Thursday, 15 September 2016



The objective I’ve chosen to assess is “Objective 2: Uses letter–sound knowledge.” This objective judges whether a children can distinguish the individual sounds associated with the 26 letters of the alphabet.

Formulative assessments for this particular objective can manifest in at least three different ways. One important factor is that students should be able to demonstrate the objective in both directions. A child must be able to match letter to sound and match sound to letter. An assessment is incomplete unless both are tested.

Assessment #1: An example of an assessment that could be student-centric or teacher-centric would be to play a game where the teacher elicits responses from students. For example, I would say “Can you think of something that starts with the letter/sound...” and the students would have the freedom to volunteer whatever comes to mind. This assessment is less rigid than others. Students can provide a wide variety of answers, but it still requires them to meet the criteria “starts with letter/sound,” which is the factor that must be assessed. This is a good means of assessment because a child who is just learning English will have a very small vocabulary. The lax nature of this assessment allows even students with small vocabularies to contribute, and children with larger vocabularies can provide more complex responses. If you wanted to adapt this assessment to be more teacher-centered, the teacher could pre-select images and words, and choose students to identify the letters/sounds associated with them.

Assessment #2: If the assessment were meant to be more student-centered, one way to do so would be to perform it as an activity, such as making a poster or book using the alphabet. Give the students blank papers and then magazines with English words in them. Tell them they have to locate all 26 letters of the alphabet in the magazine, cut them out, and paste them in the correct order. As the students are performing this activity, the teacher can ask them to identify the sounds the letters make, and observe/correct them if they are out of order. One rationale for doing an activity this way is that it puts kids in a calm state of production, where they are not concerned with being assessed and simply consider the teacher’s queries to be casual conversation. It also encourages the children to look at the use of alphabetical characters in the context of daily life, through realia. Although the assessment would be difficult to measure, it would show the students are capable of understanding the objective in different contexts.

Assessment #3: I would like to have written assessments that I can use for grading, progress reports, or portfolios. During writing practice, I would like to provide students with worksheets. These worksheets would each have one letter of the alphabet, along with several pictures. Only one of the pictures would start with the letter. Students would be asked to select the picture that starts with the same letter/sound. Ideally, students would sound out the names of the images in their heads, or whisper to themselves, and select the correct answer (B - Bee, S - Shirt). The need for formal written results means that this is a rational method for assessing the objective.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Applying and Understanding Standards

Applying and Understanding Standards

This unit was very enlightening. At the moment, I am transitioning into a role as primary classroom teacher for the first time in my career. Having no formal educational training certificate, I often feel ill-equipped to handle lesson planning. Unpacking objectives is beneficial to me because it allows me to simplify objectives and standards that seem daunting at first.

When reviewing standards for my class, I often find the language to be complex and off-putting. I wish they could be written for the layman, and spelled out for ease of use. That is a benefit of unpacking a standard; the language becomes clear and so do your goals. When unpacking my English standard, I thought “What do the students need to be able to do to meet the standard?” I tried to interpret the language using the verbs as checkpoints, and found that if I compared them to my own knowledge and upbringing, I could find a way to make sense of each standard. This helped me define the standards in ways that would lead me to search for games and activities that related to those standards in different ways.

Backwards mapping is a strategy I would like to use in the future. Many of my students are graduating preschool in September of 2017, and they will be expected to arrive in first grade with experience in English, math, and other basic skills. Starting from the end allows me to set benchmarks and derive the core of each objective. For example, for my students to ultimately be well-versed in the ABC’s, they need daily exposure to the alphabet in all of its forms: speaking, listening, reading, writing. They need to associate sounds with symbols. These are are simple things that can be repeatedly worked into games and other activities.

Ever since we started discussing SMART objectives in the previous module, I’ve tried to consider each of my objectives in that way. As a preschool teacher, I have very basic benchmarks, but they can still fall short if ignored or neglected. With little oversight, it is up to myself to help my children attain these goals. Once my Japanese students enter primary school, they will only study English one-two times a month for less than an hour. That means they need as much immersion as possible now, so they can retain those skills. This leads me to put a stronger emphasis on English than math, without neglecting either subject. It means I choose to work English into math lessons to get the greatest mileage out of my lessons.

