The children that I teach are of kindergarten age and are only beginning to read. Initially, they possessed very little of phonological awareness – even though they did enjoy reading, many of them nevertheless experienced a particularly hard time while elaborating on what has been read.
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Three of the eight students I have chosen to work with, within the context of this assignment, are utterly intelligent with their minds being absolutely predisposed towards gaining more knowledge. They are advanced readers, while being also quite proficient at spelling, writing and with applying correct punctuation to the written text. What is being disheartening about these kids though, is the fact that they seem to lack the strength of self-motivation, when it comes to reading.
Two of these children have been brought up in single-parent (father) families, with the oldest being five years old and the youngest being four years old. The ERAS helped me to gain an insight on what may account for the lack of their enthusiasm with reading. As it appears from what I had learnt – both of these kids are sport-oriented. They do enjoy different types of books being read to them aloud. Especially, they seem to derive pleasure from being exposed to the stories that involve space exploration, travel, adventure, etc. At the same time, I also learned that these students are utterly shy, which I think contributes rather substantially to their unwillingness to read, especially when reading aloud in front of their peers is being concerned.
The methodological tools I have chosen to utilize, within the context of proceeding throughout assignment’s consequential phases, should help me to reveal the essence of children’s attitude towards the reading. The first assignment tool I have chosen in favor of was Elementary Reading Attitude Survey (ERSA). This particular tool is being designed to help educators in defining the emotional subtleties of children’s stance on reading in general. While participating in the survey, children were being asked to reveal how they feel about reading by circling the appropriate emotional face (smiley) on survey-sheet. Besides providing an educator with the psychological insight onto children’s reading-related feelings, the deployment of this tool is believed to encourage the participants to adopt more positive attitude towards the subject under discussion.
The next assessment tool that I have chosen to deploy, while working on the assignment, was Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI). While being designed to test the extent of children’s phonological awareness, the strength of their linguistic skills and the measure of their comfortableness with practicing public reading, this inventory’s methodological approach presupposes administering the actual test three times per year, with its final phase having taken place during the course of the last week.
Even though that the application of both assessment techniques did help me to reveal what accounts for the extent of participating children’s linguistic literacy, it nevertheless felt short of providing me with the comprehensible clue as to the full spectrum of factors that contribute to these students’ academic lagging. Therefore, I needed to conduct a third assessment, during the course of proceeding with which, I would be able to gain a full insight on what may contribute to the emanations of children’s linguistic/reading related inadequacy.
For this, I decided to utilize Me-Stew technique, as yet additional tool of getting to know my students better. In its turn, this allowed me to learn a great deal about students’ interests, family and the particulars of their cultural background – hence, making it easier for me to properly design lesson plans, so that children would never cease being motivated to act as study’s active participants.
After having completed all three earlier mentioned assessments, I came to conclusion that three out of eight students experienced an acute lack of self-confidence, while answering questions and while engaging in discussions related to the subject of reading. The data, obtained during the course of conducting ERAS, suggested that even though these three students did exhibit their willingness to listen to what is being read to them, they nevertheless acted in rather reluctant manner, when asked to indulge into discussions. In its turn, this prompted me to consider the possibility that it was namely due to these three students’ limited access to books outside of the classroom, that they experienced certain uneasiness, while presented with the task of reading on their own.
The TPRI helped me to gain a better understanding of what accounted for reading inventories, on the part of participating students. According to the obtained data, despite showing competence in listening comprehension and in graphonological awareness, three out of eight students exhibited weakness in the areas of phonics and vocabulary fluency. In these specific areas, earlier mentioned students needed to be provided with a special attention, in order to be able to catch up with the rest.
While resorting to four-component research-matrix (informational, narrative, linguistic and semiotic) and while keeping in mind the subtleties of my lesson plan, I chose to appropriate books specifically on the subject of oceans/oceanic life, as being the most contextually appropriate (the unit I will be teaching is oceans and one of my foremost objectives is to endow students with motivation to learn more about oceanic life). This unit has always been very popular with the students as such that never ceased providing them with the pleasure of indulging in cognitive process.
I selected three different books, with each of them falling into specific category in the matrix. One of them is a non-fictional book that feature rhymed text and the other two books are best defined as informational – while containing extensive factual information about oceans, these books are being also supplemented with colorful illustrations, which is why there are good reasons to believe that children from five to eight years-old will find the experience of being exposed to these books enjoyable. Given the fact that rhyming represents the integral part of our kindergarten’s curriculum, the inclusion of a book with rhymed text proved quite indispensible. All of the selected texts have concept depth and visual support, which is critical for the beginning readers. The selected books are also available in mp3 format, so that students would be able to listen to them.
