Saturday, February 14, 2015

Reading and Kindergarten Part 1: Why I Know Reading is Possible!

I'm writing this post today because I want to give you a different perspective about reading in kindergarten. I have been reading articles, reports, and posts on how reading expectations aligned to Common Core ELA Standards are not developmentally appropriate for children in kindergarten. Although there are theories, research, and reports, that state 5 year old' are not cognitively or developmentally ready for such instruction, I beg to differ. 
Let me explain, I have only been a teacher the "new" way, I came into the world of kindergarten not knowing what it was like before. You know play centers, nap time, half day, and everything else that is deemed developmentally appropriate. When I began my teaching career, Common Core was implemented 2 years later. My first two years in the classroom were, well, my first years; excited, thrilled and happy to try everything and anything that would impact my students in a positive way. In addition to that excitement and joy during my first 2 years of teaching, I received many hours of professional development on Common Core and what it was. Then the following year we hit the floor running implementing Common Core State Standards. 
That year was a year of feeling overwhelmed. I questioned my teaching abilities and everything I knew about being a kindergarten teacher; which was very minimal because I only had 2 years under my belt!
The previous 2 years, I was happy with having kids read simple repetitive sentences by the end of the year. Then Common Core reading expectations came along! Honestly, I was that teacher, the one that said, "No way, To High!" "How will I ever get my little peanuts reading so high?" "That's just impossible!" "They are not developmentally ready, for such expectation."
I have actually blogged about my first year trying to teach 5 & 6 years old "how to read" you can read about that experience here (teaching letters and sounds) But something in me kept telling me different. I mean there's no "research" out there that supports anything along the lines of the idea, theory, or practice that 5 year old' are developmentally ready to learn how to read and write, right? I'm not sure if it's even been considered.
Anyhow, I took a leap of faith, I did my own research on "how to teach kids how to read" and furthered my understanding on the foundational skills necessary for 5 year old' to become fluent and proficient readers. I spent long hours reading, creating, and making activities to support my students in ways that were "developmentally" appropriate, fun, and engaging. It wasn't easy at all. But I can tell you today, on my 6th year of teaching these last 3 years, my Kinder's have finished kindergarten reading fluently with comprehension skills placing them at the beginning of year 1st grade level or higher. Otherwise known as DRA Levels 6, 8, 10, or Fountas & Pinnell D, E, F, or G. All the research that is out there, states and shows that most 5 year old' are not developmentally ready to read higher than DRA Level 3-4 or D. 

So what am I doing different? Am I pushing my kinder's? Am I drilling them? Have I taken all play out of my classroom? Nope, I haven't done any of that! I'm hoping that this blog post helps you organize your thoughts, experiences, activities, and ideas to become better at what you do!

Why I know Reading is Possible

By this time of the year (End of January/Beg. February) 85% of my kids are reading and writing. Since day one I set up and organize my class to have center rotations in order to work with small groups on a daily basis for at least 15 minutes twice a day. You can read about how I set that up here (center rotations)

I have two "reading" blocks and by the end of year and end up with only one block.

Part 1: Block One Foundational Skills: 8:20 to 9:50

The purpose of this block is to work on Common Core Foundation Skills (phonemic and phonological awareness skills). That's all I target and teach; rhyming, syllables, Initial Sounds, Medial Sounds, Final Sounds, onset-rime, letter recognition, writing, sounds and some of the language standards. I follow a scope and sequence guide provided by our district (which I was part of the committee to make it) that guides me in what standards I will be focusing on each quarter (every 9 weeks). You can download that scope and sequence guide here it's FREE!  

The numbers 1, 2, 3,4 represent our quarters or 9 week period. The key on the top is pretty self-explanatory. But if you have any questions please ASK!!
Using the pacing guide: My centers revolve around the Foundational Skills standards that student's need to master by the end of the 9 week period. That's ALL I teach, I give students multiple opportunities with different activities that revolve around music and play to master those standards. Nothing else, I do not deviate or teach any other standard during this block except for those. Of course overtime and with practice you begin to realize and understand how to integrate content and standards and teach more than one standard at a time because they lend themselves to that.


Think about your centers as play centers. If all you have are worksheets, worksheets, worksheets, kids will finish fast, get bored, frustrated, and most of all they will not be authentically engaged.
Or if you do everything WHOLE group, you will not be able to work in small group instruction ever.

