Shadow Study (Writing Sample)

Shadow Study

            The subject is Kent Runyan, a sixth grade special education student.  Kent is a Caucasian male of average height and below average weight.  He has two diagnoses: learning disability and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.  He is very high functioning and able to be a part of the general education population with the support of paraprofessionals and other SPED staff.  His background is one of poverty.  The family is extremely poor and is not very supportive of Kent’s education needs.  His clothes seemed clean, but too large.  This may be because they are hand-me-downs, or it may be because that’s in style at the moment.  He is a good student at school, but there is no one at home to enforce homework time, so he is often behind in class because he does not complete assignments.
            Overall observations of Kent include the following:
·         Kent is well behaved.  Although he has an ADHD label, he is able to control it.  This is not a child with an emotional disturbance or major behavioral problem.  He needed some behavioral redirection throughout the day, but nothing beyond the average middle school boy, and he did not receive any specialized consequences (office referrals, detentions, matrices, etc.). 
·         It is obvious that reading comprehension is a weakness for Kent.  He reads at about a second grade level.  However, it is interesting to note that he enjoys reading very much.  It may be a struggle for him, but it is something he enjoys and is eager to do on his own.  His SPED teacher reports that his fluency is higher – around 4th or 5th grade – while his comprehension remains low.
·         Kent seems aware of his limitations and is not afraid to ask for assistance.  He was willing in every class to raise his hand for the para to come help him.  In his reading class, he automatically sat with the para.  Needing assistance did not appear to bother him.
·         Although Kent is a well-behaved student, he does have ADHD tendencies, including fidgeting and squirming around in his seat.  This increases when he is frustrated, such as when he is trying to complete an assignment that includes extensive written work or directions. 

Kent was made aware that I would be following him throughout the day.  This did not bother him at all; his SPED teacher said he liked attention and would be fine with it, and she was right.

