Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Decoding Report Card Talk

Last week, I mentioned the standards based report cards that are replacing the more traditional letter grade report cards in schools in my area. This week, I want to dig into a standard that you might find on a kindergarten or first grade communication arts report card. I looked over several report cards from schools in my area. Most of the report cards included a score for the standard "Demonstrates understanding of concepts about print." Are you thinking that you can't demonstrate that understanding? Cause what the heck are they talking about? Well, let's unpack this report card talk.

Know the term: Concepts about Print commonly refers to an understanding of how print in a book works. This might include direction in books (where to begin reading, which way to go) directions in words (letters make up words, letters have to go in a particular order), word by word matching, understanding that the print carries the message in the book (and not the picture), and knowledge of text features (periods, question marks, quotation marks, or speech bubbles). (FromAn Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement)

Understand the problem: There is a lot packed into that one little standard, eh? I wanted to start with concepts of print because I feel many early readers have a problem with this concept which spills over into all other parts of their report cards. Is your child having problems with sight words? Maybe his real problem is not knowing how to look at the word. Is your child having trouble reading a page fluently? Maybe he is looking at the page in an inefficient way. Is your child having difficulty learning his letters? Maybe he doesn't know that letters must maintain one directional pattern. According to Marie Clay, most of the things a child has encountered in his life thus far can be viewed from any direction. For example, turn a block over and it's still a block. However, with letters, if you turn a b around, it's a d. Turn it upside down, it's a p, and so forth. This can cause a lot of confusion for young children and we need to be aware! (Becoming Literate: The Construction of Inner Control)

Search for a solution:
At your next opportunity, ask your child's teacher to give you some specific information on which part of print concepts your child doesn't understand. Then, check out these skill specific ideas.

1. Matching spoken word to written word (1:1 correspondence)
  • Grid games. Here are some free and fun grid games.
  • Read books with patterned predictable text. These are books that aren't based on words you can sound out but rather follow a predictable pattern that is repeated. (ie. Mom is cooking. Mom is running. Mom is sleeping.) Model pointing word by word. If your child isn't resistant to this, hold your child's hand as he points. (It's amazing that kids will let their teachers do this with them but don't want their parents help in pointing!!)
2. Understanding book handling (Where to begin reading, which way to go,  understanding that the text carries the meaning). 
  • Read to your child everyday. Play games with books. Be silly and act like you don't know how to handle to book. Ask your child, "Do I start reading here?" as you turn from the back of the book.As you are reading books or are just out and about, have your child look for words and letters. Even if they don't have many known words, you can still help the understand the concept of a word. As you are reading say, "Can you put your fingers around just one word like this?" Use your index fingers to model finding a word. See who can do it the fastest, etc. Make it fun! Check out more ideas for read alouds in Mem Fox's Reading Magic
  • Read books with patterned predictible text. "As they hear and participate in the reading of the simple stories found in predictable and patterned books, children become familiar with how print looks on a page. They develop book awareness and book-handling skills, and begin to become aware of print features such as capital letters, punctuation marks, word boundaries, and differences in word lengths." (From Reading Rockets Website)
  • Model writing with your child. (Reading and writing are reciprocal which means that which can be done in reading can be done in writing and vice versa.) Write a thank you note to Grandma. As you are writing, narrate the writing process. "I'm starting my writing at the top of the paper. Oops! I ran out of room to write. Where do I go next." Share the pen with your child and have him include what he can write. (Even if it is just the first letter of his name!) This is also a good place to model text elements such as periods and question marks.
3. Understanding direction in words (words are made up of letters, letters have to go in a particular order to form a word.)
  • Build words with magnetic letters. Give your child one letter at a time and have him build known words from left to right.
  • Use your child's name  to point out first letter in a word, last letter, etc. If you haven't already, plaster his name everywhere! (I recently made place mats for Logan with his name on them. I've seen other bloggers who do simple things like writing your child's name on a plastic plate or cup).
4. Understanding the difference between a letter and a word.
  • Have your child compose a short story. (Start with one sentence) Write the story on a long strip of paper. Cut the story apart between the words. Have your child reassemble the story.
  • Point out known letters or have your child go on a scavenger hunt to find one known letter. Use the term letter repeatedly.
  • Point out words in the environment. Say, "This cereal has a word on it. It tells us what kind of cereal it is."
FREE online activities for developing concepts of print.
After I typed this post, I found these free activity cards here. The whole first section relates to concepts of print. They are broken into beginning, making progress, and ready to read.
** Teachers, how awesome will you be at your next conference if you print these out and pass them out to parents for skill specific practice.**

These are just a few ideas to get you started. As new posts come up that relate to this topic, I'll list them here.
Let me know if you have any specific concerns regarding print concepts and I'll try to address that (or even read up on it because it's a good way to keep me brushed up on my knowledge). Also, please share any ideas that have helped your child master concepts of print.
Next week, I'll be looking at mastering sight words. (Something that many of my friends have asked me about.)

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