Have you ever had the opportunity to move schools and take one resource with you? What would you bring? I had that exact situation happen to me when I moved schools in the district to teach an at-risk kindergarten class. The other two teachers had both taught together for years so the lesson planning and everything was pretty much done by them. But then a door was opened when one of the teachers turned to me and asked, "Is there anything that you did at your old school that you would like to do here?" This was my chance to bring that one resource- the big game changer.
"Yes, I would love to use these fluency pages for homework. I developed them 3 years ago and have been using them ever since. They have brought the most change in my student's test scores over the past 3 years."
One teacher was skeptical while the other was encouraging but both agreed to at least try it. So I showed them how to set it up in their classrooms and by mid-year both the teachers and the parents never wanted to look back. Homework that was self-paced that was building fluency on the most fundamental reading skills could not have been better. The flashcards and worksheets disappeared being replaced by an easier more manageable, interactive, and systematic program- Beginning Fluency.
To support the fluency pages that were being sent home I also created a 5 minute classroom fluency page. The school component supported the skills being practiced at home and for those kids who didn't have a parent or older sibling to help provided the needed scaffolding and support so they could do fluency pages.
Finally I created pre-fluency pages for my at-risk kindergarten kids. These class sheets are completed before I even send homework home for those kids who have no background knowledge of books, print, sounds, etc. Let me paint a picture of my typical at-risk kindergarten student:
The first day of school the lunch lady approaches me as I am setting up my classroom. "I believe we have one of your students eating breakfast. I asked for his name and he said 'bubba'. There is no bubba in the school. I ask about family members just to get more nicknames. He doesn't know any name that we can use to find him in the system. Can you help?"
As the students find their way to my classroom not only do they not know their name but they don't know how to hold a pencil, scissors, or a crayon. They only know one color, can't count past one, and have no clue how to even open a book. They point and grunt because they don't have any words to convey their needs. And as you teach the letter A for the tenth time that day they call out, "Me dinosaur!"
These students are already 3 years behind their peers. I know that if they do not catch up now odds are they will never catch up- so I teach. I teach and I teach and I teach. Small group differentiation, constant integration of curriculum, using every second for instruction, and also fluency pages for homework. By the end of the year 95-100% of my students have reached benchmark. These kids who had no language at the beginning of the year are reading, "Three Billy Goats Gruff". They know 30+ sight words and are writing their own stories. Most importantly they are staying up with and even surpassing their peers in first grade.
Can quality teaching with the best resources available change a child's future? Yes! I have seen it and live it every single day. It does not matter where a child starts the school year- it only matters where he is going and how he is getting there. #bestresourceever