Case Study: Lee


Lee arrived in the spring. She had no English and had never been in school before. Because it was late in the year, the teachers gave her time to adjust to school and learn basic oral English, without really working on literacy skills. She has been at your school for a year now, and teachers are starting to worry, because her literacy skills seem to be stalled in neutral. She has difficulty copying off the board, getting each letter in the right place. Lee has trouble tracking, and she doesn’t know the names of all the letters, so she can’t remember more than one in her head when copying. In addition, when she has finished, (usually last in the group) she has often missed several letters (or words). Since she can’t reread what she’s copied on her own, she can’t tell if she missed something or not. When you read it back to her, she isn’t able to spot when a word is missing, she just readjusts where her finger is pointing, as if you have missed a word.

Reading Recovery proposes three main ways for students to figure out a new word or a word that is unknown: “get your mouth ready” by saying the first sound of the word; ask yourself if your “guess” make sense; and look at the picture to help you figure out the word. Lee relies heavily on the picture clues to figure out words she doesn’t know. Since she isn’t sure of all of the letters and the sounds they make, it is difficult for her to get her mouth ready. Also, most of this language doesn’t make sense to her, so at this point she can’t rely on that strategy too heavily.

  • Where do you start with a student such as Lee?
  • What strategies would work?
  • What can you do to build Lee’s skills in reading and writing?
  • What are the priorities if she’s five? eight? ten? twelve? fifteen?
  • If you have limited or no ELL support, what can you expect of Lee in the classroom?
  • What tasks can you give to her that she can succeed at?
  • What are your short-term goals? What are your long-term goals?
  • How will you find time for her to build the necessary literacy skills?
  • What can you do to coordinate with the ELL teacher or other support personnel?

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