Literacy Place for the Early Years Evidence-Based Research K 3

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1 Literacy Place for the Early Years Evidence-Based Research K 3

2 Table of Contents Page Daily Challenges for Teachers 2 Literacy Place for the Early Years 2 Literacy Place for the Early Years Evidence-Based Research 3 The Research Study: An Overview 3 Team Questions Data Findings Research Findings for Reading: A Closer Look 4 Reading Levels Engaging and Authentic Texts Reading Instruction High Frequency Words Using Data to Drive Reading Instruction Reading Level Graphs 8 Senior Kindergarten to Grade 2 ( ) Senior Kindergarten to Grade 3 ( ) Senior Kindergarten to Grade 3 ( ) Research Findings for Writing: A Closer Look 15 Writing Levels Engaging and Authentic Texts Writing Instruction Using Data to Drive Writing Instruction Writing Samples 18 Senior Kindergarten Grade One Grade Two Grade Three Conclusion 26 1

3 Daily Challenges for Teachers Meeting the diverse needs of each and every student in today s classrooms is a daily challenge for many teachers. Along with this comes the expectation that each teacher will move all students forward on the literacy continuum because yearly growth is expected for ALL. Many schools today have high numbers of ESL/ELL students. Add the disengagement crisis (students who lose interest in school because of materials that don t engage them) and the need to boost student motivation for independent reading and writing, and we have a visual of what is facing the classroom teacher today. Along with these challenges comes the additional requirement by boards to provide data-driven instruction and differentiation quite a task when you look at the wide range of student abilities in any given classroom! Schools, too, are looking at data collection to show growth from September to June. Many board officials and Ministries of Education across the country are requesting the presence of data walls/collections in schools and documented growth for students over the school year. To meet these goals, teachers need tools and strategies that can be built into their daily instructional practice. Literacy Place for the Early Years Literacy Place for the Early Years provides research-based programming that covers a wide range of student literacy needs. It is based on a balanced approach to reading and writing, using the gradual release model, and recognizes the need to be flexible and resourceful in meeting the diverse needs of students. Literacy Place for the Early Years provides multi-level, high-interest materials for both reading and writing, with many cross-curricular connections. The teachersupport materials are designed to help teachers manage differentiated, small-group instruction. They provide a range of strategies and prompts to use with students who are at differing stages on the literacy continuum, suggested differentiated learning opportunities, and a wide variety of assessment tools for proof of students current understanding and future instructional needs. Consistent structure and teacher language is provided to support students as they progress through Kindergarten to Grade 3. 2

4 Literacy Place for the Early Years Evidence-Based Research Scholastic Canada conducted evidence-based research in a selected board to find out if Literacy Place for the Early Years, used as a core program and featuring all the aspects of balanced literacy, can make a difference in the literacy growth of students and can support teachers in meeting the classroom challenges of today. The Research Study: An Overview Team Scholastic Canada approached the Trillium Lakelands District School Board for permission to conduct and analyze research compiled from two of their schools, one urban and the other rural. This board has a literacy profile that meshes well with the balanced approach in Literacy Place for the Early Years. Both schools house Kindergarten to Grade 8 students and have a number of split grade classrooms. Kindergarten students attend school all day on alternate days of the week. Approximately 235 elementary students and 11 teachers, from Senior Kindergarten to Grade 3, were involved in the research study. The teachers were provided with grade specific materials, in-servicing, coaching once a month from Scholastic s National Literacy Consultant, and assistance with data collection; specifically the administration of the Alphakids Reading Assessment Kit in the fall and spring. In return, the teachers agreed to use Literacy Place for the Early Years as the core resource in their classroom from fall 2005 to spring 2008 and to collect specified data at the beginning and end of each year. Questions The research was conducted to find answers to the following two questions: Is it possible to increase the reading and writing levels of many students by using engaging and authentic texts in a gradual release, balanced literacy program? Do the materials in this balanced literacy program support teachers in providing data-driven, differentiated instruction, while also helping to foster an understanding of how instruction strategies can impact students learning? Data The teacher researchers gathered data for the research study for approximately a three-year period, beginning in November 2005 and concluding in June The data collected per grade included: pre- and post-reading levels using Alphakids Reading Assessment Kit pre- and post-writing samples for self-selected writing pre-writing assessment samples of formally taught text-types (including published pieces where appropriate) selected continuums (Oral, Reading, Writing) teacher jot-notes about Literacy Place for the Early Years materials used with students 3

