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. In order to meet student needs, a teacher must understand him or her individually. Through varied assessment, teachers can discover the child’s unique developmental level. Once an understanding is formed, specific goals can be created for the student and the teacher. It is through effective goals that we see progress, something we hope to mark in all children. To get a better understanding of what a teacher must go through to accurately assess and work with children in literacy, I completed an individual child study with Benny*. Benny is in kindergarten at Barkstall Elementary School in Champaign, Illinois. The school serves students in kindergarten through grade 5. There are about 515 students who attend Barkstall and 23 in my class. Benny was born March 16, 2005. He is bi-racial – his mother is Caucasian and his father is African. Benny is classified as having high anxiety, an emotional disorder. He is also a high poverty student. Kerrylynne Humphrey, my cooperating teacher and Benny’s teacher, has taught at Barkstall for 6 years. She is Caucasian and lives in the small town of Homer, Illinois. Before working there, she taught at Dr. Howard for 8 years. She has taught kindergarten the whole time. Since she was a little girl, Kerrylynne wanted to be a teacher. Her favorite subject to learn and teach is reading. She is endorsed in Literacy Instruction and loves working with the other kindergarten teachers to establish effective literacy plans. Her favorite part about teaching literacy is watching the student’s faces “light up” when they learn how to read. It makes them feel empowered, independent and excited. Out of the 23 students in the class, 12 are Caucasian, while the rest are minority students. Barkstall is not a Title 1 school. The students who attend Barkstall come from Champaign and Savoy. The geographical range of student homes is large because Barkstall is a balanced-calendar, choice school. Geographical diversity contributes to the socio-economic diversity of the students. Ten out of 23 qualify for free or reduced lunch. In kindergarten at Barkstall, there is a strong emphasis on developing literacy skills. The whole
morning and part of the afternoon are devoted to reading and writing. To enhance reading skills, the students participate in read-alouds, Shared Reading, Guided reading, independent reading, partner reading, Making Meaning, literacy centers. To enhance writing skills, the students participate in writing centers, Writer’s Workshop, and Guided Reading. Overall, the tone of the classroom is warm, inviting, and student-centered. Students are generally in-charge of their learning and feel comfortable asking questions, taking risks and making mistakes. The students are excited to learn and participate throughout the day, especially when it comes to literacy. In discussing literacy with Kerrylynne, I began to understand much more about the field and Benny’s development in it. Champaign Unit 4 schools have specific assessments they require teachers administer throughout the year. In the first term of kindergarten, Kerrylynne completes letter identification assessments, sound identification assessments, sight word assessments, Concepts About Print (CAP) assessments, and Guided Reading assessments. The Guided Reading assessments include running records and writing samples. In large binders, Kerrylynne collects data on all her students. When talking about Benny, Kerrylynne first mentions his willingness to try new things. His compliance and eagerness to learn open his mind to many types of texts. In reading and writing, Benny responds well to suggestions. He enjoys working one-on-one with a teacher to improve his writing during Writer’s Workshop. When Benny is interested, he participates fully in whole group discussions. He will listen and raise his hand to speak. During literacy centers, Benny’s strength is his focus. He does not rush through the centers, like some students. In general, Kerrylynne hopes to bring Benny to an independent level in reading and writing. After learning more about Benny from my teacher, I took on her role in studying an individual child. One component of this process was a collection of student interviews. Interviews helped me learn about Benny on a personal level. Benny likes spending time with adults and teachers. He is also social and likes playing with his brother, who is one year younger than him. Benny has been enjoying kindergarten. He told me he does not like reading but he likes being read to. He feels reading is too difficult for him to do independently. He would rather do it with someone else. Benny gets read to every
