Stephie is Katie’s daughter and like her mother, she likes being first. She likes to walk first when we go to the woods or the beach. She likes to cartwheel the fastest and swing the highest. Stephie loves first grade.
Her teacher has a great plan for helping kids with reading — every week the children are assigned a poem to read, re-read and then perform. Then the kids take the poem home and perform it for parents who record their written applause in a response journal. It’s about the funnest approach to homework I’ve ever heard of. AND a true assessment of her knowledge of word mastery. Stephie is great at this and reads with intense drama and expression.
I will have to ask Stephie’s teacher if there is a source I should cite for that classroom idea, but it is a fabulous one for primary kids.
And oh so much better of a way of assessing her reading fluency than taking a stop watch to her reading nonsense syllables, where reading with expression and drama only slows a reader down. And how much drama can a reader put into sounds with nothing attached to them? No bugs, no pumpkins, no mystery, no enchantment? Just sounds. Where the only skill being tested is speed, as if speed could ever equate to interpreting the real meaning of words. This testing practice is inflicted on her, a political mandate by the federal government, every other week so that there is a score to write next to her name, so that people in suits can brag that her building’s scores are up. Not the children’s reading, not their happiness, not their love of learning. Their scores.
Ask yourself sometime: what motivated you to read? What excited you? What made you want to learn new words. Now ask yourself — was it a stopwatch, a list of nonsense syllables and a stranger keeping score? Was it you sweating it out every other week to read sounds with no meaning faster and faster? This is DIBELS, “the worst thing to happen to the teaching of reading since the development of flash cards,” according to P.David Pearson in Ken Goodman’s book, What’s the Matter with DIBELS. (Heinemann, 2007). Yesterday I was reading this book with my lunch and it gave me an upset stomach. Seriously, I couldn’t finish my salad.
Thankfully, Stephie’s teacher has not allowed this test to totally dictate her methods of instruction. Thankfully, Stephie wound up in a class with an experienced teacher, not a newby who was trained to believe that this bogus assessment plan has any impact on actually teaching kids to read. Thankfully, Stephie’s teacher is countering this testing madness by leading a group of “firsts” in performance poetry.
Now there’s a medium that can really get kids jazzed about reading!