5 Findings The data shows that it is possible to increase the reading and writing levels of most students by using the engaging and authentic texts in Literacy Place for the Early Years. The data also shows that Literacy Place for the Early Years teacher-support materials promote data-driven differentiated instruction and foster an understanding of how instruction strategies impact students learning. Teachers noted that the levels of their lowest readers and writers jumped with the use of the engaging texts in Literacy Place for the Early Years, and their own understanding of how instructional strategies impact learning grew. A number of teachers reported the power of linking read aloud and shared reading texts for the modelling of reading and writing strategies before guiding students in guided reading and writing sessions as they started to apply their new learning. Checklists and continuums further assisted teachers as they observed and conferenced with students during independent reading/writing and saw, first hand, the independent application of new learning happen. Previously, teachers had not valued the importance of regular guided and independent reading/ writing times where they interacted with students and watched for the transfer of new strategies. Teachers reported feeling much more confident in their accountability of documenting student growth over time and having the paper evidence to support and prove this growth. Research Findings for Reading: A Closer Look The data shows that the reading levels of most students did increase when engaging, authentic texts were used inside a gradual release balanced literacy program with writing and reading regularly linked. While using Literacy Place for the Early Years, teachers gained both confidence and skill in collecting data, and interpreting the data to plan instruction that met the diverse needs of their students. Reading Levels The reading level graphs (see pages 8 15) clearly indicate that students from Senior Kindergarten to Grade 3, who used Literacy Place for the Early Years, grew as readers from fall to spring with most students making significant gains in their reading level. Engaging and Authentic Texts The quotes featured below are from Senior Kindergarten to Grade 3 teachers who used Literacy Place for the Early Years with their students during the course of the research study. The quotes show that the texts in Literacy Place for the Early Years engaged students and contributed significantly to an increase in students reading levels. Additional quotes from teachers about student engagement with texts in Literacy Place for the Early Years can be found on pages These materials have been of great assistance in contributing to my students overall achievement. Most students have gone up 10 reading levels. My students get so excited every time I introduce a new book! 4

6 Students really related to the books. They were amazed at the variety of texts I offered for guided reading. Read alouds got my students excited about authors. Many went looking for other titles by an author they discovered through the Literacy Place for the Early Years materials. Reading Instruction The teachers who participated in the research study were aware that knowing the level at which a student was reading early in the school year served as a benchmark against which to judge how well their instruction was helping each student raise his or her reading level as the year progressed. During the research study, many teachers discovered that they needed more information in order to interpret their data collections and plan the right instruction for each group of readers. This became, for them, a very big piece to ensure a data-driven, gradual release, balanced reading program in their classrooms. Coupled with this was the discovery of the necessary connections that needed to be made between all the components of their reading program and the necessary links to working with words and to their writing program. How to determine whether the books students were choosing for independent reading were too hard or too easy and using similar information to select just right guided reading materials, was another important piece of discovery. Teachers became very aware of the need for daily independent and partner reading using just right texts to further ensure student growth as readers. Book conversations needed to happen, too, they found, to allow students to practise what the teacher modelled during read aloud. Independent reading was no longer silent reading all the time! Became so aware that I needed to address reading strategies in these grades more than I was doing. There is a lot more oral discussion in my class now after shared reads. The guides have forced me to do this! I have really noticed the growth!!!! I do guided reading everyday now. I see each child once every two or three days at a minimum. Most importantly, they found that they needed more information than originally thought, to plan appropriate guided reading sessions to make sure all students continued to show reading growth. By using Literacy Place for the Early Years, these teachers not only found the information they needed but became confident, well prepared, and able to show documented progress over time for each of their students. The materials really helped me understand the reading levels better and therefore the process of finding a just right text for my students. My guided and independent reading became more focused. I feel the student work samples I collected and the Alphakids Reading Assessment Kit indicate an encouraging, steady developmental growth indicative of exposure to a comprehensive, strategic language program. 5