Think of centers of activities that revolve around the standards that give students multiple opportunities to become proficient in that standard. In a previous post I explain how I get my students working independently at these centers click here to find out how.

For example below are the standards we are working on right now. Prior to releasing students to centers, I have a 15 minute whole group lesson, where I introduce, model, and explain our target goals. Students are then dismissed to their center rotations. For the next 75 minutes, students will be provided with opportunities to read, write, and play. Rotating accordingly to each center for 12- 15 minutes. If we don't finish, it's OK... remember you're providing students multiple opportunities to become proficient in that standard while developing reading skills, using strategies you have taught them at the small group level. Can the same activities carry on over to the next day? YES, they can!

This is what they look like in my class right now: 
  1. Center 1: Word Segmenting 
    d. Isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and final sounds (phonemes) in three-phoneme (consonant-vowel-consonant, or CVC) words.*(This does not include CVCs ending with/l/,/r/,or/x/.) 

    -Using connecting cubes and picture cards, students read the word, segment & count how many sounds a word has. Using connecting cubes as a tool, they isolate, blend, and read the "phonemes."
    Here is an example of them segmenting words. Worksheet free!

  2. Writing 
    W.3 Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened.

    b. Recognize and name end punctuation. 

    *At the beginning of the year, this center is all about letter recognition, tracing and making letters (Alphabet play). I scaffold this center through out the year and eventually becomes what it is now. Student's are encouraged to use sight words in their writing. As they master sight words, they are moved to our word wall for future reference.

  3. Computers or Ipads: or any designated assigned app. My favorite assigned apps can be found here. all bout apps.
  • I like to use the learning path on abcmouse because I can assign activities and lessons that target skills students' are struggling with. They are learning all while playing games! I have also blogged about how to set up your teacher account, click here for more information about that: abcmouse.

      4.  Mrs. Bryant's table 
            RF.4 Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.  
            RF.2 Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes).
                  e. Add or substitute individual sounds (phonemes) in simple, one-syllable words to make               
                         new  words
  • This is our small group instruction time. The place I introduce, differentiate, and teach the "new" standard. I like to spiral teach and integrate all the other standards and content that students' are working on at their independent centers. This is where I give explicit instruction and strategies to meet their personal needs . The place where I watch them closely, have conversations with them, ask them how they feel about their learning. This is also the time where we make close connections, I learn from them and they learn from me, they learn from each other.   


       5.  Rhyming/Nouns 
             a. Recognize and produce rhyming words.
             c. Form regular plural nouns orally by adding /s/or/es/ (e.g., dog, dogs; wish, wishes). 
This center is all about the use of interactive journals. Students play games at the concrete level, then I scaffold their activities to interactive journal use. Interactive journals are amazing because I like to use them as portfolios that hold student work samples and their progress through out the year or quarter.

In a short few examples, these are the learning centers you will most likely see in the "new" kindergarten classroom or if you walk into mine. Centers that are aligned to "rigorous" instruction, but lend themselves to play if you choose to do so. You are the creative, experienced, full of ideas teacher. The one who has the power to provide students with learning opportunities, materials, and support to maximize student learning. You are the one they rely on to provide them with the security and encouragement they need to meet high expectations; because you are that loving, caring, full of life teacher! A beautiful person inside and out that tries his or her best to provide their students with the best learning experiences and opportunities and impact them in a positive, delightful way!Give it a try, I know you can do it!

Doing all this took me some time to develop and understand. Implementing new teaching practices meant I had to let go of my old teaching practices; practices I knew and felt comfortable with. It was a lot of reflection and trying many new ideas and putting them into practice. Even some that were out of my comfort zone (like no worksheets). Over the years I've come to the realization, that ultimately I have the power and control of what goes on and happens in my classroom. It is my professional responsibility to stay committed to the continuing growth and development of all my students and provide them with rich literacy experiences. During this time, I had to ask myself, is there any current relevant research that could perhaps change or challenge the old research that has been set in stone? There really isn't, except the evidence of what happens in my own classroom (and I'm sure many others out there) on a daily basis and today I'm sharing with you! Wishing you a wonderful rest of the year.


Stay Tuned for Part 2: Block 2 Literature Circles: