too few of them do, especially at the level I teach! The fact that you help your child so much at home is already a bonus in my book.

Multiple choice questions are often destined to confuse kids, as is any sort of "standardized" test style stuff. Most teachers don't like this sort of testing, but it's now a reality in our job because education is so data driven these days. Does the teacher have a choice in using these, or is it a non-negotiable type test being used? Maybe that could be considered?

Regardless of what possible solutions there may be, please start with the teacher. I always appreciate that as a first step.

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Shannie13 Posted 27 Sep 2008 , 1:21am
post #15 of 18

I had to reply to this because it is just to familiar, not pertaining to my children but to myself. I will honestly admit that I have issues with multiple choice questions even now in my adulthood, and with word problems in math. I have almost perfect reading comphrension and that is where I find myself so similar to your son. The teacher may be able to help but if not you may want to look into another resource that can better explain the mechanics of the multiple choice question. Once I understood the mechanics of the question and the wording of the answer I did much better, still takes me twice as long on a test but I get a much better result. I hope you and your son get the answers you need!!! Highschool was not much fun when the tests started to roll out icon_wink.gif


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Bossy Posted 27 Sep 2008 , 1:36am
post #16 of 18

I have 30 years experience teaching early childhood/elem. education both general education and special education. Start with contacting your child's teacher! As the previous post said, it may just be a test taking issue, not a lack of skills. As your student progresses, they move from learning to read to reading to learn, which takes more higher level thinking skills that have not been expected of them in the first 2 grades. Developmentally all students rate of development varies naturally and you would expect to see variations in progress towards the end goal of becoming a proficient reader. There are 5 basic areas of reading; phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. If your child's individual assessments show age appropriate mastery of each of these skill levels, do not worry about the end of untit/week type of tests. There are ways to teach a student to take different kinds of tests which may ease test anxiety, but it is most important that you nuture the love of reading and learning.

PS I can't type worth a hoot, but I can read!

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tchrmom Posted 27 Sep 2008 , 10:29pm
post #17 of 18

The best way to be a better reader is to read, read, read. I agree with the previous poster who said that emphsizing this too much may make him not like reading. Are they really doing one Basal story with worksheets for a week at a time? That seems like a lot for just one sotry. Are they reading anything else? I sure hope so. One thing you might do besides help him the way that you have been is read aloud to him at home. Choose something that he is interested in, but is a little too hard for him to do on his own-- or that he can read, but would like to share with you. Take turns reading a page each and then discuss it with him. The more that you talk about what is going on, the better. Someone above mentioned asking the higher-level "why" questions. "How did ___ feel when ____ happened?" "Why do you think so?" "Are there any characters you would like to play with or have as a friend? Who? Why?" Especially on the opinion questions, he might talk more if you share your opinions too. I think you are smart to worry less about "grades" and specific skills and more about whether he's getting the overall idea of reading and whether he continues to enjoy it.

Possible books:
Magic Tree House
A-Z Mysteries
Katie Kazoo Switcheroo
Cam Jansen
Boxcar Children
Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew
Sports books by Matt Christopher

Some kids really like magazines:
Ranger Rick
Sports Illustrated for Kids
National Geographic for Kids

He may be ready for some of the Newbery Award Winners also. Other classics like Charlotte's Web are also good choices.

Also, if your child has an interest in a topic (weather, racing, horses, bugs, whatever), find some nonfiction. This is great for asking questions too.

Hope all of this helps. Thanks for being a concerned parent. Teachers need your help to do what is best for you child, and they appreciate parents who try to support without micromanaging. Bringing your concerns to her, is NOT micromanaging.

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Shelle_75 Posted 10 Nov 2008 , 10:07pm
post #18 of 18

Thank you all for your replies. Sorry I'm so late to update this, but in case any of you are interested, we did talk with his teacher at P/T conferences. She is extrememly pleased with our son. She said, and I agree with her, that there is nothing wrong with B's unless you know your kid is capable of A's. She said she thinks our son's only problem is not reading the questions all the way through, and that she stresses this and also checking over their work before they hand in the test. Our son did start doing better, and pulled his B+ up to A- before report cards came out (and had straight A's overall, of which we are VERY proud).

To answer some of your questions, this is not the only reading they do, it's just the only time they are tested on it. It's a once-a-week test based on the story they've gone over in class, and their grammar and stuff like that for the week. He still continues to miss things once in a while that I know he knows the answer to, but overall he is doing great and is a terrific reader. He even makes up homemade books and things to read to his baby brother and sister.

Thanks again for all your input!

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