7 High Frequency Words Along with reading levels, teachers noted the need for further information to guide their text selections inside their balanced reading program. That is, they needed to know what high frequency words students could read, write, and use to solve unknown words. The record sheets provided in Literacy Place for the Early Years allowed teachers to collect this information easily and quickly as they worked with students in both classroom and conferencing situations. Some teachers used the record sheets as class at a glance while others used the record sheets per small group. Teachers liked the accumulation of knowns over time that the record sheets provided. If students were not gaining in word knowledge, an alert occurred for them. Common questions teachers asked themselves at this point were: Are my shared and guided reading choices aiding students growth in high frequency words? Is my working with words instruction meeting the needs of my students? From this information, teachers found they could plan instruction for whole group and small group differentiation based on recorded information and be accountable for their instructional choices. Many mini lessons are provided in the guide to address students with specific needs (e.g., prefixes, suffixes). Word solving and word building activities, with their transfer to reading and writing wonderful! The Working with Words Guide changed my spelling program and my kids love my new way! More importantly, this information was noted as really helping in the selection of just right texts for guided reading and better ensuring that students did not meet too many challenges and become frustrated. Love the word games in the Working with Words Guide. Lots of ideas provided to be sure students see these important words many, many times. 6

8 Using Data to Drive Reading Instruction Most boards in Ontario use a board approved assessment tool for collecting pre- and post-reading levels from Senior Kindergarten to Grade 3. The Alphakids Reading Assessment Kit was used in this research study and the teachers involved commented positively about it. Teachers really liked how this tool provided easy-to-follow analysis steps and helped them to make data-based instructional decisions. They quickly saw the links between it and the checklists and observation sheets in Literacy Place for the Early Years. [I] really like how the reading strategies are laid out to be checked off on the Record of Reading Behaviour. Looking At Print section very valuable as it reminds you [of] the importance of the Concepts About Print. Record sheets provided in Literacy Place for the Early Years further allowed teachers to tailor their instruction to students needs and document literacy behaviours over time. These record sheets became a part of their regular and ongoing data collection to inform day-by-day, minute-by-minute, instruction. Teachers felt confident that they were always ready with up-to-date data for on-the-spot interviews and reporting periods. The monthly coaching sessions were so helpful. Any school that purchases needs some sessions. It is so overwhelming otherwise. These sessions helped me learn what was in my materials and got all my questions answered. Seeing someone use the materials with my kids was a real wow! Teacher responses indicate that they are willing to use data to drive instruction, however, they can be overwhelmed trying to meet the diverse needs of each and every student in today s classrooms. From discussions with their peers, it became apparent that far more ongoing professional dialogue with teaching peers and a reading specialist is needed to assist teachers in knowing what the data is telling them about their students and how do they go about planning differentiated instruction for 20 or more students inside a balanced literacy program. 7

9 Reading Level Graphs Alphakids Levelling Wheel The letters represent Guided Reading levels. The numbers represent Reading Intervention levels. The graphs that follow cover the three-year time span of the research study from 2005 to Senior Kindergarten to Grade 2 ( ) Kids just loved Just Imagine ABC Read it again!!! Bernard s Bath another read it again and again. 8

10 My students are now excited about reading. They make far more links and connections between books and ideas now. These materials have been of great assistance in contributing to my students overall achievement. Most students have gone up 10 reading levels. My students get so excited every time I introduce a new book! 9

11 Senior Kindergarten to Grade 3 ( ) Kids just loved the books and really engaged in the lessons. I would definitely recommend these materials to other teachers! These materials made my teaching life so much easier. There is an amazing choice of materials from plays to magazines, poetry, fiction, non-fiction. 10

12 Literacy Place meets my students needs, provincial needs, and my scheduling needs. Students really related to the books. They were amazed at the variety of texts I offered for guided reading. Students started to really think deeper and I noticed growth in their vocabulary for both speaking and writing. 11

13 Read alouds got my students excited about authors. Many went looking for other titles by an author they discovered through the Literacy Place for the Early Years materials. ** ** * * * Student reading at level 24 + ** Student reading at level My students attitudes toward reading really changed this year. Far more independent reading was happening, too, and not just all the required time! * * * * * * * * * ** * Student reading at level 24 + ** Student reading at level Everyone s reading levels went up several levels. 12

14 My Grade 3 boys loved the sports magazine and other non-fiction texts. * ** * Student reading at level 24 + ** Student reading at level Senior Kindergarten to Grade 3 ( ) EQAO went so much better this year!!! My students just jumped right in being better versed in both fiction, non-fiction, and media texts. My students are more enthusiastic readers. They are actually going off to find more information on topics covered. 13

