Originally Sent: 6/13/2013

HSLDA Homeschooling a Struggling Learner

June 13, 2013


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HSLDA’s @home e-vents

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Questions Anyone?

by Betty T. Statnick, M. Ed.
HSLDA Special Needs Consultant

Many callers to Home School Legal Defense Association begin their conversations with, “I have a question for you.” I try to listen carefully and I may respond with the question, “How does he do if … ?”

Not infrequently, moms have exclaimed, “How did you know that?” I truthfully state that “I didn’t know that. I was just obeying the nudge of the Holy Spirit who had put it in my mind to ask that question.”

About the Author

Betty Statnick
Betty Statnick received her bachelor’s degree in Biblical Education and later earned 80 additional credit hours in elementary and special education (including diagnostic and remedial reading and reading clinic experience) from the University of Virginia and College Misericordia. She was awarded an M.Ed. with an emphasis in learning disabilities from Marymount University in Virginia. Betty has taught for more than 20 years at elementary through adult levels in both public and private school settings. Since 1990, she has been working exclusively with homeschool families as an educational diagnostician, consultant, and tutor. She has been HSLDA’s Special Needs Consultant since 1995.

Yes, my professional training and experience, added to my being a mother and grandmother, are definitely factors which cause me to have empathy and ideas for member-callers and which also “drive” my responses to their questions. I’ll often relate some mistakes I have made in teaching. That tends to help the caller realize that self-condemnation or “giving up—throwing in the towel” may be tempting to her at this moment, but they are not options she will consider.

At that point, caller-mom usually begins to feel free to voice her concerns. As our discussion continues, I may give mom some teaching tips or ideas about modifying the curriculum she is using in order for it to more nearly match her child’s giftings and needs. The point is that all this started with a question.

In another conversation, an HSLDA member may lament that her student’s scores on the reading portion of the achievement test he took were low—“but he (or she) can read. I don’t understand it.”

Mom is referring to her child’s ability to decode. I explain the difference between decoding (stating what a word, phrase, or paragraph says) and comprehending (understanding what it means). I talk about such skills as Getting the Main Idea, Drawing Conclusions, Identifying Inferences, and Using the Context.

I explain that those comprehension skills are definitely a component of the reading portion of a standardized achievement test. Therefore, it is imperative that those skills be a component of mom’s teaching of reading. Even if the student were not going to take an achievement test, mom would want her student to derive meaning from what her student has read. So, I discuss with member-callers the necessity for probing/questioning to determine if her student has comprehended what he has decoded.

One day I happened to be in the presence of an adult male who has some learning difficulties when we saw a business truck which had “TKO Pest Control” painted on its side. I laughed heartily and asked him if he knew what TKO meant, and he correctly responded, “technical knock out.” When I asked him what the connection is between that name and that particular business—why the business owner would choose that name—he said he didn’t know.

This is an illustration of the need to probe further (via questions) and not conclude that someone understands based on scanty/superficial information (which might include their grinning or laughing reaction) when, in reality, they have not “gotten the point.”

Questions are a very important part of life, and they certainly do comprise a large part of the teaching/learning process.

You may want to incorporate as part of your reading and/or study skills curriculum these excellent resources I have recently acquired (and have thoroughly surveyed) but not yet used with students:

Help for Language by Andrea Lazzari, Ed. D.

Dr. Lazzari is a speech-language pathologist. Among other things, she had also taught preschool students with disabilities and was supervisor of Early Childhood Special Education Programs for Virginia.

This book is for ages 8 through adult—grades 3 and up. There is an IEP objective at the bottom of each page in this book.

In her book, Dr. Lazzari has a whole section on Answering and Asking Questions (Who Questions, What Questions, What Would Happen If Questions, What Could Questions, When Do/Does Questions, When Is/Are Questions, When Should/Shouldn’t Questions, Where Questions, Which Questions, Why Do/Does Questions, Why Don’t/Doesn’t Questions, How Do/Does Questions, How Do You Know Questions, If Questions, Responding to True/False Statements and Formulating Questions).

Under the Reading and Listening section of her book, Dr. Lazzari addresses Predicting Content from Titles, Identifying the Main Idea, Paraphrasing Passages, Answering Interpretive Questions from Stories, Drawing Inferences from Stories, and Describing and Interpreting Pictures.

Help Elementary by Andrea Lazzari, Ed. D. and Patricia Peters, M. Ed, M.P.S., CCC-SLP

(Patricia Peters is the co-author of several books including HELP for Word Finding and HELP for Auditory Processing.)

This book is for ages 6 through 12—grades 1 through 7. There is an IEP goal at the bottom on each page in this book.

On this book’s title page, these evidence-based practice items are among the ones listed:

  • Word-finding problems can negatively impact learning and socialization at all ages. (German, 2009)
  • Fisher and Blachowicz (2005) found semantic connections among words, including instruction on synonyms, antonyms, and word classes, beneficial for significant gains in vocabulary development among struggling elementary readers and English-language learners.
  • Explicit teaching of listening skills is vital in elementary school given that a majority of academic skills are delivered verbally. Listening skills are necessary for both literacy development and overall academic achievement.

This book has a section on Question Comprehension. (Can Questions, Do/Does Questions, If Questions, Noun/Verb Questions Requiring a Yes/No Response, Mixed “Yes/No” Questions, Some/All Questions, True/False Questions.)

There are also questions comparing things, questions with the stem, “Why shouldn’t you?” as well as statements which could be turned into questions.

Questions are definitely a component of teaching and learning, and the Bible contains many questions for our instruction (including rhetorical ones). Look for a future newsletter titled “Questions in the Bible.”

Do you have a question you would like to ask the HSLDA Struggling Learner consultants? Many HSLDA members do call us for help at (540) 338-5600 or they email us specialneeds@hslda.org.

• • • •

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