Student Story: Acalan

By Melody Villarreal, 2021-2022 Literacy First Bilingual Tutor

Someone once told me that you don’t know what you don’t know, and through my role as a Literacy First tutor teaching students to read, I can see what he meant clearly. One particular student, Acalan, took his mastery tests and was able to get halfway through, until the syllables were getting more complex and not as commonly used. Like words with “gue-” in them, for example. As we moved forward through the lessons, it was enlightening to see Acalan begin to understand and better register the pieces of why these sounds, words, and combinations read as they do. And that understanding carried over and multiplied as we continued on. 

Then, it happened, a magic moment for a tutor! Acalan started to read more in depth, and he was able to read the more advanced words. So, it was time to retake the mastery tests where he had left off the previous time, and Acalan was able to pass with great confidence! And not just that test, he was able to keep moving on and passed the remaining mastery tests. Now, Acalan was ready to move into the next portion of his lessons, called Read Naturally!

What I notice, now that we’re on Read Naturally, is that Acalan goes back to re-read mistakes in the stories we read. Or, when he accidentally misses a sentence and reads the next part, I can see that he recognizes that something isn’t quite right, and that information is missing. Then, he goes back and re-reads until it makes sense. He’s still making steady progress in lessons, and with the books he’s received from BookSpring, Acalan has been able to keep improving on his reading at home, too. 

Speaking to Acalan’s teachers, they have mentioned that they can see the work we are doing here in Literacy First being applied in the classroom, and that improves performance and understanding in other subjects. And not just Acalan, but teachers of my other students have spoken to me about seeing their progress and improvement in the classroom. 

Acalan is a hard worker and an eager learner, and he likes to talk about the stories after we’ve read them to get a better understanding. I appreciate the questions he asks, such as those about historical figures or certain names that don’t have Spanish translations. Acalan speaks mostly in Spanish, and when we have a moment I’ll read him a book in Spanish. These are important moments as a Bilingual tutor. Acalan shows more confidence when speaking and reading in Spanish. And when we read together, we show our students that even as adults, Spanish is so important to have as a language and to keep it with us. In a society that tries to diminish cultures at young ages, supporting our students to improve in the Spanish language helps them not just learn to read for the next grade level, but also shows our students that this part of them is important, and we always want it to keep growing as they keep moving on in the academic journey. 

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