15 A big AhAh for me was re-reading the same text several times! These materials are excellent the best I have ever had! I love the variety of materials provided for reading. The topics are interesting, and I like the mixture of fiction and non-fiction. 14

16 Absolutely love the vast amount of materials provided that are authentic, hold student interest, are easy to use, and meet curriculum expectations. There is more sharing happening (sharing of ideas and strategies). * * Student reading at level 24 + Research Findings for Writing: A Closer Look The data shows the writing levels of most students did increase when engaging, authentic texts were used inside a gradual release, balanced literacy program with writing and reading regularly linked. While using Literacy Place for the Early Years, teachers concluded that their instruction in the writing process was more focused and met the next needs of many more of their students. Writing Levels The writing samples (see pages 18 25) clearly indicate that students from Senior Kindergarten to Grade 3, who used Literacy Place for the Early Years, showed growth as writers throughout the year. 15

17 Engaging and Authentic Texts The quotes featured below are from Senior Kindergarten to Grade 3 teachers who used Literacy Place for the Early Years with their students during the course of the research study. The quotes show that the text types in Literacy Place for the Early Years engaged students and contributed significantly to an increase in students writing levels. My students are certainly more into writing now! Love the in-depth text-type studies. It was so easy to match text types with units in science and social studies. Students became more comfortable writing as the year progressed, both with the text types and spelling of unknown words. Easy to use the text types in the Writing Guide to assist in planning and teaching of the forms the board insisted we teach and assess. Writing Instruction Regular modelling in shared writing, using powerful read alouds, thinking aloud as they wrote, and a better understanding of guided writing, proved to be the keys to extending the writing program in these classrooms. Many teachers felt the connections between reading and writing, so clearly shown in Literacy Place for the Early Years, was a missing piece for them. Really like the teacher guides. For example, the grade specific Writing Guide gives you the whole picture for a writing task including time frames. Really great as I never really had a teacher s guide to help teach writing. Showing students the number of high frequency words they could write, using mini lessons in the Writing Guide, and planning appropriate working with words in the context of real writing were big ideas that proved invaluable in getting more students engaged in writing and making significant gains. Shared reads became their model for writing as together teachers and students looked again at a familiar shared read, analyzed the text type, and looked at all the traits of a good piece of writing. Really like the mini lessons in the Writing Guide. Being broken into sections is a wonderful time saver. The checklists provided allowed teachers to further inform their instruction and document writing behaviours over time. These checklists became a part of their regular and ongoing data collection to inform day-by-day, minute-by-minute, instruction. 16

18 Using Data to Drive Writing Instruction Writing is the most complex act people engage in. The best way to determine how well students write is to observe them each day as they write, to look at first-draft writing samples, and to interact with them during writing conferences. With the various assessment tools and strategies provided in Literacy Place for the Early Years, teachers found it much easier to plan their writing program. In addition to recorded observations, they learned through using the support materials how important it is to take a focused pre-assessment writing sample during the first week or two of school and during a text-type study. By analyzing these samples, teachers determine where individual students are in their writing development and note what the class as a whole needs to work on. The samples are saved and after a text-type study, students write in the same text type for a second time. The teacher then analyzes the second sample, comparing it to the first for each student, and looking for indicators of the things the class and or individual students need to further work on. The same process is repeated throughout the year and at the end of the year, as teachers look for progress over time. (See pages for samples of pre-assessment writing and text-type writing done by Senior Kindergarten to Grade 3 students involved in the research study.) We are writing more, my teaching is more focused and driven by data, and a lot more discussion is occurring as we plan our writing. Having these samples, across the school year, provides tangible evidence of growth both to the teacher and the student. Teacher responses indicate a willingness to use data and a growing understanding of how it can be used to drive instruction. However, it became apparent during discussions with teachers that ongoing professional dialogue (Professional Learning Communities) with teaching peers and a writing specialist is needed to assist teachers in knowing what the data is telling them about their students writing and how they go about planning differentiated instruction for 20 or more students, inside a balanced writing program. 17