What prompted me to choose in favor of these particular books is the fact that in the aftermath of their reading, students would be naturally encouraged to participate in cognition-developing games, such as matching words with the appropriate pictures online. In its turn, this would create objective preconditions for children to remain thoroughly inspired, while learning about oceanic life-forms and consequently – while improving their cognitive, verbal and linguistic skills.
As a fourth-year kindergarten teacher, I am being aware of the fact that, in order to be able to take active part in cognition-developing discussions, children must be provided with an opportunity to take practical advantage of their knowledge of what they had learnt previously. This was accomplished through the use of KWL charts – by prompting students to elaborate on the pictures of ocean and oceanic life-forms, and also by modeling and sharing my own prior ocean-related experiences with the students. After that, students were asked to read a non-fiction rhymed story and to reflect upon their reading experiences. The next phase was instructing children to produce drawings of how they imagine the concepts of ‘ocean’ and ‘oceanic life’, which was followed by encouraging children to indulge into discussion as to what do they think differentiate their pictorial representation of ‘ocean’ from how it is being represented in books.
When I was planning this lesson, I wanted to include learning objectives that would elicit critical and responsive perspectives, on the part of students. In order to accomplish this, I used the matrix of a Grand Discussion – we reviewed the text and then read the book. Afterwards, we again held a discussion that allowed students to articulate their critical perspectives. After all, there are objective reasons to believe that reading aloud, combined with thinking aloud, does in fact help students use their prior knowledge to critically assess the information presented in the books.
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Creating objective preconditions for students to be in position of improving their meta-cognitive skills, by the mean of prompting them to reflect upon previously obtained knowledge, has always been the essential element of learning strategies. The reason for this is simple – it is meant to teach students how to engage with such knowledge.
During the first phase of students addressing reading-related tasks, they were asked to indulge in discussing what may account for semiotic significance of book’s title and to come up with suggestions as to what they thought a particular book would be all about, given its title. I designed a ‘prediction chart’ while using the tacit information as to the books’ content, contained in their titles, and encouraged students to reflect upon these titles. While in the midst of discussion, I asked children a number of different questions, such as: “What do you think of oceans, now that you have so much on the topic?” and “Look, there is a fish on the cover, I wonder if we are going to learn more about fish?”. I believe that exposing children to these questions helped them to come up with suggestions as to what would be the new ocean-related information, they were about to obtain. After that, we held another discussion about the text and about what they thought accounted for the difference between all three texts.
The next step was to define how much students were able to internalize while reading and while engaging with the acquired knowledge. For this, I provided them with the sheets of paper and asked them to come up with pictorial representation of what every particular text meant to them. I also asked children to describe the meaning of their drawings in written form. After completion of this particular assignment, on the part of participating students, we gathered once again in order to discuss drawings’ semiotics.
The data that I was able to collect, while proceeding through study’s consequential phases, provided me with the insight on not only what represented the specifics of each particular student’s cognitive ability, but also on should be considered effective/ineffective reading-related learning strategies. Because of this data, I realized that all students were indeed predisposed towards establishing dialectical links between what they already knew about the oceans and the newly obtained knowledge, in regards to oceans and oceanic life in general.
It was very interesting to be exposed to students’ verbally expressed reflections on their drawings, on the books they have read, and also on how they thought these books interrelated with the drawings. For example, most students expressed their well-defined interest in the topic, which was clear from the statements they came up with, while participating in discussion, such as: “The other story did not talk about shells and why shells are washed up on the beach”.
In the aftermath of the lesson, I asked students to elaborate on their feelings as to the covered topics, while telling them that, after having read the books, I have personally felt small and insignificant as compared to all of the surrounding wonders of nature. To this, few students replied that all this conversation about oceans made them feel like taking a walk to the beach right away. One student said: “I want to see the things we talked about in real”. The fact that I was able to attract students’ attention to the topic can be thought of as a good start, of course. Nevertheless, I still needed to establish an emotional connection with the children to the point when they would become even more enthusiastic about improving their verbal and cognitive skills. I believe the correct verbiage is the key to reaching this particular objective.
