Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Safety Nets

Kindergartners enter their first year wide-eyed and eager to learn. They believe learning is easy, fun and EXCITING! However, they come with widely different preparations. Because of this we devote more energy and time, more attention, and more resources to our earliest learners at Chets Creek. We don't wait to see which children will figure it out and which students will still be struggling at the end of the year. We take advantage of what we know about early intervention and provide immediately for students that start the year behind our entering benchmarks. We identify these children in the first weeks of school and then provide daily"safety nets."

For some children small group work in the classroom every day is enough of a safety net, but for some of our others, we provide a more intensive intervention. It does not mean that we don't expect these students to meet the end of the year expectation, but it does mean that we want to catch them before they fall and prevent challenges later. In groups of 5-6 we pull these students for a 40 minute intervention with a certified teacher during their Literacy Block. The idea is that these children will have a small, intensive intervention without distractions and at the same time, the classroom teacher will have a smaller group of children so she can concentrate on other small groups. Because we use Readers' and Writers' Workshop in our general education classroom, we looked for an intervention that was different. Instead of more of the same, we were looking for a way to address the diversity of learning styles. We chose Reading Mastery because of its direct, explicit teaching that concentrates on phonics and phonemic awareness. This is our eighth year of using this intervention, and we feel it provides a safety net that catches many students so that they can move to the next grade level as confident learners. To prevent the common pitfalls of "pull-out" we have attached each of our safety net teachers to a regular kindergarten class where she spends her afternoons as a co-teacher. This keeps her "in the loop" instead of an island and prevents the problems often found in a pull-out intervention. Providing early intervention with a strong teacher in a small group is a cornerstone of what we believe about making a difference for each and every learner in kindergarten.

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