As of Yesterday Evening

I planned to rest for 30 minutes, no more.  I felt exhausted.  Robert had a  session of speech therapy in Boston which ended a few minutes after five. Robert’s dad met us in Boston and together we drove for two hours in the afternoon traffic.  It did not help that we stopped at Costco to pick up proscription and glasses.  We finished dinner a few minutes after eight. I decided to relax  in front of the TV.  Just for half an hour, so without rushing I could  drink a cup of hot tea.  I fell asleep.

Robert woke me up at quarter to ten. “Work, work, work”, he demanded.  “Work” in our language means “study”.  Robert wanted his daily dose of learning. I was exhausted and hardly awaken. “We will work tomorrow”, I suggested.  The demand intensified, “Work, work, work!” Robert was already at the dinning table checking worksheets I had prepared in the morning.  I could put my foot down and refuse, but that would require energy and  a state of heightened alertness.  At this time, I lacked both.  So I joined Robert at the dinning room table.  I tried to hide a two page story about a donkey who wanted to be a puppy.  With a corner of his eye, Robert noticed my maneuvers and  from  a pile of workbooks and folders, quickly pulled out the story.

I hid the story, because I was not able to prepare Robert for the reading. I did not read it carefully  myself. I did not create mental story map which would help me pace the reading or plan additional activities for  before, during and after the reading.  Clearly, I was not ready for a reading instruction. I wanted to postpone it until the next day.  Robert would not.

Robert began his daily work with vocabulary worksheets.  Although considered to be adequate for a second grade level, Robert’s understanding of the words: “gaze, scurry, pounce”, and a few similar was  wobbly.  So I assisted Robert in completing worksheets but I have done it almost mechanically.  I  provided very limited support to Robert as he completed two pages of Daily Geography which related to New York State Tourist Map.  He answered the questions from lessons 30A and 30B of Saxon Math 4, almost independently, asking from time to time for my clear acknowledgment that his answers were correct.  As soon as I nodded, or said,”Great” ,he went on.  (That need is  a leftover habit from years of expecting to hear, “Good job.” after every small task Robert performed.)

Whenever Robert did not need my attention, I tried to familiarize myself with the story Donkey Wants New Job.  I could not concentrate.  Thus, when Robert finally placed a story in front of himself and started reading it,  I was still unprepared to handle this unit appropriately.

It was clear from the way Robert read that he  felt as lost as I was.  He needed directions, he needed simple explanations, and  he needed some help in forming mental pictures of the action.  He needed so much more, and I couldn’t help.

I began to understand how to teach reading comprehension to Robert, not too long ago.  I always knew that Robert had huge deficits in this area. After all he had severe problems with spoken language as well. Over the years, I relied on ideas from many sources to facilitate Robert’s understanding of speech and written texts.

Only a couple of years ago, however,  I started working in a new way on Robert’s comprehension of stories.  I have been learning ever since.  I am not done yet.  I have to rethink and plan each reading carefully.

Yesterday, I did not do that.   I was punished.  I witnessed Robert reading without understanding, being overwhelmed by sentences that did not connect to each other, and  unable to picture silly events that should have made him laugh.

A few times, I tried to interject some comments, but they did not make the meaning of the paragraphs any clearer.  After Robert finished, I helped him to answer three questions and skipped the long one on the worksheets following the story.

Left on the table was a general template for a story map.  In the past we did a lot of those with fables and fairy tales.  “Look Robert”, I said,” we will fill this page another day, after we read the story again.”

To my surprise, Robert,tired and  overwhelmed by what he read, agreed.  Instead of insisting on finishing the whole pile without missing a page, as I expected, he agreed!  He took a template and gently placed it in one of the folders where  the copies of  worksheets waited for their turn to engage Robert in the future.

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