Improving Childhood Literacy

My Master's Capstone Project

In the final year of my master's program we were given a project that would span the remainder of the school year (October-June). We would need to develop a strategy using the techniques we had learned during the summer to improve the reading level of one of our students through targeted reading interventions. We would be collecting data weekly to determine whether or not our interventions were proving successful and adjusting as necessary. Studies show that students who receive tailored targeted reading intervention are more likely to progress and reach their reading goals, than students who do not receive any intervention at all.

When a student is reading on grade level it means they are able to read and understand words and sentences in books at the expected level of difficulty. For example, in kindergarten, students are expected to be able to: recognize letter sounds, recognize sight words, understand print (decipher punctuation and differentiate between whole words and individual letters), learn that writing should be read from left to right and understand motivations for characters in a story.

 

As students progress through school, these expectations build on the previous grade’s teachings and increase in rigor. By fourth grade students are expected to be able to use examples from the text to explain a character’s motivation, use context to explain the meaning of a word, and understand/explain the difference between narrative prose, drama, and poetry, to name a few.

 

The expectations increase as students are encouraged to analyze the materials presented to them as opposed to rely solely on recognition. If a student lacks the skills to recognize, then analysis will prove difficult.

My Student

A is a 6th grade student at our school. She is 11 years old and lives with her mom and sister in an apartment. She is originally from the Dominican Republic and her first language was Spanish. She participates in our after-school program where she can receive additional help with homework and participate in different types of activities like art, music and dance. A enjoys spending time with her family outside of school and has said that her and her mom are very close. She says her mom helps her to prepare for the week ahead, by reminding her to pack her school bag on Sunday nights. 

 

A was referred for her Individualized Education Plan (IEP) when she was in the third grade by her mother. Her learning disability classified in her IEP is a learning disability. Currently, she is in a 12:1:1 setting for science, social studies, math and ELA. She also receives additional support periods for Math and ELA in a block called RISE three times a week. For gym, electives and art she participates with the rest of the sixth grade. Andrea also receives speech services that have been reduced to once a week.  On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays each period is 45 minutes long and on Tuesdays and Thursdays each period is 40 minutes long with an additional advisory period.

 

Strengths

-respectful

-participates in class

-voices needs

-long term memory

Struggles

-easily frustrated

-distracted by peers

-short term memory

-easily bored

Goals

When I administered my initial tests, my student was reading at a second grade level in terms of reading comprehension and was able to recognize words at a third grade level. Armed with this data, I set the goals of increasing her word recognition by two grade levels and increasing her reading comprehension by one grade level.

In order to meet our long term goal, I set up smaller goals we could meet on a weekly basis. Setting these goals helped shape how the intervention would proceed for the rest of the year. 

Long Term Goal: Word Recognition 

By the end of the school year, A will meet the criteria for independence based on the QRI by fluently reading words in a level 4.2 with 98% accuracy.  

Short-Term Goals

  1. By December 22, 2019 A will be able to decode CVC words with 90% accuracy in 4/5 trials.

  2. By March 1, 2020 A will be able to decode digraphs with 90% accuracy in 4/5 trials.

  3. By April 28, 2020 A will be able to decode vowel teams with 90% accuracy in 4/5 trials.

  4. By May 30, 2020 A will be able to accurately decode Vowel +R words.

1.By December 22 A will be able to decode CVC words with 90% accuracy in 4/5 trials.

  1. A will be able to independently decode a, a_e, ai patterns with 90% accuracy.

  2. A will be able to independently decode a, a_e, ai, ay with 90% accuracy.

  3. A will be able to independently decode o, o_e, oa with 90% accuracy.

  4. A will be able to independently decode o, o_e, oa, ow with 90% accuracy independently.

  5. A will be able to independently decode eu, -ew, -ue with 90% accuracy independently.

  6. A will be able to independently decode I, I_e, -igh, -y with 90% accuracy independently.

Results and Recommendations

Over the course of our time together, A was able to master short term goals one and two. She is able to consistently identify CVC words and digraphs with 90% accuracy. She has yet to show mastery of goals three and four, but this is due to inconsistent instruction in light of COVID-19. Had we been able to maintain our time in person, I believe A would have mastered these short-term goals and met our long-term goals as well.

 

Her reading fluency has improved and she is able to make it through sentences in a more fluid manner. She also has shown more confidence in her reading and volunteers to read aloud in class more often than she did in the begin She is still struggling with reading with emotion as well as the recall of the story. I believe this is another short term/long term memory domain issue that we will continue to work on during this intervention. 

A currently receives speech in her program and benefits form the one on one support. The speech therapist she meets with also works with her as an ENL student. I have seen improvement in A’s pronunciation of words and confidence overall. This additional support is worked into her existing class schedule so she only misses one class a week. 

 

Based on A’s strengths and needs she benefits from the 12:1:1 environment and I would not remove her from it. A benefits from frequent check ins and small group instruction. These types of accommodations are more prevalent in a 12:1:1 environment, since there is a classroom para-educator and a teacher. This setting also allows for her to work in smaller groups at centers, so she can participate in the curriculum with work that is aligned to her strengths. This setting also provides additional support settings so she is able to reinforce her learning throughout the week in order to commit it into long term memory.

 

Supports that I believe would improve A’s access to education would be audio books of all assigned readings paired with the texts and a pair of headphones to allow for listening during reading time. Being able to listen to what she is reading while following along in the text, would allow A to be exposed to more vocabulary and stories, but also allow her to focus on the comprehension. When she is left to read completely on her own, A focuses on the words she is reading and getting them right on top of remembering and understanding what she just read. By providing her with audio of the stories she needed to read, A could listen to the story and improve her comprehension.  A would also benefit from, a one to one para-educator. While she has demonstrated a level of independence in the classroom, A has shown the greatest quality in her classwork when she has had an adult readily available to assist her and offer feedback. The encouragement and prompting helps her focus on a task and also increase her engagement.