Kent’s day began in homeroom.  This is only a 20 minute class of homework and silent reading time, and Kent simply read the entire period.  He did not have any peer interaction and very little teacher interaction, but then there wasn’t very much opportunity for either.  At one point the teacher took a survey to find out when parents could come for parent/teacher conferences; this seemed to cause a small amount of confusion for Kent as he didn’t quite understand the question.  As the class ended, Kent was reluctant to stop reading and move to the next class.
Kent’s second hour was a Spanish class.  The class began with a verbal attendance activity and reciting the Spanish alphabet.  Kent participated in all these activities and followed directions well.  The para then removed all the students that had not completed their homework assignment; this did not include Kent.   The remaining students played a language bingo game in which they had to create their own bingo cards by filling in squares with numbers.  While they could put the numbers in any order – like a normal bingo card – Kent wrote his in order across the card.  He also glanced at others’ cards during the game, appearing like he was checking to see if he was playing correctly.  At one point he raised his hand for a para to come help him.  He did not win a game.  After the bingo game, the student paired up to practice their vocabulary.  Kent did not immediately have a partner; the teacher helped him find one.  He appears to be liked but not terribly social.  There were not very many opportunities to move around, and Kent was fidgeting quite a bit by the end of class.  It was also observed that while every other student in the room had a Spanish textbook and a binder with them, Kent had neither.  All he carried was a book, a few papers, and a pencil.  While this was enough for this class, he did not appear to be very prepared.
      Third hour was computer class.  The class was well organized with a clear routine; Kent came right in and sat at his assigned computer, which is right next to the teacher’s desk.  He did his ten minutes of warm-up time with no problems, although he appears to have poor typing technique (poor posture, bad hand position, etc.).  During instructional time, Kent had trouble sitting still, but he paid attention and did not distract others.  He had some interaction with the para throughout the class.  As the major assignment started, he had some trouble understanding what he was to do, and as a result he started talking to the girl next to him.  She did not appear to enjoy the conversation – at one point he asked a question about her project and she asked “Do you not know how to read?”  Although this was asked sarcastically, the truth is Kent probably didn’t know how to read her project.  He was slower than the other students and was one of the last ones to finish his project.  However, this was one instance where he did not ask for help, and help wasn’t offered until the end.  He calmed down when the para came over and helped him, and he was then able to complete his project.  He then went to his assigned table to complete the word search that was their final assignment for the day.  He did not work very hard or fast on this assignment.  It may have been more difficult for him because there were so many words and letters.  He may not have finished it.  At one point he was corrected by the teacher for writing something inappropriate on his paper.  He was obviously squirmy and acting up more, which can probably be attributed to his discomfort in doing the assignment.  He had also been sitting the entire hour; this is probably difficult for him. 
Fourth hour was math class.  He began the hour going to an annexed room to work with the para on his assignment, which had not been completed.  The beginning of the hour was spent working on homework and discussing individual issues with the teacher.  Kent spent this entire time in the back room with the para.  This appeared to be no problem, and none of the other students even glanced back at him.  It is obvious by this point in the day that students are used to paras and their role in the classroom.  It seems to cause no disruption at all.  Kent remained in the back room during instruction time.  He appeared to work very well and respectfully with the para.  (In fact, there was not a single disrespectful event with Kent and a staff member throughout the day.)  Once Kent came back into class, he was distracted and disorganized.  The para had to help him several times to get his foldable out, take notes, pay attention, etc.  It was not disruptive, but Kent was obviously distracted and unfocused.  His SPED teacher later reported that while he likes math, it is hard for him and he is does not focus on it well.  However, he did catch a mistake that someone made on the board and received praise from the teacher, so he was paying attention through all the wiggles and disorganization.  He was also not afraid to ask questions in front of the class.  He finished the hour in the back with the para; he obviously needs much support in this class.
Fifth hour was his one special education class.  He was with the 6th grade inclusion teacher’s resource room for reading.  He seemed to be extremely comfortable in the resource room; it appears to be a safe place for him.  He started with a journaling assignment and then went on to a worksheet.  He was the first one finished, and he then went on to read his AR book.  He asked the para a few questions about the book; again, he is not afraid to ask for help when he senses he needs it.  The class then went to the computer lab to use the Read Naturally program, which is an interactive computer program that focuses on reading fluency.  He did well with the program, although he started to get wiggly sitting there at the computer desk.  The wiggly-ness does not appear to bother him or keep him from working; it’s just part of how he operates.  Again, it is obvious that it increases when he is more frustrated.  At the end of the hour, he chose to read his AR book rather than work on his math assignment.  He tried to pick a new book off the shelf, but he was told he had a book and needed to finish that one first.  It was getting close to lunch; he was probably just feeling restless and wanting something different.  As he read his book, he would jump up and show the para things he found interesting.  Again, it is obvious that 1) he enjoys reading, despite his difficulties, and 2) he is very comfortable in the SPED resource room.
6th hour was his Target hour, or study hall time.  He spent the first part counting his Dragon Dollars, which is a behavior support system used by the school.  Students can earn Dragon Dollars for good deeds, extraordinary behavior, going above and beyond, etc.  (I gave Kent one at the end of the day for letting me follow him around.)  He has 36 Dragon Dollars!  This is great!  He finished an AR test on his reading book and received 100% on it.  The rest of the hour was spent with the rest of the Target class practicing math on the board as there is a test coming at the end of the week.  His handwriting is very large and shaky, which is not unusual for LD students. His coordination is jerky as well – at one point he knocked something off the board because he hand was a little out of control. He is also left-handed.  He obviously has trouble with math and was helped by the teacher on several occasions.  (There is not a para in Target.) He did not appear bothered by his struggle but just good-naturedly did the problems over.  He received a compliment from the teacher about his processes – he has the process for problems down, it’s really the arithmetic that is the problem.  He knows how to do long division, but he does not remember that 15-9=6.  Towards the end, he started goofing off, talking out of turn and being silly.  At one point he drew the problem on the board in a silly way and then glanced around grinning to see if anyone would notice.  It was not a large problem, however, and he was easily redirected.
During Target, he had to go down the hall to take a test, and I walked back to class with him.  This gave me an opportunity to talk to him a little.  He showed me the book he was reading and described it to me.  He told me he really likes reading.  We chatted about small things in the 90 seconds or so it took to get back to class.  He was very polite and conversational.
Seventh hour was a regular education reading class.  He was late to the class; also, he carried less and less with him as the day as continued.   He has a seat assigned in the class, but he immediately went to the back to sit with the para.  The teacher reported that he always does this, and that it is no problem in the class.  The class started with a Mad Lib activity and then listened to a recorded reading of the book they were reading as a class.  Kent was fairly engaged during the class period – it is obvious that he likes reading better than math.  During discussion times, he was eager to have the right answer, but having the wrong answer did not deter him.  He worked quietly with his para to answer written questions; another student also came over to work with them.  Towards the end of the hour he started to get restless and stopped paying attention to the class.  The teacher redirected him several times to pay attention – although, interestingly enough, the para who was sitting right next to him never said a word about it to him.  This class comes directly after lunch, and it was obvious that it was hard for him to sit for 45 minutes right after eating – an observation that was true for the entire class.  Either they wanted to put their heads down or they wanted to stretch and wiggle.  After lunch is a hard time for students. 
The 8th and final hour of the day was science class.  I actually spent the first part of the hour helping Kent get his locker open at the teacher’s request.  It took us a while, but we got it open.  I suggested he leave it unlocked until after school so he wouldn’t miss the bus, but he locked it anyway.  I don’t think he understood what I was trying to say to him.  In class, Kent sat with the other students (not with a para).  He was very disorganized and did not have all the materials he needed.  He went to the computer desk with his science partner to work on a program.  Part of the program required reading through material.  The other boy read it out loud while Kent sat and was fidgety and restless.  However, he was still engaged, and at the end of the reading he took his quiz.  He accidently hit the wrong button and was distressed that he had gotten the wrong answer when he knew the right one.  I helped him get the teacher’s attention, and she made it right.   Once the reading part was over, he was completely into the online activities they were doing and worked well with his partner.  There was minimal teacher interaction.
It was an interesting day for me, seeing the life of an average SPED middle school student.  Kent is a well-behaved, albeit squirmy student who desires to do well.  He appears to be comfortable with his disability and able to get the help he needs to succeed.  Although he is not always prepared or on task, he is eager to learn and “get it right.”  He is social, and yet I did not see him with any specific friends throughout the day.  It is, however, only four weeks into the new year, and he is a sixth grader – he is likely still finding his place in the school.  He does struggle in reading and math and does need assistance, but it appears he is able to receive the assistance needed.   He is very disorganized and unprepared for his classes. Overall, Kent Runyan is a typical LD inclusion student, and he had a typical LD inclusion kind of day.