I also came to realize that it represents the matter of foremost importance for educators to include critical and responsive perspectives in literacy teaching plans. In their turn, these perspectives must be properly modeled, prior to students being prompted to read. The reason for this is simple – the reading, as the process that is being solely concerned with decoding words and phrases’ semiotics, cannot be considered beneficial, in full sense of this word. In order for students to be able to take the full advantage of gaining proficiency in reading, they must be taught how to access, judge and evaluate texts under consideration. They need to be provided with the stimulus to read in analytical manner, while continuously comparing and contrasting the information they obtain during the course of reading with the information they had acquired during the course of previous reading sessions. It is namely this type of learning, which does not only make students more knowledgeable, but also shapes their socio-political attitudes – hence, helping them to grow into productive members of society.
Therefore, there are good reasons to think that deploying earlier outlined strategies in the environment of a classroom will prove utterly beneficial for the children – especially those who come from diverse ethno-cultural backgrounds. This is because, learning about oceans can be defined as anything but culturally biased. By attaining knowledge related oceanic life, students will be able to gain an insight on dialectical essence of a relation between causes and effects. This, of course, will prove quite indispensible within the context of them becoming literate, in general.
To ensure that all of my students would act as the active participants of a learning process, I encouraged them to go out on field trips, during the course of which they were asked to pick up items that could be used to illustrate their points of view, while indulging in discussion. Several students ended up bringing to class seashells, sand dollars and clams. And the most important – they were able to reflect upon how these items related to the topics of discussion. Apparently, by actively participating in experiential learning, children were given a chance to attain a so-called ‘tacit knowledge’, which came as the result of them physically interacting with the surrounding environment. The effectiveness of deployment of earlier described learning strategies was facilitated even further by the mean of taking advantage of available IT technologies (students were encouraged to advance their ocean-related knowledge by visiting Starfall.com).
In order to maintain students’ interest in learning about ocean, I asked them to create a play, which would relate to the topics discussed in class, and to present it to the rest of their classmates. After having been provided with the task, students became utterly enthusiastic about what they were going to do and immediately began to work on their parts in the play and to make provisions for the design of costumes. This promoted class-based teamwork and involvement on the part of each student in the group.
To obtain formative assessments, students were provided with worksheets with an assignment of matching pictures of organic life with the appropriate body of water (e.g. whale with ocean, frog with pond, etc.). Students were able to match three out of four pictures correctly. After that, they were instructed to color only the pictures of mammals on a sheet that contained the blank pictures of both: mammals and non-mammals. All students were able to color the correct pictures and no adjustments were needed. Lastly, students verbally explained to me what they considered to be the ‘laws of the ocean’, while exhibiting a striking awareness of many aspects of a discussed subject matter.
As educators, we never cease being directly responsible for ensuring students’ academic well-being. From the time when they enter classrooms, until the time when they leave kindergarten/school, we remain in position of influencing their lives. Therefore, it represents the matter of crucial importance for teachers to be able to choose in favor of a proper learning strategy, meant to be deployed in the classroom. From my personal experiences, it appears that the effectiveness of a particular learning strategy also depends on educators’ willingness to incorporate ‘reading’ per se and web-based educational resources as integral components of such a strategy. By doing it, teachers will be able to help students not only to memorize the factual information, but also teach them to understand how this information relates to the surrounding realities – hence, making it easier for them to address life’s challenges.
To sum up, I believe that as educators, we can never overlook the importance of endowing students with analytical skills, because it is namely the possession of these skills, on the part of students, which will assist them rather greatly through the process of attaining social prominence. Apparently, during the course of their formative years, children never cease remaining on lookout for guidance. It goes without saying, of course, that by prompting students to indulge in active reading and to reflect upon that reading, teachers already address their professional duties. But there is more to that – we are here not only to teach young-age students to read but also to be innately driven towards the reading, as particularly pleasurable activity.
After I reviewed post-assessments, I came to conclusion that students were able to increase their prior ocean-related knowledge and to grow even more committed to learning more about this specific topic. Therefore, there are objective reasons to consider the lesson rather effective and as such that can be exemplified in study’s consequential parts. In the future, I plan to extend the length of the lesson, so that the full extent of its beneficiary effects would become even more visible.
After having watched how Dr. Bear had his group of students handling reading-related tasks and how these students participated in consequential discussions, I acquired a better understanding of the importance of sharing picture-walks with my students. After all, Dr. Bear did demonstrate the importance of convincing children to regard teachers as partners in learning, rather than adults who represent some intellectually oppressive authority (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). This was the reason why, while exposing students to the lesson on oceans, I never ceased making it clear to them that under no circumstances should they be thinking of what I tell them as simply the subject of memorizing but rather as the subject of analyzing. Partially, this also explains my realization of the fact that it is very important to observe the extent of students’ factual engagement with the information that is being provided to them in the classroom.
