Manual Improving Reading and Literacy in Grades 1-5: A Resource Guide to Research-Based Programs

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Even when such conversation occurs, it rarely lasts longer than a minute and it is focused on basic concepts such as numeral identification or names of shapes; few or no higher-level mathematical concepts are discussed Rudd et al. Unfortunately, evidence suggests such an approach is ineffective; instead, intentional teaching of mathematics is effective and complements incidental approaches NRC, Not surprisingly, evaluations show little or no learning of mathematics in these preschools Clements and Sarama, ; HHS, For example, observations of the Opening the World of Learning preschool curriculum, which includes mathematics, revealed that only 58 seconds out of a minute school day was devoted to mathematics.

Most children made no gains in math skills over the school year, while some lost mathematics competence Farran et al. Kindergarten classrooms include more mathematics—about 11 percent of the day—than prekindergarten settings. Despite this, many missed opportunities persist, with kindergarten students not being engaged in any instructional mathematics activity in 39 percent of observed intervals NRC, Most children entered kindergarten knowing basic verbal counting and simple geometric shapes, but their educators report spending the most mathematics time on just these topics.

Further, attention to these low-level competencies is negatively associated with learning, whereas most children benefit from engaging with more advanced content Engel et al. Primary grade educators spend yet more time on mathematics than kinder-. This deficiency is exacerbated by a gender gap favoring men in this knowledge category but a preponderance of female educators in the preschool and elementary school years. This may be one reason preschool teachers spend less time engaging children in mathematics than in any other subject Early et al.

Because content knowledge is a prerequisite for implementing pedagogical knowledge Baumert et al. Educators also need to be familiar with and know how to implement effective, research-based curricula. Such curricula often include a comprehensive set of cognitive concepts and processes; are based on developmentally sequenced instructional activities; and help educators assess and remediate based on those developmental progressions Clements et al. Many studies of research-based curricula have been directed toward helping children living in poverty and those with special needs.

They show statistically and practically significant increases in mathematics achievement Campbell and Silver, ; Fuson et al. Children generally follow certain developmental paths in learning mathematics, as described in Chapter 4. As they learn about a mathematical topic, they progress through increasingly sophisticated levels of thinking. These form the core of a learning trajectory: to develop a certain mathematical competence the goal , children construct each level of thinking in turn the developmental progression , aided by tasks and teaching that are designed to enable thinking at each higher level instructional activities Clements and Sarama, ; Sarama and Clements, Effective educators understand both the mathematics and the progression of levels of thinking along these paths, and are able to sequence and individual-.

Learning trajectories have therefore been the basis for several recent efforts to improve mathematics teaching and learning Bobis et al. The authors used progressions for each major topic to determine the sequence of learning goals, which were then assigned to grade levels, creating the specific standards. To use learning trajectories, educators need to understand and be able to apply all three components described above.

They have to understand the content for which competence is the goal. For example, they must understand how counting involves much more than simple verbal recitation of number words. They also need to understand the levels of thinking in the developmental progression and how to use a variety of assessment strategies to determine where their class—and individual children—are functioning along that developmental progression.

To illustrate, Table describes just a few sample levels from a more elaborate learning trajectory for counting Clements and Sarama, ; Sarama and Clements, The first column names and briefly describes each level of thinking in the counting learning trajectory and provides examples of related behavior. The middle column sketches hypothesized cognitive components for each level of the developmental progression. The column on the right shows instructional tasks matched to each of the levels of thinking in the developmental progression and designed to help children learn the skills and ideas needed to achieve that level.

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May put objects, actions, and words in many-to-one or overly rigid one-to-one correspondence. Recognizes that counting is relevant to situations in which a certain number must be placed. As noted earlier, the importance of following through on early interventions with continued and cumulative learning support into elementary school and beyond applies across developmental domains and subject areas. As described previously, kindergarten educators spend the majority of classroom time on basic counting and recognition of simple geometric shapes even though most children enter kindergarten with mastery of this content.

Such focus is negatively associated with mathematics achievement across kindergarten. Only children with the lowest levels of math skills benefit from exposure to this basic content; all others benefit from exposure to more advanced content, such as adding small numbers and the beginnings of place value. A similar pattern is seen with advanced literacy content. Claessens and colleagues found that all children, regardless of preschool experience or family socioeconomic status, benefited from additional exposure to advanced mathematics and reading content in kindergarten.

An instantiation of the TRIAD Technology-enhanced, Research-based Instruction, Assessment, and professional Development scale-up model was designed to teach early mathematics for understanding, emphasizing learning trajectories and technological tools.

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Schools were randomly assigned to two interventions or control. The effects of the prekindergarten intervention persisted with such follow-through, while without it they were significantly less likely to persist.


