12 February 2010

The longest word you've never seen

I am going to share with you a darling response a student once gave in an assessment session, because it warms my heart whenever I think of it.  Now we don't go around telling people specific test items because it undermines the validity of the normative date we have, so you'll have to fill in the blanks that I am purposely leaving so that I can maintain the validity of our assessment.

I was assessing using the non-word section of a literacy test.  We often use non-words like (let me make one up) "strave" to see how well students can read and spell words that follow regular phonics rules but they most certainly haven't seen before.  If they are already familiar with a word, there is the possibility they are relying on their sight-word recognition skills rather than their phonics skills only.

In this test of spelling nonwords, my Year 5 student with autistic spectrum disorder was struggling.  He was a clever student, but found it incredibly difficult to use his 'sounding-out' skills to spell the simple one-syllable and two-syllable words I was presenting him.

And then I gave him a few three-syllable words.  He tried his best, but became a little unstuck at a tricky item halfway down the list.

He started well, and was on his way to getting full marks for that item.  However he didn't finish well, but I made a mental note about how close he was to getting that word correct and I was about to move on to the next item.

Then I saw that he was adding another letter to the end.  And another and another and another.  I'd already repeated the word once so wasn't able to repeat it again in the testing situation, but he didn't give any evidence that he'd lost the word from his auditory memory as he continued writing.

Then he hit the edge of the page!  I thought he would finish there, but no, he turned a 90 degree corner and kept writing down the right-hand margin all the way down to the bottom of the page! 

The target word had 10 letters.  His final response contained 34 letters, which included a double 'er' and three 3's.

I thought he was being silly, and expected him to look up with a cheeky grin on his face.

Instead he looked up, raised his eyebrows and said, "Phew!  That was a LONG word!!!"  Then he got ready for the next item.

I always enjoyed working with him!


Jen said...

Aw, what a sweetie.

Swift Jan said...

aww thats so cute

Hippomanic Jen said...

You meanie for giving him such a long word!

And by the way, with word verification on blogs these days, he might well have run into the non-word previously. I have "joyaloce" which I think should be pronounced "joy-a-LOW-che", don't you?

CraftyMummy said...

Great story!
But I must add, I have to agree with Hippomanic Jen. I'm sure most of the words on the word verification are non-words, so in time all those special kids who love computers could get very confused with what is real and what is not!

Tracy P. said...

I love the sweet stories of kids with challenges most of us can't really imagine and don't take time to understand. Thank God for people like you who take the time.

Givinya De Elba said...

The word verifications are non-words, true, but I don't think my kids who find literacy tricky are going to bother sitting there, sounding them out, getting them right and then learning them off by heart! All this after fluking the exact non-words that feature as test items. I think our assessments are safe for a little longer :)

Crazy Sister said...

I love it when kids try their absolute best, and it's so wacky that it kills you to correct or mark it!

John Ross said...

I once wound up in an emergency room with 105 farenheit temp from a "killer" flu. I had, in response to fever, been drinking pitchers of filtered water for about 6 hours - did you know about "water toxicity"? I leached all the potassium & sodium out of my system. found out you need that to regulate heart rate. Delirium and heart monitor ensued(as well as a week in hospital). BIG. BAD. JU-JU.(At one time, I swear, invisible evil spirits said "NOW, FOR THE HEINOUS CRIME OF SELFISHNESS, YOU DIE THE SLOW DEATH, MO-FO".

Vacinations, with whatever melt-downs are, I think, probably preferable.

Bribes sometimes help with my 6 year old.