In the aftermath of the lessons, I came to conclusion that my areas of improvement included: providing more effective literacy workstations, utilizing more technological gadgets (e.g. iPods), and encouraging students to participate in additional forms of tacit learning. While collaborating with my team members, I was also able to receive feedback on great many aspects of a deployed learning strategy, which I believe will come particularly handy to me, during the latter stages of my career as a teacher.
Given the fact that the most students I ended up dealing with, come from economically depressed areas, with their parents often holding two low-paid jobs (in order to sustain their families financially), it comes as not a particular surprise that many of these parents simply lack time to pay attention to children’s academic advancement – and to help them through grades, to say the least. Therefore, I made a point in also ‘substituting’ parents in the classroom, in educational sense of this word, whenever proved possible.
I believe that my foremost strength, as a teacher, is being concerned in my ability to regard ethno-cultural and socio-economic differences among students (their diversity) as such that do in fact facilitate the learning process. After all, I did succeed with designing learning activities, meant to be deployed in the classroom, in such a manner that they would appeal to all the students, regardless of what happened to be the particulars of their social and cultural affiliation. As recorded in my teaching log, I was able to provide uniform instructions to male and female students, students with physical disabilities and students with cognitive disabilities of Afro-American and Hispanic descent.
I think that my other strength is being concerned with my ability to provide all the students with powerful enough incentives to have them focused on studied subject, throughout learning process’s entirety. In its turn, this ability derives out of my acute understanding of the fact that the key to ensuring the successfulness of learning is making students the active participants of the process. While understanding perfectly well that each student required its own educational approach, on the part of the teacher, I nevertheless managed to conceptualize these approaches into few distinctive categories, which in turn allowed me to provide the whole body of students with high quality experiential learning, without having to design educational approaches to be correlative with every individual case. Partially, I was able to accomplish it by the mean of defining and classifying students’ perceptional anxieties, in regards to a variety of different life’s challenges.
In order to promote social change, I plan to meet with teachers from both PreK and first grade, so that we would be able to discuss how we can align our lessons and teaching techniques. I believe that this will not only help teachers on the line of executing their professional duties, but students as well, as it will set standards for higher learning that begins in PreK. By encouraging parent volunteers to assist in the shared reading, teachers will be able to facilitate inter-generational and cultural understanding throughout the class.
Anderson, C. (2009). The five pillars of reading. Library Media Connection, 28(2), 22-25.
Gambrell, L. B., Palmer, B., Codling, R., & Mazzoni, S. (1996). Assessing motivation to read. Reading Teacher, 49(7), 518.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). The read with activity [Webcast]. Getting to know your students. Baltimore, MD.
McKenna, M. C., & Kear, D. J. (1990). Measuring attitude toward reading: A new tool for teachers. Reading Teacher, 43(9), 626-639.
Texas education agency & University of Texas system (2009). Texas Primary Reading Inventory. Web.
List of Appendices
- Appendix 1 – Pre-Assessment and Analysis Chart
- Appendix 2 – Samples of Student Work
- Appendix 3 – Formative Assessment and Analysis Chart
- Appendix 4 – Visual Representation of Data Collected
- Appendix 5 – Post-Assessment and Analysis Chart
- Appendix 6 – Scaffolding and Differentiating Chart
Pre-Assessment & Analysis Chart
EDUC-6706R-6: The Beginning Reader, Pre K-3.
|What I Learned||What it Means for Teaching & Learning of the Content and Planning||What it Means for Individual Students|
|That only few socio-economically underprivileged children have never seen the ocean.||Educators should consider the utilization of interactive and technology-intensive strategies, while teaching students.||This will expose them to a vital part of their learning curriculum, upon which will build knowledge for future grades.|
|That most socio-economically underprivileged children are not being aware of oceanic life-forms.||Educators should consider the utilization of interactive and technology-intensive strategies, while teaching students.||This will expose them to a vital part of their learning curriculum, upon which will build knowledge for future grades.|
|Most children from families of servicemen have seen the ocean.||Educators should aim at facilitating these children’s previously obtained knowledge of oceans.||This will expose them to a vital part of their learning curriculum, upon which will build knowledge for future grades.|
|Most children from families of servicemen have the awareness of oceanic life-forms.||Teachers should be encouraging students to bring items; they have collected along ocean’s shores, to the class.|
|There are no distinguishing differences between how socio-economically underprivileged children and children from single-parent families form their attitude towards the ocean.||Teachers’ responsibility, in this respect, would be helping such children to acquire more ocean-related knowledge.|
|To be able to acquire the initial ocean-related knowledge, children must be encouraged to indulge in a number of knowledge-facilitating interactive activities.||Teachers’ responsibility, in this respect, would be facilitating children’s awareness of ocean by encouraging them to read books and to surf the net in the search of relevant information.|
Appendix 2: Student Work
EDUC-6706R-6: The Beginning Reader, Pre K-3.
