Teaching Thomas: Looking Weird

It’s been a while since I’ve updated about Thomas. He’s been doing well. I feel like we’ve really developed a “big/little brother” kind of relationship. He’ll ask me if I want to borrow his Digimon DVDs or try to share a cookie with me every now and then. I try to be the cool, fun teacher while also being strict when necessary and making sure he’s actually learning. But that’s the hard part. Recently, after spending several months on basic phonics, I tried to see how well he applies everything we’ve went over by having him read a short, simple book. It wasn’t very successful, for several reasons.

  1. He just doesn’t like reading. He sees it as homework, as a chore and he dreads it. Unless there are fancy 3D graphics or sounds that zap out every time he finishes a sentence, he just isn’t interested. Even when I try to get him engaged in the story or characters (like Nemo or Spiderman), he loses attention and (literally) starts falling asleep. I thought only high school and college students fall asleep from school but I’ve actually had Thomas fall asleep on me. I thought he was just faking it at first but it’s like a switch gets turned off and he shuts down.
  2. He doesn’t like reading. But he knows he has to get through the book.So what does he do? He guesses words based on what the word looks like or the pictures around it. So for the book about Pixar’s Finding Nemo, he says “fish” for “find” and “that” for “they”. This gets me really frustrated because I feel like everything we’ve worked on get thrown out the door.
  3. I’ve also tried using incentives like giving him stickers that he can later exchange for prizes but now he just tells me he doesn’t want the stickers anymore. So much for that.

So in regards to the title of this post, I got frustrated with Thomas today. I keep telling him that he can’t just shout out any word that looks like that word. I keep telling him that he needs to sound the words out and if he doesn’t know it, at least try. I think I must have raised my voice and looked angry because he asked me, “Eric, why are you looking weird?” I just looked at him, completely stunned and clueless of what to say back.

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that this is all a process, for him and for me, and that we just need to take it slow. I mean, it’s not surprising that a 7 year old boy doesn’t like to sit down and read diligently. And in the end, when he really is interested and puts effort into reading, he can read quite well, even in figuring out how to say words that he doesn’t know. He’s a smart kid, and that’s part of the problem. A little too smart. And after all, how can anyone resist chuckling when he’s told by a first grade boy that he’s “looking weird”?


One thought on “Teaching Thomas: Looking Weird

  1. Such a shame that reading is regarded as a chore by a 7 year-old. I notice children who were exposed to books real early on (say infancy), often develop a life-long passion for reading and learning. What a marked difference within a few years.


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