While many students in the classroom are at grade-level, there are bound to be students in any classroom who fall well above or below that range. In order to allow students to keep learning, we must offer an appropriate challenge in the content area (HOPE standard O2). For the higher students, this means being prepared with deeper-level thinking questions and enrichment material that will keep them engaged. For lower students, however, who are not able to complete grade-level tasks independently, we must work within their Zone of Proximal Development. Vygotsky’s theory of the Zone of Proximal Development, according to Pressley and McCormick (2007), is the cognitive space between the most challenging task a child can perform on their own and the most challenging task they can perform with help.
In our reading groups, this support comes in the form of reading prompts. While our highest-level readers read whole paragraphs and our grade-level readers tackle a sentence at a time before reflecting on the meaning of the whole paragraph, our lower readers get additional support in reading grade-level texts with prompts to aid comprehension. When asking a student to read, my mentor teacher and I prompt the reader with a question such as “About whom is this sentence going to tell us?” To which the student will respond by reading the subject of the sentence. “What did that person do?” would prompt the next student to say the verb, and so on. After reading through with prompting, students will get the chance to read the passage all the way through in order to assist in fluency. By assisting the students in breaking down the sentence into phrases and giving them prompts about how to relate the parts of speech, students are still able to read the same grade-level passages as their peers, but are not faced with a challenge too great for their current comprehension level. In my future teaching, I will gladly provide student the support they need to perform grade-level tasks with a challenge appropriate to their learning level, even if it does require extra effort on my part.
Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guilford Press.