Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Knitting together the kindergarten standards

Here's a further thought on why knitting the new standards together into creative combinations will be essential:  kindergartners are expected to work on first steps toward 28 of the 32 college and career readiness anchor standard, and also on six reading foundation standards.

Designing separate activities for each one could so easily end up being deadly worksheets on isolated skills, and that's the wrong approach to early learning.

To avoid that, classic activities for that age will need to be the main routes to success with the new expectations. I think it can be done.

To check, I've been imagining a classroom study of Make Way for Ducklings: not just reading the book once, but planned work over a couple of days to let children learn the full story and think through some of its details.

Yes, that could give all students experience working on the first reading standard, which wants student to be able to "ask and answer questions about key details in a text," with the added guidance that they should be doing that with "with prompting and support."  They could sort out why Mr. and Mrs. Mallard didn't build their first nest in the Public Garden, but did move the ducklings later on.

With the same "prompting and support," the next two reading standards want students to be able to "retell familiar stories, including key details" and "identify characters, settings, and major events in a story." Oh, the swan boats! Oh, the police whistles!

At least four more look easy to include to me:
  • With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the story. 
  • With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts). 
  • Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood. 
  • Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly. 
With a little more design work, I think there's also a good opening for progress on two from writing:
  • Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic or the name of the book they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic or book (e.g., My favorite book is ...).
  • With guidance and support from adults, respond to questions and suggestions from peers and add details to strengthen writing as needed.
For all of those, teachers will need to work out how they can confidently plan the activities, track how students participate, and identify the best next steps for each one.  Building those skills, and the confidence and energy to deploy them steadily, will be the big task of the coming years.

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