Only the Beginning

By Amelia Baxter, 2021-2022 Literacy First Tutor

Today, my kindergarten student finished her 11th lesson and I decided to have her complete the mastery test to move onto the next section. Even though I wasn’t completely sure that she would pass, I decided to give it a try since she was having such a great day. She correctly read the first word. And then the second. And then the third, and fourth, and finally the last word. She only needed to correctly read two words out of the six to pass the mastery test. Out of six words, my student read five whole words correctly. I was so excited, I could have cried. Thinking back to how much she has learned in just one month, I am so proud of and encouraged by her progress. The student who barely knew two letter sounds just one month ago has been replaced by a kindergarten student who could read five words all by herself. 

We started our very first lesson learning about just two letter sounds – A and M. I was beginning to get discouraged after our first weeks working together, as she still had not learned either of the two letters. Even into the third week, the student was not consistently able to identify the sounds of those first two letters. But, eventually, it clicked for her, and slowly, she added A and M to her letter sound knowledge. By the fourth week, we were playing our letter-sound game with A, M, C, N, D, S, T, and she learned each letter more quickly than the last. Now I add a couple new letters into her letter deck every week! My student greets me each morning with a smile on her face. She is excited to play our letter sounds game, excited to show me how fast she can write the letters, and excited to read.

My supervisor said that the first letters an emerging reader learns are the toughest and I see now how right he is. I was worried in the beginning that our intervention was not working, but I am glad that I kept pushing forward. Students learn at very different paces and each in their own way. Some students may develop phonemic awareness in a couple days, others may take 6 weeks. All of this is completely normal. It is not every day that one of my students has a lightbulb go off, so I like to celebrate when this happens. There are days where my students become discouraged and I use these moments as a motivator for us both. It helps my students to remember how far they have already come, and serves as a reminder to myself to meet students where they are. It is my job as a literacy tutor to remember the good days, so I can help them realize all of the incredible things they are capable of. Learning their letter sounds is only the beginning of my students’ journeys.

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