Friday, September 26, 2014

September 29, 2014

The Nature of Reading Difficulties

The foundations of good reading are the same for all children. All readers, regardless of their age, gender, or aptitude, need to develop fluency, comprehension, and the motivation to read in order to become successful readers. Children who experience reading difficulties are no exception. They too must develop the basic foundations for reading, and they require the same types of learning experiences to do so.

Most young children with reading difficulties have problems developing fluency. For these children, identifying words takes a lot of effort. Their reading rate is slow, their word identification is hesitant, and they over rely on contextual cues for word identification. Because most of their cognitive or mental effort is spent trying to identify words, their comprehension suffers. The main prevention and early intervention strategies for these children are effective preparation for literacy and effective classroom instruction.

In order for children to become fluent readers they need to develop various decoding strategies.  Decoding is the ability to use knowledge of letter-sound relationships, words in context and prior knowledge to correctly pronounce written words.  Using these strategies gives children the ability to recognize familiar words quickly and to figure out words they haven't seen before. Although children may sometimes figure out some of these relationships on their own, most children benefit from explicit instruction in this area. Have your children try this great resource.

Ms. Nora Sierra
Grade 1 Teacher
Early Childhood Assistant Principal 

Friday, September 19, 2014

September 22, 2014

Why take standardized tests?

Standardized tests are nationally normed. This means that thousands of students take the test and are ranked based on their performance on this test. When your child takes the test, the results indicate where your child is in relation to the thousands of students who were in the norm group. If your child is in the 85th percentile, this means that your child scored higher than 84% of the students in the norm group. This score gives the parents an accurate picture of where their child is in relation to other children of the same age and grade group.
Standardized tests can also be used to track student growth. The MAP test utilizes a RIT score. When your child takes the test in the fall, he receives a RIT score. The goal then is to improve the RIT score by 5 points when taking the test in the spring. Parents who keep the achievement test scores and compare them from test to test will see a legitimate record of student progress.

The MAP results share specifically which concept in each subject area were mastered and shows the level of mastery. This allows the parent and the teacher to focus specifically on areas of weakness.
How should I have my child prepare for this test?

You should not have your child study for this test. This test is not a part of the child’s grades and should simply be used to indicate where the child is academically at a given point in time. Spending time in preparation may skew the results and prevent the parent and the school from seeing an accurate picture of the child’s academic progress. The student who over-studies in the fall but does not put forth the same effort in the spring may appear to lose ground by scoring lower on the second test. The most accurate picture of where your child ranks against the norm group is taken when the child does not study for the test. The best way to prepare your child for the test is to monitor their schoolwork year round and ensure that they are reaching out for help when their understanding is not certain.
You should also ensure that your child get a good night’s rest. The night(s) prior to taking the MAP test should be pleasant evenings for the child. They should eat a healthy meal, enjoy their evening, and go to bed early. It is essential that a student be fully rested in order to perform at a maximum level when taking the test. Students should eat a healthy breakfast on the day of the test. When taking the test, the student should take a minimum of a fifteen minute break between sections of the test.

Ms. Nora Sierra
Early Childhood Assistant Principal
Grade 1 Teacher

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sept. 17-19, 2014

What is MAP?
Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) is a state-aligned computerized adaptive assessment program that provides  educators with the information they need to improve teaching and learning and make student-focused, data-driven decisions.
Students are tested twice or three times per year in math, reading, and language usage. Educators use the growth and achievement data from MAP to develop targeted instructional strategies and to plan school improvement.

Student MAP testing results are reported in RIT scores. A RIT score is an estimation of a student’s instructional level and also measures student progress or growth in school. You may have a chart in your home on which you mark your child’s height at certain times, such as on his or her birthday. This is a growth chart to show how much he or she has grown from one year to the next. MAP assessments do the same sort of thing, except they measure your student’s growth in mathematics, reading, and language usage. The RIT scale is an equal-interval scale much like feet and inches on a yardstick. It is used to chart your child’s academic growth from year to year. This type of score increases the value of the tests as a tool to improve student learning because it enables teachers to pinpoint what students have learned and what students are ready to learn.