night before bed. He likes books about animals, fairytales, the alphabet, numbers, sports, real things, people, and rhymes. He likes books with rhyme, books on tape, and big books read during Shared Reading. Benny also revealed that Writer’s Workshop is his favorite time of day, next to free choice time. He said he is “good at knowing the alphabet.” Through a letter identification assessment, the student does have a strong foundation in letters and their sounds. Some of his sounds are confused due to a speech impediment, which is receiving support from speech therapy. In writing, the student shows a strong interest in story-telling. He participates fully in dictation exercises and understands words are made from letters. For the future, Benny could work on independently using inventive spelling with the help of an alphabet chart. During Writer’s Workshop, he relies on teacher assistance. To grow in reading, Benny needs to have a greater sight word recall. Another skill to increase his reading independence would be decoding. This includes recognizing the first and last letter of a word, which has not yet been marked on his CAP. Growth in reading and writing will affect each other positively, as they are closely tied together. One way to assess Benny’s reading is through a running record. These are not used very often in my kindergarten class until later in the year. The type of assessment my teacher uses for the first term is the CAP test, letter identification test, and sight word recall. I did, however, conduct a running record as practice for my professional development. I chose a book Benny was introduced to the day before in Guided Reading called My Glasses (level 1.) Benny had 1 error out of 28 words, 96% accuracy. This tells me he can read this book at an independent level and so we put it in his book box. Benny showed few repetitions, and was fairly fluent. His one error was an insertion. This error was probably visual. Benny saw a word beginning with the letter “t” and is familiar with the word “too.” The insertion did not change the meaning of the text. Completing the running record was easier than what was practiced in class. There, the case studies read much faster than Benny. Since Benny is in kindergarten, his text was short and simple. I could hear and check each word said. There is a lot to remember in a running record. In the future, I will keep a sticky-note at the top of my record sheet with symbols to recall. With experience, this task will become easier. Next time, I also may choose a book that Benny is not familiar with to have a more
accurate score of his skills. The CAP test I completed is used in kindergarten to assess the child’s overall understanding of print. I used a book called Up in a Tree, a level 4. Students need a strong CAP to even begin reading. The areas I looked at were recognition of the front of a book, recognition that print contains a message, where to start reading, which way to read, use of return sweep, meaning of a period, meaning of a question mark, recognition of a capital letter, word-by-word matching, recognition of a letter vs. letters, recognition of a word vs. words, and the recognition of the first and last letter of a word. Through my CAP, I understood Benny was at a good place to begin reading. Through my letter and sound identification, I concluded the same thing. Once Benny understands a letter vs. letters and a word vs. words, his reading will continue to grow. An area I really looked closely at in the CAP test was word-toword correspondence. According to the reading specialist at my school, this skill is needed before a student can move out of Barkstall’s level 1 group. Benny had this skill when I assessed him in November but not in August. This shows progress that I was happy to see. For this student, I have 2 specific reading goals. First, I want the student to be able to independently read a level 1 text with minimal teacher assistance. I would like the student to do this without a picture walk or discussion of words he may not know. The student should be able to do this with 95% accuracy or greater. I chose this goal because the first running record text was fairly easy for the student to complete. This could be because he was familiar with the book. Before moving the child up to the next reading level, I would need to see if he could do this independently. Also to increase his reading, I want the student to write independently during Writer’s Workshop using inventive spelling with help of an alphabet chart. This skill will help the student decode, which he does not utilize while reading. In my letter identification, I saw the student could identify letters and sounds. He should begin to decode using this knowledge. My teacher agreed with the goals I created. With the one involving Writer’s Workshop, she suggested I make the goal more specific. Instead of having Benny just “write” independently, he should write one sentence independently. With more specific goals, she said, the student will make marked progress.
