Using SOLO to become a Reading Ninja

This post comes under the “learning with a 6yr old” category. I am not primary trained and thus have a lot to learn about teaching at that level (particularly patience) but I like getting involved with our sons learning. I also live in fear of what traditional teaching at both primary and secondary level can do to kill the joy of learning in students. I don’t know enough to critique Nico’s teachers and it is inappropriate to do so in this sort of forum, but we have been getting a bit worried about our sons reading and attitude to reading. In particular, he has stagnated on level 8 books which is below where he “should” be (given pushy parents expectations and national standards).

Now there is a whole lot of stuff in that. You could say, boys often take longer, he’ll catch up and so on but what freaked me out was that he just stopped enjoying reading and started saying opposite words when he was reading, reading the books upside down and stuff like that. When Nico was 4, he loved learning, weather it was figuring out where the pee went in a men’s urinal or how far out the Oort Cloud was in the Solar System. He would also make up cool stories that went on and on. He has now learned that the expected length is three sentences and doesn’t want to write beyond that.

Anyway, we decided we needed to be more proactive in helping Nico with his reading. I am new to twitter (I only have 66 followers) but I thought I would put out a plea for help from the twitter community. I got some great ideas, particularly from @helenOfTroy01 @1Mvd and @digitallearnin . They offered some great online digital learning websites. This pretty much confirmed one of our thoughts. That is, that the books Nico was given at school really had zero appeal to him but when presented with choice and games to play online, he loved it and launched into it. He was also happy to have a go at books that were challenging or way more tricky than what he was getting at school. This is another thing I am worrying about and that is the use of ability grouping (which has a pretty low effect size according to John Hattie’s research compared to allowing for acceleration which rates much higher). I am caught on this though as maybe there is value in being in a reading group where you feel “safe” – not sure.

The other thing we have done these holidays is buy a couple of sets of “Top Trumps” which is a card game where you compare different things (deep sea creatures, wonders of the world, dinosaurs, Starwars characters and heaps more). Nico cannot get enough and it is full of literacy and numeracy. In four days, he has learned to say numbers in the thousands and is sounding out all sorts of complex words and feeling success at doing so.

The other thing we have noticed is that Nico would prefer not to read if he thinks he might get something wrong. To help with this, I am working on a SOLO rubric for reading. The purpose is to make a pathway to success visible to Nico rather than him just not being able to do it (which is what he thinks). I only just started on this and I talked through a first draft  with him at bed time. We decided that extended abstract was “knowing and showing that with effort and effective strategies you can have a go at anything (reading) even if you get really tired. You don’t give up.” This we are calling being a “Reading Ninja”. It was my wife’s turn to read to/with Nico tonight (and I wanted to write this all down) but after the front loading stuff with the rubric and the appeal of being a “Reading Ninja”, he was unstoppable. On a challenging chapter book he was sounding out and nailing words he had never read before. He didn’t want to stop until they at least got to the bit where the characters would start fighting.

When/if I get the rubric done, I will post it. I am sure there will be teachers that can improve or modify it. Also, a big thanks to the PLN – which took me a while to figure out is my slowly growing personal learning network.


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