A. is new to our school this year. Well, not actually new. He was there in first grade, then left for second, and is now back as a third grader in an ELA-S classroom (ELA-S is for English Language Learners whose first language is Spanish). A is a teeny bit mischevous and can regularly be found in "the middle of the action." He is also a very kind child, and is always the first kid to greet a new classmate, or offer to show the new child around the playground. A. is a developing reader (someone, maybe Franki, used this term a few weeks ago, and I like it much better than struggling). He is currently reading at about a mid first grade level. For a lot of people, a child who is more than a year below grade level would be a cause for great concern. I'm not especially worried…
Earlier this week, A. was in my room, in a group who was working with Ms. H,the ESL teacher (she and I share a classroom). I was on the other side of the room giving DRA's. Ms. H., was meeting with the group for the first time, and was explaining to the children that they were all members of Team ESL, and that they would have the opportunity to earn team points, which could then be traded for a game day or cooking activity. Ms. H. said, "When you earn enough points, we will do a cooking activity, a cooking and learning activity, a nutritious cooking and learning activity." Without moment's hesitation, A turned to me, "Hey," he shouted across the room, "that's just like Mo Willems!"
Everyone else was a little confused, but I knew exactly what A was talking about. In Mo Willem's, "I Am Invited to a Party," one of the main characters (I think it's Piggy, but it might be Gerald the Elephant) is invited to a party. She has never been to a party before, and is concerned about what to wear, so Gerald volunteers to help Piggy prepare. First, Piggy and Gerald prepare for a fancy party, then they are worried that it might be a fancy costume party, so they add a costume to their fancy dress. Next, the two animals are concerned that the party might be a fancy costume swimming party, so they put on their flippers and snorkels, along with everything else. When Ms. H. says they will have a cooking activity, then a cooking and learning activity, then a nutritious cooking and learning activity, her cumulative sentence pattern reminds A of Mo Willem's cumulative fancy costume swimming party. Pretty smart, I think, for a child who has only been speaking English for a couple of years.
Lots of people are concerned about A. I'm not. A has the heart of a reader. He has a favorite author. He is making the text to life connections that readers make. He is beginning to own the language patterns he finds in books. Yeah, A, has a way to go as a reader, but he's on his way. The other pieces will fall into place eventually.