19 Writing Samples Senior Kindergarten The following are two student-focused writing samples done during the first week or two of school (pre-assessment/benchmark pieces) and then again in the spring. The students did self-selected writing, that is, no text type was specified. Fall: letters and letter strings Spring: transitional writing Fall: letters and letter strings Spring: moving towards conventional writing For more information on writing development, see the Kindergarten Writing Guide pages

20 Grade One The following are two student-focused writing samples done during the first week or two of school (pre-assessment/benchmark pieces) and then again in the spring. The students did self-selected writing, that is, no text type was specified. Fall: The student s picture conveys awareness that writing has a purpose. Using a familiar language pattern, a simple sentence was created. Directionality is apparent, letters are well formed with a mix of upper and lower case, and appropriate punctuation has been used. Spring: The student recognizes that writing contains a message that can be read. Many sentences have been written in appropriate order using sequencing words. There is variation in sentence beginnings, spaces between words, correct use of upper and lowercase letters, and appropriate punctuation. Fall: The student has used letters to represent consonant sounds along with as a few known high frequency words. Directionality and spacing of words is evident. A period has been used and there is an understanding that writing has a purpose. Spring: Pictures and text have been used to communicate ideas with others. Sequencing words were used and even bolded font. Many high frequency words are spelled conventionally. A period appears at the very end. Dialogue is in use as well as a title. For more information on writing development, see the Grade One Writing Guide pages

21 Persuasive Text-Type Study A grade one teacher explored the persuasive text-type study as laid out in the Grade One Writing Guide. The students were expected to write a persuasive letter asking for a pet of their choice at the end of the two-week study. Shared reading and read aloud books from both Kindergarten and Grade 1 Literacy Place for the Early Years were used as models. These books included The Best Pet; But, Mom... ; Hey, Little Ant; Ordinary Amos and the Amazing Fish; and All Pigs Are Beautiful. Along with reading and discussing these books, many shared writing sessions in both large and small groups occurred. Much time was spent analyzing these texts, discussing facts that support a point of view, and the format of a persuasive letter. The following samples are the culminating work of two students. First draft Edited final copy of persuasive letter 20

22 Edited final copy of persuasive letter First draft For more information on writing development, see the Grade One Writing Guide pages Grade Two The following are two student-focused writing samples done during the first week or two of school (pre-assessment/benchmark pieces) and then again in the spring. The students did self-selected writing, that is, no text type was specified. Fall: The student has developed an idea into a complete account using a variety of sentence beginnings and some book language. Verb tenses are not all consistent and punctuation is not always used appropriately. The writing is legible and letters are generally correctly formed. Spring: The student is aware of voice and is beginning to use dialogue in written accounts. There is a larger range of high frequency words used and an increasing number of visual patterns beginning to show in the writing. A range of punctuation is used, with some inconsistencies. 21

23 Fall: The student has recorded observations with text and supportive pictures. The account is written in sentences with inconsistent use of upper case. Periods are used appropriately. The printing is legible with letters that are correctly formed. A range of high frequency words are spelled correctly and the student shows a knowledge of word patterns and letter/sound relationships. The student demonstrates a voice awareness, varies the sentence structures, and develops an idea into a completed account. The repeated use of the first person contributes to the voice in the account. There is awareness to the traits of good writing with the opening sentence and the closing question. Punctuation is inconsistent but good use of the exclamation mark was made. For more information on writing development, see the Grade Two Writing Guide pages 5 8. Narrative Text-Type Study A grade two teacher explored the narrative text-type study as laid out in the Grade Two Writing Guide. The students were expected to write a narrative using The Three Little Pigs as a model or text innovation, if they wished. 22

24 Along with the reading and discussing of the text, shared writing sessions in both large and small groups occurred. These samples are the culminating work of three students at the conclusion of a two week study. Narrative text organizer Final copy of narrative text type Narrative text organizer Final copy of narrative text type 23

25 Narrative text organizer Final copy of narrative text type For more information on writing development, see the Grade Two Writing Guide pages Grade Three The following are three student-focused writing samples done during the first week or two of school (pre-assessment/benchmark pieces) and then again in the spring. The students did self-selected writing, that is, no text type was specified. Fall: The student has developed a topic into a complete account. Sentence structure is somewhat varied and tense consistency is maintained. Capitals are used appropriately and most words are spelled conventionally. Spring: Voice is apparent in the writing now and book language is evident along with more varied sentence structures. Punctuation is limited to the use of periods. 24

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