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Educators help children develop positive beliefs and attitudes about mathematics by providing tasks that make sense to students and relate to their everyday interests and lives. As discussed in Chapter 4 , the right degree of challenge and novelty can foster interest and a mastery orientation. Young children are fascinated with and construct many ideas about how the world works.

They investigate and refine these ideas by exploring and questioning the world around them. Research shows that preschool children know a great deal about the natural world, including concepts related to physics, biology, psychology, and chemistry NRC, As with language and literacy and mathematics, they also possess thinking skills and habits of mind that support later, more sophisticated, scientific reasoning.

For example, young children might question why leaves fall from trees or where animal babies come from. Older preschoolers interpret simple data patterns and show some understanding of how different patterns support different conclusions e. A recent review found that children arrived in kindergarten with lower science readiness scores than in any other subject area or developmental domain Greenfield et al.

Similarly, international studies have found that knowledge of science, like knowledge of math, is low—at best average internationally—among American students, especially those from low-resource communities Gonzales et al. The current frequency and duration of kindergarten teaching of science in the United States was. However, early instructional experiences appear to be predictive of science achievement in other countries Tao et al.

Thus, educators need to address both the overall low level and the quality of instruction and curricula in science in the United States, with special attention to more vulnerable populations. Like mathematics, young children today are not exposed to adequate educational experiences in science, and it also tends not to be emphasized in the professional learning of educators of young children, even though there are learning standards and some increased attention to science curricula Brenneman et al.

Evidence suggests that these educators tend not to support science learning through time spent in either planned or spontaneous science-related activities Brenneman et al. Second, educational experiences in science are not of high quality. If science instruction does occur, it tends to consist of simple, isolated activities, giving young children little or no occasion to develop important experiential and skill bases for future science learning. Further, even when teaching science, educators may use general school vocabulary rather than domain-specific vocabulary, especially when they are not secure in their knowledge of the scientific phenomena Henrichs et al.

Primary grade educators also devote limited attention to science because of a lack of time, materials, and space, as well as their perceived lack of content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and self-confidence and comfort in the subject Appleton and Kindt, , ; Greenfield et al. In general, science needs to be reconceptualized as more than teaching facts NRC, Giving children opportunities to engage in scientific exploration supports science learning, but it also fosters learning and school readiness in other subject areas and developmental domains, including language and literacy, mathematics, and learning competencies Gelman et al.

Improving Reading and Literacy in Grades 1 5 A Resource Guide to Research Based Programs

Further, the knowledge that children build about the natural world is a critical contributor to. Moreover, such experiences close a gender gap in motivation and interest Patrick et al. As with mathematics, research has identified learning trajectories for key content areas in science, such as physics and biology, and has provided evidence for the effectiveness of following these pathways Gelman and Brenneman, Admittedly, work on identifying learning progressions and core concepts in science is less advanced than in mathematics Gelman et al. There is a need to identify a few core ideas and plan standards, curricula, and pedagogy around those ideas NRC, Studying successful implementation of research-based curricula including analyses of video could be useful to inform instruction strategies.

As one example, Preschool Pathways to Science PrePS is a science-based curricular planning framework used to plan learning experiences that encourage children to think about and work with a science concept e. Developed by preschool educators and developmental psychologists, the approach is based on learning research showing that children actively construct knowledge and that this process is facilitated when the information to be learned is connected to what was learned before NRC, Moreover, this approach is consistent with recommendations that science curricula and standards identify and support a few core ideas rather than many disconnected topics NRC, , and that researchers and educators focus on learning trajectories for core concepts instead of trying to teach a little bit of everything.

The PrePS approach also incorporates science practices that children use repeatedly across content areas, including observing, predicting, and checking predictions; comparing, contrasting, and experimenting; using the vocabulary and discourse patterns of science; counting, measuring, and using other mathematical skills and reasoning; and recording and documenting science ideas and results Gelman et al. In practice, PrePS has good to excellent scores on widely used classroom quality measures, and PrePS researchers recently empirically tested.

Successful outcomes were found for units on growth and life cycles of living things Downs et al. Content and methods courses in higher education, as well as other professional learning activities, need to enhance the competencies of educators of children from birth through age 8 in all aspects of science learning trajectories: science goals and content, developmental progressions for a variety of science topics, and instructional tasks and strategies.

As discussed in Chapter 4 , research on socioemotional development illuminates its importance for successful learning. Many young children in early education settings and early elementary classrooms arrive with prior experiences of adversity and chronic stress that can affect their behavior and learning, in part owing to biological effects on brain and behavior see Chapters 3 and 4.

Children experiencing chronic stress and adversity may have other specific needs for support as well, but such a learning environment can help buffer stress for these children. Providing such an environment not only helps these children, but also helps educators maintain a constructive classroom environment that is not regularly subject to behavioral disruptions. Although the socioemotional development of young children is receiving increased attention, this domain typically is not well supported in the instructional and other practices of educators. National surveys indicate.