Understanding the RIT Score
The charts on the inside of this brochure show national median RIT scores for grades 1-9 in a typical school district. You may use these charts to help determine if your student is performing at, above, or below grade level compared to students across the nation. It is important to understand that the MAP test is one test at one point in time. It does not measure intelligence or a student’s capacity for learning. When making important decisions about students, school staff will consider the MAP test results along with other data such as classroom performance, other test scores, and input from parents and teachers.

Growth Over Time
We expect RIT scores to increase over time. Typically, younger students show more growth in one year than older students. Students who test above grade level often show less growth. Sometimes RIT scores may decline from one test to the next. One low test score is not cause for immediate concern. Like adults, students have good and bad days and their test results do not always indicate what they know. Students’ attitudes toward the test can also affect their score. Therefore, growth over time is a better measure of student learning. Parents and guardians should become comfortable with the understanding that individuals will grow at different rates. Anticipated growth rates for each student are based on national norms and should be viewed as “typical” growth, not expected growth. Teachers and principals have participated in training to learn what the MAP test results mean and how to best utilize the results. Our goal is for teachers to use the data to differentiate and adjust instruction so that all students grow at levels appropriate for each individual.

Nora Sierra
Grade 1 teacher
Early Childhood Assistant Principal

Friday, September 5, 2014

September 8, 2014

Four Block Framework
The Four Blocks—Guided Reading, Self-Selected Reading, Writing, and Working with Words—represent four different approaches to teaching children to read. Daily instruction in all Four Blocks provides numerous and varied opportunities for all children to learn to read and write. Doing all Four Blocks acknowledges that children do not all learn in the same way and provides substantial instruction to support whatever learning personality a child has.

Philosophy and Goals of the Four Block Framework:
The Four-Blocks® Literacy Model is a multilevel, balanced literacy framework that incorporates four different approaches each day to teach children how to become better readers, writers, and spellers. Developed by Drs. Patricia Cunningham and Dorothy Hall, this model acknowledges that not all children learn in the same way and provides substantial instruction to support the learning personalities of all students.

Program Components:

The program consists of four teaching models, each presented daily at a time scheduled by the teacher according to classroom needs:

*Guided Reading:  In Guided Reading, teachers choose material for children to read and a purpose for reading, and then guide them to use reading strategies needed for that material and that purpose. Teachers provide guidance in a variety of whole class, small group, and partner formats.
Guided Reading is always focused on comprehension. Children learn to predict what might happen or what they might learn. They learn about the story elements of characters, setting, and plot, and they learn how to organize and compare information learned from informational text.

*Working With Words:  The purpose of this block is to ensure that children read, spell, and use high-frequency words correctly, and that they learn the patterns necessary for decoding and spelling. Students are introduced to five new words each week.  Teachers can assess, monitor, and plan for the needs of the entire group, as well as the individual students. This ensures students learn the high-frequency words and engage in activities to learn how words work through strategies such as Making Words, Guess the Covered Word, Word Wall, and more.

*Self-Selected Reading:  This block usually begins with the teacher conducting a read-aloud.  After the read-aloud, students are sent to read to themselves from boxes full of familiar books.  Self-Selected Reading is that part of a balanced literacy program during which children get to choose what they want to read and to what parts of their reading they want to respond. Opportunities are provided for children to share and respond to what is read. Teachers hold individual conferences with children about their books.

*Writing:  The Writing Block includes a mini-lesson (called Writer's Workshop) that provides children with a model of what writers do. During the block, children engage in various writing activities from starting a new piece, finishing a piece, revising, editing, or illustrating. Another component includes conferences that lead to a final published piece.  During this time, students are introduced to writing folders and the Six Traits of Writing.   In the Author's Chair, children share their writing and respond to each other's writing at various stages in its development.

September 18, 2017

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