As I completed various assessments, I found time to conduct reading conferences with Benny. According to Literacy in the 21st Century, conferences “monitor progress in reading and writing activities as well as set goals and help them solve problems” (Tompkins, pg. 83). Benny and I engaged in two book discussion conferences. I asked him to bring me a book he could read well. He went to the class bookcases and chose a book we really liked. As Benny went through the book, he made up his own story related to the pictures. This aspect of the reading conferences was definitely a challenge for me. Books that Benny enjoys are those that are read aloud to him. Because of Benny’s developmental level, it was also difficult to set collaborative goals with him. Through my two conferences, I learned Benny likes books that relate to our class theme. He showed confidence is telling me about these books. I was not able to collect information about decoding and fluency. Benny’s retelling skills, however, were present. When he hears a story he likes, he is able to retell it based on the pictures. Reading conferences serve many purposes, but they would be most effective in upper grades. If students understand goal setting and have a solid reading foundation, they will gain from this type of discussion. Goals generally are most meaningful when set by the individual who seeks them. Younger students, however, may not fully understand goals and need more teacher guidance. Through talking with my co-op, assessments, and conferences, I collected information on Benny that will be valuable to my professional career. As my responsibilities teaching became more intense, it was harder to complete the project. I also struggled with Barkstall’s balanced-calendar system. When I wanted to do certain assessments, the children were not in session. Furthermore, the students started kindergarten in July. A lot of my initial observation was lost. My co-op mentioned that mass growth in reading occurs during the first few weeks of school. Still, my time spent with Benny proved valuable. I am more comfortable doing running records, which I knew nothing about before this semester. Reading in the developmental years, I learned, begins with an understanding of letters and print. Also, when students enjoy reading, they are more comfortable taking risks and learning strategies. I believe this is the most essential part of the reading process. To discuss the importance of assessment in shaping instruction, I talked a lot with my co-op. She
is a firm believer in individualized instruction. Though this is a challenge, she says creating specific goals for each child leads to progress of the whole class. When I gave my first assessment, I felt a little uncomfortable. I did not want Benny to think I was “evaluating” him. As a child, I had bad experiences with test anxiety. Since Benny is diagnosed with high anxiety, I thought the assessment component could be a potential problem. With a positive attitude, however, I think I set the right mood. Consistent assessment helps a teacher set goals for a student. With Benny, I could speculate reasons for specific trends. For example, in the sound identification assessment, Benny mixed up the “s” and “c” sound. Since these sounds have an overlap in some words, I concluded, Benny’s error was simply developmental. By gaining experience with more words, he will distinguish the sounds. Assessment highlights strengths and weaknesses. In Benny’s writing, his strength is letter formation. “Word tracking” is an area for improvement. A future lesson with Benny should consider both these factors. As a student, I have seen first hand how goal setting leads to progress. It gives an individual something to focus on or reach for. Reading conferences help build goals. Students should be involved in what teachers expect to see from them. Having a part in the process will make increase motivation. Reading conferences also build literacy engagement. They have a meta-cognitive aspect – the student thinks about reading. Children develop a sense of what they like and what they are good at. Although the teacher is there to facilitate this process, most conclusions come from the individual. He or she becomes in-control of reading. Studying Benny’s literacy development put purpose to many of the topics we have been discussing in CI 475. My understanding of Benny’s development has changed throughout the course of the project. Benny’s reading level is not determined by a single factor. There are many elements that have a role in his performance. In reviewing his information, I see a number of strengths. Benny has experience with many books. He understands how books are alike and different. He can cross match pictures and words, a skill we have been studying in Shared Reading. I will build on these strengths to make Benny a better reader who has strategies that will continue his enjoyment level. As a reader, Benny is developing at a normal rate. He enjoys reading, which I see to be his most
important asset in the future. To continue to support Benny, I recommend the teacher work with him in a small group setting. He should be exposed to interesting, engaging texts. The teacher should model strategies like tracking words by pointing, which should help Benny in reading and writing. Benny takes a liking to adults, so this is a simple plan. He should also be exposed to more sight words. He could easily identify the ones being discussed in class, which shows a strong recall rate. Perhaps, the teacher could include more word stations during literacy time as opposed to letter stations. Benny’s letter identification is solid. He would benefit more from exposure to words. In order to fully understand Benny’s reading level, I would like to conduct more running records. I can complete more once his reading level is independent. Through running records, I can check for visual, syntactical, or comprehension errors. Also, I need additional information on Benny’s fluency when he reads. His main priority now is just reading the words, creating an obstacle for fluency.