The standard for reading and writing in kindergarten and first grade (K-1) in North Carolina is a threshold attained through numerous approaches to achieve a universal language benchmark for all children. Kindergarten and first grade are considered to be the foundation-forming echelons and hence it is a precondition by the State Board of Education that all schools and school districts carry out a series of evaluations at both kindergarten and first grade. Teachers are required to document the progress of the students as well as perform the individualized evaluation of each student all through the year to provide a conclusive analysis of their reading and writing skills at the end of the year. Consequently, the subsequent teacher that tutors the children the following year receives detailed information about the reading and writing aptitude of each of the new students. Schools and school districts are also required to make a comprehensive analysis of the attainment of the reading and writing objectives in the North Carolina Standard by either grade or school. Formative and summative assessments are also carried out regularly to identify non-performing students so that early intervention and remediation can be carried out. In addition, legislative regulations such as Section 28.30 (c) G.S. 115C-150.27 require teachers to inform the parents or guardians of cases where a student is unable to read or write at either kindergarten or first-grade level. Interactive program components (IPCs), as well as interactive literacy activities (ILAs) such as “Miss Penny” oral comprehension, “Upper and Lower”, “Treecia and Elmer” and several other interactive programs, are also key benchmarks since they assist in the reading process.
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Emergent literacy and beginning literacy according to Gillet, et al is formed during early education and so is the case in North Carolina for the reading and writing standards in kindergarten and first grade. It is therefore a prerequisite that before a student proceeds to second grade; he or she should repeat a story that had been read to them, be able to depict the major and minor characters as well as identify the central character and the rival (Gillet et al, 2004). In addition a student should have the capacity to judge the characters in a story and understand their motives as well as identify and label upper and lower case letters of the alphabet (Gillet et al, 2004). The reading and writing standards in North Carolina for kindergarten and first-grade levels are therefore meticulous in that they require each student to meet a certain criterion before proceeding to the next level. Students are required to have or surpass a definite mental aptitude together with set reading and writing skills to advance, making the North Carolina standards comprehensive in application. IPCs and ILAs are essential in developing book and print awareness which allows an emergent and beginning reader to exhibit a perceptive of directionality and voice when reading or listening to familiar text (Gillet et al, 2004). Such readers are capable of indulging letters, words, sentences and stories and thus are able to recognize the title of a book and name of the author. Furthermore, these standards are pragmatic since they basically entail specific veto points responsible for assessing the reading and writing skills of the students. They facilitate the emergent readers with phonemic awareness and understanding of alphabetic principle (Gillet et al, 2004). Students are therefore able to recognize the similarity between the series of letters in the written word and the progression of sounds in the read or spoken word (Gillet et al, 2004). The reading and writing standards are also closely related which simplifies the process of evaluation thus rendering the standards practical.
The standards for reading and writing in grades 3-6 in North Carolina are more complex and diverse when compared to those of early education. This is because students at this stage are regarded to conversant with linguistic dexterity such as consonants, vowels, phonics, fluency and vocabulary. Legislatively, the No Child Left behind Act of 2001 has been the most comprehensive as far as leveling the standards for reading and writing in third to sixth grade. The ABCs of Public Education Program that was implemented in 1996 was found to be flawed after teachers reported that the program underscored reading, writing and mathematics but subverted science subjects at the elementary level. The No Child Left behind Act therefore requires that the reading and writing skills of students be tested in all subjects including sciences and social studies. Various tests are taken throughout each grade prior to the end-of-grade test which is taken at the end of the year. The students’ oral or public readings, as well as private reading, are assessed throughout the year and a conclusive report detailing the development and challenges of each student is issued to the parent or guardian as well as the school. Writing skills are evaluated through imaginative or recollection compositions whereby students are required to write about an imagined, actuarial and past experience. Teachers are then required to evaluate the contents of the compositions such as sentence structure, expressions and vocabulary to determine the writing capability of each of the students.
Concerning Gillet, et al, students at their elementary stage of learning should be in a position to build fluency, be able to read, and learn for pleasure before engaging in mature reading (Gillet et al, 2004). North Carolina’s standards for reading and writing in third to sixth grades enable the students to use phonics and structural analysis to interpret words such as suffixes, prefixes, and syllable breaks early in this level (Gillet et al, 2004). Comprehension is also a major component thus familiar prefixes and suffixed are applied to make sense of words that facilitate the buildup of comprehension (Gillet et al, 2004). Vocabulary in both reading and writing is also amassed through reading, listening, discussions, seminars, and book clubs (Gillet et al, 2004). The North Carolina standards for reading and writing in third to sixth grade are also very comprehensive especially after the implementation of the No Child Left behind Act ensures that reading and writing are ideal for all academic sectors. The standards outline what every student should accomplish throughout the three levels and also indicates the aptitude and knowledge required in the end-of-grade six exams. The benchmark at this level is less pragmatic due to various reasons, the palpable one being the disparity between the reading and writing standards. Furthermore, the standards are too layered meaning there are several assessments to be carried out in one test. This makes the whole process cumbersome and therefore less likely to function sinuously.
By using story mapping, I have developed a listening comprehension lesson that can be used on students in first to fifth grade, with the objectives being to:
- Enable the students retell what has been read to them
- Allow the students to predict what the story will be about
- Allow the students to predict the end of the story
- Have the students describe major and minor characters
- Have the students describe the setting of the story
- Allow the students to judge the characters and understand their motives
An ideal book for story mapping would be “Peter Pan” which was written by J. M. Barrie.
The first action to take would be to identify and distribute a standard pattern for the story maps. The students will then be required to put away all their reading material and I as the teacher will then read aloud the story. As I read, I will have each student complete his or her story map independently either during or after the reading session. After completion, I will then have the students hand in their story maps before presenting them with comprehension questions that will need to be answered by each student independently. The questions will include naming the characters in the “Lost Boys” gang, identifying Peter Pan’s nemesis, a description of Neverland and a brief description of Tinker bell. These questions would help me in assessing objectives (1), (4), (5) and (6).
as little as 3 hours
Alternatively, I can have the students listen to the story as I read it orally and call on them to fill in their story maps as I read. Once I arrive at a certain point in the story, I will discontinue reading and instead have a brief discussion with the students regarding what we have read so far. After the short interaction, I will have the students hand in their story maps and hand them some comprehension questions which call for their opinion on the future of certain characters or how they think the story will end. Such questions will help me in assessing objectives (2) and (3).
I can also assess the students’ independent use of story mapping by having the students read the book silently or have them read orally in turns. Once they are through, they will be required to fill in the story maps independently. The students will then hand in their story maps before I present them with comprehension questions which should be answered within a given duration of time. The questions could include a description of the antagonist and protagonist, the description of location or object for instance Captain Hook’s ship, or the persona of specific characters. By using such queries I will be in a position to assess and understand the comprehension of each of the students.
The final test is to eliminate story maps whereby I will require the students to read the story silently, in groups, or orally in turns. Once the story is completed, we may have a brief discussion of the story and I would encourage students to give conflicting answers since answers obtained through argument are more memorable. After a brief discussion, I will then have them put away all reading material before presenting them with comprehension questions but this time they will not fill out the story maps. After a standard time limit, I will collect their answers and if their average score is below 80% accuracy for more than two consecutive tests, I will reintroduce story maps to ensure they are conversant with the story.
Gillet, J. W., Temple, C., & Crawford, A. N. (2004). Understanding reading problems: Assessment and instruction (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.