Student creating a drawing from the text we had just finished reading.
Student is looking at the online text. The same student is going through the worksheet.
Student is looking at the online book “At the beach”, information below
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Formative Assessment & Analysis Chart
EDUC-6706R-6: The Beginning Reader, Pre K-3
|Tricky Part of the Lesson||Formative Assessment to Use||Analysis and Adjustments|
|1. Helping students to cognitively (not-experientially) distinguish between fresh-water and saltwater life.||Matching pictures to the correct body of water.||Students were able to match 3 out of 4 pictures correctly. |
To adjust the lesson, revisit pictures of sea life.
|2. Helping students distinguish between types of mammals that live in the ocean.||Asking students color pictures of mammals on a sheet that shows both mammals and non-mammals.||Students were able to match all pictures. |
No adjustments needed.
|3. Explaining students the meaning of ‘food chain’ concept.||Asking students to some up with pictorial representation of how they envision the concept of an oceanic ‘food chain’.||Students were able to come up with drawings that show smaller fishes being consumed by smaller ones. |
No adjustments needed.
|4. Explaining students that there are certain laws that apply even in the ocean.||Having students to verbally explain what laws apply in the ocean.||Students were able to verbally demonstrate their understanding that there are laws. according to which oceanic life functions. |
No adjustments needed.
Visual Representation of Data Collected
EDUC-6706R-6:The Beginning Reader, Pre K-3
Post-Assessment & Analysis Chart
EDUC-6706R-6: The Beginning Reader, Pre K-3
|Component of the Assessment||Results||Analysis of Results (What they mean to you)|
|1. Worksheet and pencils||All students were able to demonstrate their contextual understanding of information, provided to them during the lesson.||Students understood the lesson and were able to increase any prior knowledge. There are good reasons to believe that techniques, utilized in this assignment, will be applicable in other assignments as well.|
|2. Worksheet and crayons||All students were able to demonstrate their contextual understanding of information, provided to them during the lesson.||Students understood the lesson and were able to increase any prior knowledge. There are good reasons to believe that techniques, utilized in this assignment, will be applicable in other assignments as well.|
|3. Shared writing and shared answering the presented questions.||All students were able to demonstrate their contextual understanding of information, provided to them during the lesson.||Students understood the lesson and were able to increase any prior knowledge. There are good reasons to believe that techniques, utilized in this assignment, will be applicable in other assignments as well.|
**NOTE: You only need to develop this chart if you are completing an Appendix #6 required for Target level only on the Rubric.
Scaffolding and Differentiating Chart
EDUC-6706R-6: The Beginning Reader, Pre K-3
|Steps in Instructional Plan||Example||Gradual Release of Responsibility (Scaffolding)||Differentiation|
|Introductory/Anticipatory Set||Students and teacher complete KWL chart on oceans and oceanic life-forms||Teacher Facilitated||According to group progress.|
|Building/Applying Knowledge: Part One||Children make a story about fish and draw pictures that complement their story. Then, they compare their story with the book and elaborate on differences.||Teacher Facilitated||According to group progress.|
|Building/Applying Knowledge: Part Two||Using a shared reading and writing experience, the teacher will read a short story like In the Big Blue Sea; If You Ever; and One-Dog Canoe. Students will understand characters, the setting, infer/predict, and the main idea. Students will identify the author, illustrator and what each does.||Teacher Facilitated||According to group progress.|
|Extension/Enrichment/Transfer or Generalization: Part One||Students work in small groups to analyze frequently occurring ocean-related words (e..g. water, sea, fish, etc.) by using magnetic letters.||Group work.||According to group progress.|
|Extension/Enrichment/Transfer or Generalization: Part Two||Students, provided with the access to Internet, logon to Starfall.com to view, learn, and interact with texts about the ocean.||Students work independently.||According to individual progress.|
|Synthesis/Closure||Students participate in discussion about oceans and oceanic life, before being asked before being asked to complete an ‘ocean mural’, while using the knowledge they have acquired during the class.||Group work.||According to group progress.|