I’ve been absent from this site for a while. Things have been changing and I’m excited to share them with you!

I started Wasatch Reading Club with the intention of helping students who struggle with reading. I value the experience of reading a good book and believe that reading is the best way to learn about everything and everyone around us. However, I realized that students who struggle with reading are likely struggling with school as well.

I needed to broaden my scope. I needed to change my offering. I have been producing YouTube videos and writing blog posts for Wasatch Reading Club, but I also teach high school English and English 1010, 2010, and 2200 for Weber State University through our high school’s Concurrent Enrollment program. Wasatch Academic Coaching is different. It’s more broad in covering all of the different elements of education, not just reading.

Every day I see students not motivated to do the work. There are many reasons why students struggle. It is possible that there are as many ways for students to struggle as there are students. And this is the problem with our Public Education System. How can I as a caring and demanding teacher, help all of my students where they need it most?

It is a daunting task.

Is it possible? Sure, why not?

Is it going to happen? I don’t know.

What would it take for me to help each of my students feel successful in school?

What about actually being successful in school?

Time. Time, and effort.

So, Dave. What is it you do as an Academic Coach? Is it the same teaching?

Kind of. I’ll explain.

  • Academic Coaching is helping an individual make discoveries about themselves.
  • Academic Coaching is about providing an outside commentary about what I see and hear from an individual.
  • Academic Coaching is helping an individual understand what they want, and what steps it might take to get there.

It’s like Athletic Coaching, but Academic.

  • Academic Coaching is not talking about the past, like therapy. It’s not a never ending schedule of appointments forever talking about the future.
  • Progress is made IF you’re ready to act.

Academic Coaching is dependent on trust.

Academic Coaching is for the student who has a hard time with homework completion, procrastination, turning homework in, being organized, and understanding assignment instructions. It’s a big process that can be overwhelming.

I can help break down what is expected, what it takes, and guide students on the ways of getting it done.

That is Academic Coaching.

I have experience not doing well in school. I understand the dichotomy of pleasure and pain as it relates to procrastination, homework, and grades.

I know what it’s like to go back to college as an adult with a family.

I know what it’s like to desire change and improvement and not know how to make it happen.

And, I have made it through.

I am available to work individually with students (and parents) through school and what teachers expect.

If you want to have a chat about your student and what it might look like to work together, drop me a line.

Dave@WasatchAcademics.com

Good luck comes from good work!

Read on!

-Dave

My oldest child is in grade 9, and is generally a pretty good reader. He has read several things by the age of 16 that I never did. He was struggling with an assignment recently, which I thought was kind of simple for what he is capable of reading. It is a humbling reminder that we can’t always see students’ skills.

There are several ideas and skills to juggle when reading. One that is often practiced in school is character development. This process is easier than may initially appear, because it is a powerful part of what we enjoy most in the movies and stories we love.

The Beginning

In the beginning of any story we learn about the main character or characters. Quickly, we learn about their likes, dislikes, personality quirks, and problems. We know what they’re lacking, and we have a general, and sometimes specific idea of what they hope to accomplish or acquire by the end of the story. We have a pretty good idea of how the story is going to go, and are surprised when things don’t end up exactly how we imagined. In the movie Wall-E, the main character is alone, but ever persistent in his task. Does he want anything? Does he need anything? What does he discover he needs? If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s pretty good. I won’t spoil it for you. See if you can predict what he wants, and whether he’ll get it, or not.

The Middle

The main character has decisions to make throughout the story. Sometimes they’re insignificant and simply move the story along. Other decisions require some hope or faith, and a bit of luck to turn out the way the character wants. These conflicts help us to understand the main character on a deeper level. We understand a little bit more about the weakness, and desire that they are experiencing. We feel sympathy, and sometimes empathy for the dilemmas they find themselves in. Sometimes we even wonder what we would do if we were in their shoes.

