Having taught reading to students on a number of different elementary grade levels, I recognize the importance of training them to recognize various bits of information that they can use to assist them in drawing conclusions, making predictions, solving problems, and, generally, in achieving a better understanding of the situations being presented in the text that they are reading. Besides preparing them for the rigors of standardized testing, these skills are applicable throughout life. Obviously, they also play a prominent role in achieving the goals presented in both their math and science curricula, where solving problems is a key element of learning. The primary activities in my unit will help to teach various lessons related to children’s detective fiction. These activities will attempt to further the development of each student’s ability to identify and utilize specific material to understand a particular situation.
My Particular Teaching Situation
At present I am teaching in an EOL (Essentials of Literacy) classroom. The twenty third-graders in this classroom rank lowest among the three existing third grades. In reading, students in third grade classes are grouped according to ability: high, medium, and low. Generally the high group is reading above grade level, the medium is on level, and the low group reads below level. Besides being academically below grade level, almost all students in EOL exhibit a variety of personal and behavioral problems. Although each child wishes to perform well, these problems often get in the way. There is considerable interpersonal conflict in class, resistance to academics, and acting out in various forms. Despite the obstacles, a wide range of progress is achieved.
During a different time of day and for a shorter time period, I am also teaching my Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute unit from 2003, in one of the regular third grade classrooms, to students who represent all three reading levels. Though the general ability level is somewhat higher than it is in EOL, there are similar academic and behavioral problems, though they are usually of a lesser magnitude. I plan to use elements of my unit in both of these settings, but the material and approach will be designed primarily for use in a regular third grade classroom with similar characteristics.
Though I plan to teach my unit in a third grade classroom, it is adaptable to a number of other grade levels. Having taught third and fourth grade for a number of years, I feel the material is especially suited for either of these grade levels. With appropriate adaptation it could be used on an even higher grade level, especially fifth or sixth grade. A middle school group of low achievers also could be a target of this unit’s material.
The Students I Teach
Before I progress any further with my unit, I think it is important to include a brief general picture of the school and classroom in which I will be teaching this material. I will also include a very general personal appraisal of the circumstances surrounding my students’ lives. These comments in no way should limit another teacher in a different circumstance in deciding to use my unit’s suggestions. My remarks are included primarily to explain my motivation and goals.
I work in what is presently a kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school with sixteen classrooms containing a total population of about four hundred students. About ninety to ninety-five percent of these students are African American. In recent years, my classes have consistently reflected this percentage. Of the remaining members, most are Hispanic/Latino along with one or two white students. The ages of most third graders in our school vary from those who have just turned eight to a few who are close to eleven. This variation is primarily a result of retention. The students come from a variety of social-economic backgrounds and home situations. A number of them have a relative other than their mother or father as their primary care giver. Their academic ability and the level of their general knowledge vary considerably, but it is often below the norm for children of this age. Many are performing below their potential. Some are members of families with multiple problems. There are few who do not face difficulties in their lives. Most, though not all, parents or guardians are supportive of school. Most want to be and are helpful, but often are not sure of the best way to go about assisting. Often the struggles of everyday life interfere with their efforts.
At this point of their lives, most students still enjoy school, but many are beginning to face considerable difficulties both academically and behaviorally. They are starting to understand that their school career will have some bearing on their lives beyond the present, though their actions often are influenced negatively by peer pressure, their lack of basic skills and general knowledge, difficulty in establishing long-term goals, and the lack of positive self-image, especially regarding their academic abilities. Nevertheless, at least on the surface, they still have high aspirations regarding their future.