Got any ideas for this reading teacher?

A reading teacher contacted me:

As the school's remedial reading teacher I was asked to research a reading program for an extraordinarily bright 5th grader. Do you have any suggestions? His 4th grade teacher said he is too advanced to stay with this fellow students now that he is no longer in her class. The best I have come up with is a one-on-one literature program. Are you familiar with  HOTS or Mindlink?

Here is my reply:

I don't know. Sorry. Can't keep up with all of the learning software that's out there. Also not a reading specialist… That said, maybe my readership has some ideas for you?

And here is hers:

Thank you, thank you, thank you… I am most appreciative. As you can see I can never find anything on the Internet and I want to help this student reach his full potential. Although the district I work in has a suburban zip code it has the personality of a city school. Most of our resources are utilized to help students reach proficiency and not to enrich exceptional students. I can't thank you enough for your help.This child is special and I don't want to lose him due to boredom or have him become a thorn in his young teacher's side when she can't handle him because he is zoning out or misbehaving.

Any ideas for her?

20 Responses to “Got any ideas for this reading teacher?”

  1. I teach gifted students and deal with this issue regularly (though not frequently). If the school doesn’t already have a guided reading program in place with leveled books, then I see two main options:

    1. Arrange for the student to attend reading instruction with a 6th (or higher) grade class in the school if it’s available.
    2. If higher level classes aren’t available, then it’s probably best to hand-pick books and develop an independent study program of some sort.

    In either case, do some assessment to determine ability levels and identify any gaps in reading comprehension skills and select projects and texts that will fill those gaps.

    There are programs out there like Accelerated Reader ( and Junior Great Books (, but you’re likely to do as much work putting one of those programs together as you are creating your own, especially for just one student.

  2. I agree with independent study. I recommend reading some of Doug Noon’s work with his grade five and six group. He does independent reading with his whole group of students with tremendous success. I have some of his reflections on it bookmarked here He is a principled and proficient reading teacher. My son is an exceptional reader and still chooses to read books of a wide variety of reading skill requirements, some well below his competence and some stretching his competence but he is never bored.

  3. An independent study based around the book, Well-Educated Mind : A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer, S. Wise Bauer. This contains many classic works and suggests discussions.

  4. When I was in 5th grade a local attorney would come in once a week and do literature circles with a small group in my class. I think there are a lot of programs out there that might provide resources but ultimately if you want to keep a student like that engaged, providing them with rich dialogue with someone in the community would be a good solution. I wonder if you could find someone in the community willing to come in once a week and do a book club with the student and the student could do some critical thinking activities in between. Perhaps there is a student in another grade who has the same problem and they could read and discuss any number of books and work together to discuss application. Independent reading might be an option if the student loves to read.

  5. Probably not an answer for this year because it requires training, but the Foundations & Frameworks reading program has proven effective as a challenging approach for all learners, including gifted. In fact, when schools first implement the program, it’s often the gifted students who initially struggle because it requires a depth of thinking they are not accustomed to being required in the regular classroom.

  6. Jeanne Phoenix Laurel Reply August 27, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Forgive me if this is too obvious — take him to the nearest public library and turn him loose? I was one of those gifted readers lo these many years ago. The library was my salvation; I wandered from subject to subject as it interested me. Maybe it wasn’t scientific, but it sure was joyful. I’m now chair of an English Department. I think it worked, IMHO.

  7. I’m going to chime in with Jeanne,

    I was turned loose in my elementary school library, and it may have been my best hours there–once a child can read well, let him loose.

    Maybe a better question is this: what is your goal? I rather like the idea of an elementary student being “a thorn in his young teacher’s side.”

  8. The word “program” in your initial sentence is alarming. What that child needs is NOT a formal reading program…

  9. I agree with Jeanne and Michael. Let him read what he wants and respond to his reading somehow and see what he comes up with.

  10. Get him writing! Writing is a skill he will need most desperately later in life. I get my gifted students reading books at their level and checking their reading comprehension through interesting short answer questions (6 to 10 sentences). Once they can apply the HOTS to create a multi-paragraph essay about their book, I move them on to more advanced reading and begin again.