The Conclusion

There are many possible outcomes to the conflict/resolution in a story. The main character could get what they want, or it could be a terrible ending. There are often twists and turns, and the story goes in an unpredicted direction. However the story ends, the main character has changed, and hopefully satisfactorily grown into someone bigger and better than they were before. Maybe they have found the love that they were after. Maybe they found out who they are, or where they are from. Maybe they became the hero everyone else knew they were. There are so many ways for a character to grow. The difficult part of the process is being able to identify what actually happened in the story.

One trick, (if you own the book) is to annotate in the book. Note where things happened that seem to be significant. Mark where you predict something will happen. Skilled readers do this mentally. Somehow they figure out how to bookmark specific events in the story. This means that it is a skill that can be learned and improved.
If you don’t own the copy of the book, you can keep a notebook, or a piece of paper that acts as a bookmark. Make little notes about what happened and where you found it on the page. Jot down the page number too. It seems like a simple, and maybe even unnecessary skill, but it helps to understand other elements of literature. The themes of the story will become more evident, the authors intent will be a little more clear.

For me, best of all, I love to make comparisons between characters and myself. I can relate to characters who desire change, or have an internal conflict that they aren’t sure how to overcome. Character development in books and stories helps me to see that I’m not a static never changing person, but hopefully one who is growing and learning from my mistakes.

Hope this helps! Let me know what you think!

Read on!

-Dave

Reading comprehension is a multi-step process. Let’s begin with the idea that we already understand all of the sounds that letters make, and that we can sound out words easily.

In order to better understand what we’re reading, there are a series of questions that we can ask our reader, or ourselves as we read through a story. These don’t go in any particular order because each story will have different elements at different times; so use them where you need.

  • Who is this about?
  • Where are they?
  • When does the story take place?
  • What is happening?
  • What might happen next?
  • Why did the character do that?

We ask questions to ourselves to better understand what is happening. Sometimes these questions help us to visualize what is happening, where they are, and what might happen next. Eventually your reader will get to the point where he can answer all of these questions without realizing that he’s asking himself these questions.

When your reader knows what’s going on, he’ll be more excited to talk about what he’s reading. When we know what we’re reading, then we can talk about it with other people. Then the magic happens. We can compare ourselves to the characters in stories. We can start to see ourselves in others. When we see ourselves in others, we are more empathetic to others situations and problems.

Reading really is magical. We take words that someone else has written, and imagine what is happening. Sometimes we have experienced similar things and we understand.
Read on,

-Dave

Nah, reading ain’t important! The only people that care about reading are those grammar police people who troll the internet waiting to pounce on quick-finger texters who just want to update their status or make a point and don’t think to edit those autocorrected messages.

I’m probably preaching to the choir, but reading is a necessary skill for success in our world. Finding information is critical to making decisions. We can collect information by watching videos, listening to podcasts, or by reading.

Some things are only available by reading. We can read by listening just like we can read by looking at words. Sure, reading instruction manuals, and legal fine print is one way we get information, but what about reading fiction?

Fiction is known as made up stories. However, fiction is amazing because we can learn so many truths through made-up scenarios. Some people call it, “telling the truth by lying”. We can learn to empathize with other people. We can learn what it is like to belong to a culture that we can never personally know. We can feel what other people feel as we read their stories of struggle, survival, and triumph. (Check out the list of great books at the end of the post)

One of the best examples of learning empathy from a character in a book is Wonder, by R. J. Palacio. 

If you haven’t, you need to read this book. It helps the reader to feel what the main character August feels as he’s getting ready to go to a new school. August has some insecurities. Don’t we all? I won’t say anything else for fear of spoiling the story.

There are many other stories that help us to understand other people. Understanding other people takes away judgement. Understanding other people increases patience. Understanding other people promotes love and kindness which makes me wonder, is anyone in our world reading fiction anymore?

I am. I love reading. I hope you do too!

-Dave

Other books that increase understanding and empathy:

The Watson’s Go To Birmingham: 1963
The War That Saved My Life
The One and Only Ivan
Okay for Now
Number the Stars
Freak the Mighty
Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie

I’m sure there are others. Let me know what you think!