Sunday, January 11, 2015

This Is What Education Reform Looks Like, Part II

2 first graders' writing and illustrations for Wall Story.


After I published the post, This is What Education Reform Looks Like, I received by email this description of education reform in action in a first grade classroom in New York. The writer is a literacy professor in New York. 


One of the saddest things I saw this semester was a 1st grade boy who, in October knew about 4 letters and about 3 sounds. An undergraduate worked with him throughout the semester, using used the Jan Richardson personal alphabet book and by December he knew all his sounds and most of his letters (mixing up q and p and b, which is understandable).

On the wall hangs a "data chart." Every time a child gained a sight word, he or she gained a sticker. Some had a hundred. He had one. Can you imagine coming into that class each day from his perspective? Here he had made great gains with little recognition.
The state, school officials say, require the data charts. 

After reading this I wondered for whom the data chart is really intended. What's its purpose? Surely there is no actual need to use extrinsic motivation for 1st graders to learn sight words. This happens all the tim with nary a chart in sight.

I recommend keeping a private chart as children are learning sight words so that the teacher can see the progress, make use of words children know, and support children to learn new words.

2. A little addendum...

My husband told me this story:

Years ago when his grandfather was in business in Hell's Kitchen (Manhattan) it was a common practice to post on a blackboard your delinquent customers so every one could see who owed you money.  The goal here was to use shame to 'motivate' payment.  A law was passed that prohibited publicly naming delinquent customers and the practice stopped.

Too bad such safeguards don't apply to children in New York.

3. Methods for Teaching Sight Words

1. Here's a link to a video that shows a four-step method to teach sight words.  I routinely use this during guided reading at levels A - E.

2. I also have used this app, Sight Words 1-300: Kids Learn, quite successfully with 1st graders. The children love the variety of games and the pace.



3. Link to Recommended Apps.

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