    Also, scanning is very difficult (and quickly becoming a lost art), but it is a skill students will need in high school on standardized tests and when reading voluminous texts. Create fun contests that require the student to scan for and discover simple information throughout the books.

    Good luck!

  11. There are a lot of great ideas here. Helping him find good books at his level that he can read and you can conference about several times a week one-on-one would be great for him.

    I think the Junior Great Books program that was mentioned by another would also be good. Other kids could be involved in it as well giving him an opportunity to work with his age-peers, even if they aren’t reading at his level. You could use the grade level books for it because the discussion about the texts is what matters the most.

  12. i think following the blog of a favorite author or recommended authors would be huge.

    your comment: As you can see I can never find anything on the Internet and I want to help this student reach his full potential.

    to me just now – reaching his full potential means he can find what he wants on the internet – in order to reach his full potential.

    there’s got to be some bloggers out there that would intrigue his brilliant young mind.

    i have a similar student – who i just hooked up with an amazing – very-giving man via twitter. i’m imagining some stimulating conversation at first – followed by ongoing exchanges of fine reading via links they share.

    i liked meghan’s idea of writing as well.

    wishing you well. applaud you for not settling.

  13. Please tell me more about this program, who is the publisher?

  14. His teacher was hired two days ago and this student has a history of being very disruptive. The goal is to continue his formal education, to develop higher level thinking skills and to improve his writing skills. I was told his IQ is over 160. Nevertheless, he is still a child and will benefit from instruction.

  15. Wow, that’s my son you must be talking about (no, I know it isn’t ;-)). Love reading all the suggestions, and I’ll keep watching!

  16. Perhaps I was too snarky–I think your zip code comment may have lit up that part of my brain.

    His IQ is irrelevant here–he reads better than his peers, he’s bored, that’s what matters.

    You are the school’s remedial reading teacher, so I understand why you are looking at him through that lens.

    The goal is to continue his formal education, to develop higher level thinking skills and to improve his writing skills.

    I’m all for “formal education”–still, what are your goals? I agree that improving his writing and higher level skills are great aims. You were focusing on one-on-one literature programs with your initial post, again, fine, but my advice, fwiw, focused on that–let him read what he wants to read.

    The inexperience of the teacher is not the child’s problem, or should not be–at least so long as we’re pretending to be professionals.

    Is your primary goal to prevent disruption? (Helping the child to reach his potential while minimizing classroom disruptions are not, of course, mutually exclusive aims–even in city schools. I think it’s a fair question.)

  17. I spoke to my principal today about the responses I have received. I have never worked with this student and truly do now know him well. My principal told me he is not motivated to work alone and if we “let him loose in the library” as one of the blogs suggested he would do absolutely nothing. I like the idea of Junior Great Books, I looked at some of the titles and I hope they are not too sophisticated. I understand your comment about “a thorn in his young teacher’s side”. I like kids with spunk; however, this student has thrown desks across the room and either in anger or frustration has taken hardback textbooks and ripped them to threads. This past year in fourth grade those behaviors greatly diminished. I am not going to be the person working with him. Nevertheless, I have worked with his younger sibling and I know his family and I want to be helpful if I can.I may not be the best or the most experienced teacher but in my heart I want to help every child I can reach their potential. I know this sounds sappy, but that is why I an asking for easy help. I can’t create a program or monitor him on the computer, but I can try to set something up that his teacher can use to supplement whatever they are doing in class.

  18. My son is a 5th grader in a similar situation. A 6th grade program is not going to be enough. This child does not need a “program”–he already knows how to read. A “program” will turn this kid off to school forever. Turn him loose on some classic age-appropriate literature. Have him read it and write about what he’s learned. This is what my teachers did with me all through school–don’t think I ever did a “program” with the other kids. It was always just me and a book.

  19. What about enrolling the student in a distance learning class like the “Reading and Writing About Literature” course offered by Stanford’s Educational Program for Gifted Youth?

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