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Once upon a time…

By Sister Patrice Colletti, SDS
Kateri Initiative – Sisseton, South Dakota

Waaaay back last school year… when my Dakota Immersion Class reading students were still struggling to sound out words like “cat” and “hit,” I had one student who was significantly ahead of everyone else. They were on letter sounds and short words. She was already reading short paragraphs and sounding out words fluently.

So, of course, with my love of meeting each learner wherever he or she is, I provided differentiated instruction and practice. That’s what teachers do.

The students who watched Wocekiya “build sentences” with a set of little blocks with words on them were jealous. 

“That’s not fair. Why can’t we do that game?!?”

Aside from the fact that every third sentence among elementary kids is often the observation that something or other is “not fair,” the reality was that these kids could not yet read the words on the little blocks. It would have been frustrating and a waste of precious time to assign the activity to them. But, I promised them, “As soon as you are ready for this, I will make sure you get to try it.”

Guess what?

Today they discovered that they are ready!

It wasn’t easy (it wasn’t as easy as they thought!) but it was worth it in every way to see them tackle the challenge and apply the long list of skills they’ve been honing.

In a school year where we generally didn’t know from one day to the next where (online, hybrid, or in person at school) we’d be teaching, or whom (Who’s on quarantine? Who got sent home with a fever? Who’s parent has been airlifted to Sioux Falls Hospital with Covid? Who’s uncle has passed?) we’d be teaching, it wasn’t always easy to plan for a logical progression of developing reading skills.

On the other hand, these kids are resilient. And, somehow, managed to continue to learn in spite of the many, many challenges.

So even though they still had to be reminded what goes at the front of a sentence (a capital letter) and at the end (a period, question mark, or exclamation point), both they, and I, were thrilled to celebrate the sentences we built today.

Hooray for learning!

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