I taught developmental level classes mostly. What I reminded myself (and my students) is that they had overcome a huge hurdle to figure out how to get into my class.
1. They had to finish high school, when many of them were single parents.
2. They had to decide to go to college.
3. They had to figure out where the college was. (For some of them, this was a big deal.)
4. They had to wander around until they found out how to enroll.
5. They had to enroll.
6. They had to get through financial aid.
7. They had to take a test.
8. They had to actually get registered.
9. They had to show up.
I tell them that what they have done so far is by far the bigger hurdle than my class. (That may not be true for you, but I felt like it was for mine.)
I taught writing, so we wrote. We wrote sentences. Then paragraphs. Then short essays. Then longer essays. And we re-wrote. They would write and I would mark and they would re-write. They would read each other’s work and comment on it and they would re-write. Then I would mark and they would re-write.
I only taught grammar as it applied to their papers. So if most students had a problem, we would work on it as a class. If only a few did, I would give them page numbers to review the rules and ask them to come by during office hours. Some did.
The biggest challenge for my students, and probably yours as well, is that they had so little knowledge of the world in general that they had trouble writing. If you don’t know that children are expected to be tucked into bed by their mothers, which many of my students don’t know, then how is Goodnight Moon going to make any sense? If you’ve never owned mittens, why would that connect with you? If you don’t know that a child can have its own room, which I am not sure any of my students did, then you might not understand what is going on in the book.
I think that you are doing a great job. It is a job that needs to be done and the fact that you care about it says that you are working at it and that makes you an amazing teacher.
You might want to look at your picture books and try to figure out what cultural assumptions are being made. (Harold and the Purple Crayon assumes that folks have time and energy to draw. That they have seen lots of things and can imagine doing things with them. That they can be lost and …) Then talk to your students about those assumptions BEFORE they read the book.