This 3-week practicum block seemed to be much busier and the time seemed to fly by much quicker than my other practicum placements. I did not have the chance to spend as much time on my Action Research Project as I would have liked because I spent a lot of my extra time organizing the Jump Rope for Heart event. Not all of my questions were answered, but even though the time was very short, I do think that Student A made progress. I ultimately gained a lot of insight into my teaching and how to better differentiate work to reach these learners who are often ignored because of time restraints or lack of support.
The fourth grade slump is a term that is used to describe the phenomenon where students who previously did well in school before grade 4 have a large performance drop in achievement. Many researchers and educators believe that this transition period from grade 3 to grade 4 is a critical moment in any students education as we shift from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ ideologies (Sanacore and Palumbo, 2009).
So what does the research tell us about addressing this slump? There is not a one-size fits all approach because students learning styles and needs vary with each child (Sanacore and Palumbo, 2009). Early intervention and proper reading instruction must occur in the primary grades prior to the transition into grade 4. Vocabulary work is really important to easily identify common words, but this is not sufficient because, “by one estimate, explicit vocabulary instruction can teach, at best, about 400 words a year, a far cry from the 5,000 or so words students need to add to their vocabularies each year to build the 80,000-word vocabularies they need to be successful in college” (Goodwin, 2011). Thus, vocabulary work in school is critical, but not solely appropriate for acquiring the vocabulary skills students need to succeed.
Students who come from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds have less extensive vocabularies— sometimes only half of the words that children from higher economic status do. This notion of vocabularies being either strong or weak may play a role in the ‘fourth grade slump’. Students who have weak vocabularies find reading less enjoyable and more frustrating; they read less and ultimately never gain the vocabularies necessary to become proficient readers and learners (Goodwin, 2011).
The achievement gap affects many areas, becomes more apparent by fourth grade and this gap usually increases as they get older. There are many reasons that could be causing this gap in children once they reach grade 4. An important question remains, what causes the fourth grade slump? According to Sanacore and Palumbo (2009), “as children enter the upper elementary school grades, they are expected to comprehend large amounts of expository (or informational) text . . . Regrettably, in the primary grades, these children were immersed mostly in narrative (or storybook) text, which is substantially...