For example, faculty in teacher training institutions reported that, compared with practices across other developmental domains, their graduates were least prepared to address the needs of children with challenging behavior Hemmeter et al.

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Some curricular resources and other intervention appproaches provide effective approaches for fostering the socioemotional development and learning of children in early childhood and early elementary settings and enhancing supportive relationships CASEL, ; Durlak, ; Pianta et al. These approaches focus on various aspects of socioemotional competence, including self-regulation and prosocial behaviors toward peers and adults. In most cases, these approaches have both strengths and weaknesses and mixed evidence for success across elements of socioemotional development.

However, evaluations have shown that, when implemented at scale with appropriate supports, these approaches can improve some aspects of socioemotional competence, in some cases especially for children at highest risk or those who begin school with low self-regulation competencies Morris et al. Box lists some examples of these approaches. Fixsen and colleagues suggest that it is the combination of effective intervention practices and programs and effective implementation supports that results in positive outcomes for children and families.

For educators to implement interventions with fidelity, program-wide implementation supports, including professional learning activities, are needed. Although there is a substantial body of literature on school-wide approaches to implementing tiered behavior support models in elementary, middle, and secondary schools, the literature on implementation of these models in early childhood settings is in its infancy Fox and Hemmeter, ; Frey, ; Stormont et al.

Interventions also have been developed that are aimed at fostering cognitive self-regulation and other cognitive processes, frequently referred to collectively as executive function see Chapter 4. The rapid development of executive function in the early years makes the use of such interventions optimal during that period, although no age is too late e.

Some studies have shown enhancement of such capabilities with computer games e. The latter often include specific teaching approaches such as guiding impulsive children to self-monitor their behavior by talking to themselves four different interventions of this sort were effective; see Reid et al. As suggested by Gilliam , educators are likely to benefit from consultation with early mental health experts to best understand how to work with children in need of specialized support in their classrooms.

Child mental health consultants can provide educators with guidance on classroom management and instructional practices for all children as well as individualized consultation for particular children based on classroom observations, and offer teachers continuing support as they incorporate these practices see Amini Virmani et al. Unfortunately, as noted 15 years ago in the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine report From Neurons to Neighborhoods , most communities lack expertise in child mental health services and consultation, and no well-developed national infrastructure exists for training developmentally oriented clinicians in providing these services see also Osofsky and Lieberman, More broadly, the importance of socioemotional health to early learning calls for the involvement of multiple service systems that affect young children and their families in meeting the special needs of young children facing mental health challenges Osofsky and Lieberman, Thus, beyond incorporating developmental knowledge in this area into educator preparation, it is important to also do so across sectors and settings, for professionals in pediatric practice, the child welfare system, early intervention, special education, childcare and after-school care, and programs for children with special needs.

This would help ensure that children experiencing mental health challenges would be identified and provided with appropriate services that would be aligned across different programs with which these children come in contact. Such cross-sector preparation of professionals concerned with young children could even be conducted collaboratively across professional communities. Such a cross-sector approach is especially important given that these different professional sectors have distinctly different professional reference groups and funding streams that tend to make their efforts insular rather than collaborative, even though the same child is the focus of their attention.

An additional benefit of cross-sector collaborative training in the socioemotional needs of young children is that it would enable professionals to coordinate assistance across multiple generations. The connections between the well-being of an adult and the well-being of a child who has an emotional attachment to that adult make it important to coordinate supportive services to parents and children within the family IOM and NRC, Similarly, the benefits demonstrated by intervention programs aimed at supporting the developmental health and learning of young children by providing broader family support should spur efforts to consider how children can be assisted through a two-generational approach.

Chase-Lansdale and Brooks-Gunn, Similar considerations apply to the associations between the well-being of children and the emotional health of those who care for and educate them outside the home. The use of technology in educational settings can take two major forms, both of which have implications for the competencies needed by professionals.

In terms of professional competency, educators must have proficiency in technology as a set of tools that can enhance pedagogy, knowledge of how and when children learn through what kinds of technology and the ability to integrate that knowledge into their pedagogy and lessons, and proficiency in teaching children how to use technology and acquire digital literacy skills. The second entails the use of technology to facilitate other aspects of professional practice, such as assessment of children, creation and management of the learning environment, documentation, information sharing, and communication with families and with other practitioners.

This section focuses primarily on the first form of technology use: what knowledge teachers need to have about how children interact with and learn through technology and what skills they need to put that knowledge into practice in the classroom. While there is still much to learn, the science of how children relate to new media has expanded through research over the past decade that offers insights into how, and at what age, young children may develop cognitive skills from using different types of new technology, as well as when profes-.