If my students graduate to elementary school and go on to lead normal, happy lives there, I’ll consider my job done. If they do it while using the English they learned in my classroom, I’ll consider my job a success.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Backwards Mapping Standards for Alphabetic Proficiency

Backwards Mapping Standards

The Standard: "Uses sound-letter knowledge (of the alphabet)"

I am an educator in Japan who has been teaching for only four years. My twelve children are preschool-kindergarten students, aged 3-6 years old. They attend my English school three hours a day, every weekday. My school uses the Creative Curriculum, which is a multilingual curriculum that is curated and set through Teaching Strategies.

Children in my preschool are expected to meet this standard by the time they graduate to first grade. The curriculum works in multiple games and activities around this standard throughout the year, with appropriately adjustable challenges for age levels. Since the school exists first and foremost as an English school, focusing on the four cornerstones of reading, writing, speaking, and listening is essential.

The standard I am using is one of 38 objectives from the Creative Curriculum:

Objective 16: Demonstrates knowledge of the alphabet 
  • a.Identifies and names letters 
  • b.Uses letter-sound knowledge
The children should be proficient in a) the ability to sound out words, b) recognizing the repeating the individual sounds associated with each letter, and c) understanding that a sequence of letters represents a sequence of spoken sounds.

When it comes time to assess the level of their competence, some of the rubrics we use are:
  1. the student can produce the correct sounds for all 26 letters of the alphabet on command
  2. the student can produce the correct sounds for all 
  3. applies letter-sound correspondence when attempting to read 
  4. applies letter-sound correspondence when attempting to write
Some examples of what I look for when assessing children's skills levels are:
  • Sees the word cat; begins to sound out the word:  /k/ /a/ /t/
  • Makes an open sign for the doctor's office by writing "opn"
  • Asks when writing, "How do you spell cough?" 
As their knowledge grows, they cease to make as many mistakes and I am more likely to observe and record successful instances of the standard in practice. A full asseessment might look like:
  •  If the child can listen to and replicate the letters I spell out for them on a number of occassions, that shows they have profieciency in sound-letter recognition as it relates to listening and writing.
  • If the child sees the word dog, and can sound out the word, using each individual sound: /d/ /o/ /g/ on a number of occassions; also if the child can listen to the word sounded out and understand that it is dog; that shows they have profieciency in sound-letter recognition as it relates to listening, reading and speaking.
  •  If the child writes a word by themselves on a number of occassions by sounding out the word and choosing the correct letters to spell the word, such as spelling the word tree on their homework without assistance, that shows they have proficiency in sound-letter recognition as it relates to writing and speaking.
There are many different ways to incorporate this standard into the curriculum without shoehorning it in. The learning experiences and activities I will use to help students meet the standard will be of a variety that incorporates other parts of their days, such as daily vocabulary words, active play, and music class.

Here are some learning experiences and activities that I have either used in the past, have wanted to use, or have recently discovered and found to be conducive to the standard:
  1. Animal Cracker Association: Sometimes during snacktime, I give the children animal crackers to eat. These crackers are made in the shape of easily-recognizable animals, with their names printed in all-uppercase letters. When I sit with the children at snacktime, we talk about what animals they are eating, and how their names are spelled and sounded out. This is a repetitive exercise that can be done during downtime every day to increase proficiency.
  2. Writing a Letter to a Friend: In order to combine writing with sound-letter association, I will encourage the children to write thank you cards to the public speakers who visit our school, using paper and a pencil. While the students write the English words they would like to use, I will talk to them and help them sound out the words so they recognize that what they want to say can be written down as prose on a piece of paper.
  3. Poetry in Motion: This is a game I've played with the children before. I show them a picture and then make up a short poem about that picture using simple English they have heard before. Then we review the poem and the children try to identify the words in the poem, either through careful listening or sounding them out. Then we write the words on the board, and read the poem aloud. When the poems are about things the children find interesting, they are more likely to participate with vigor. Poems about animals and their friends are popular.
  4. Reading Proficiency: Reading a book with a child, I'll point to the featured letter as I speak it. "Here is the letter T. What sound does it make? That's right! It makes a /t/ sound. What do you see on this page that starts with the /t/ sound?" This is also a good activity if the kids are making books or posters, because they can look for words or images that start with each letter of the alphabet and sound them out when they find them. 
For children growing up in countries where English is not the primary spoken language, this can be a long and difficult process. Here in Japan, there is almost no benefit to using English outside of the classroom, so the only exposure the children will get is the three hours they spend here. That is why it is essential that the teacher speak only English, and that the process is a slow and steady one. Once the children become accustomed to speaking and listening to English, the rest should follow.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Unpacking Standards

Click on the link to check out my slideshow about unpacking standards for preschool literacy... it's a slideshow using a program called 'emaze.'