Historically, in our district, most kindergartners are marked NA on their progress reports in the space dedicated to reporting reading levels. (I’ve written before about how I don’t agree with this space on the progress report, but for now it is there and we have to deal with that.) We have assessed only those students who are clear “readers”.
Last year, my coaching colleagues and I began to wonder why we didn’t assess more readers. Were such high percentages of our students really not able to read level A texts by November? We weren’t sure, but our data sure said that they couldn’t.
This year, we decided to do a little inquiry into our wonders and are assessing more readers. My gut told me that more kids could hold onto the pattern, demonstrate one to one correspondence, and use the picture supports than we were reporting. But as we began to embark on this assessment process, I was a little nervous. What if they couldn’t?
Today, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a kindergarten teacher and reading with her students. For some kids, we used a reading toolkit to probe before giving our formal assessment. For other kids, we jumped right in. This process once again affirmed for me the power of seeing the children in front of us (something I wrote about last week). For so many of the students, we were surprised by what they could do. Kids who are still working to master the alphabet demonstrated reading behaviors that let them read simple pattern books with such pride and enthusiasm.
Some readers knew that their pointing fingers didn’t match the words on the page. “How about we just say it goes ‘I go on my bike,'” one little guy insisted.
Another reader said, “This should say fetch,” which clearly made sense but she knew it didn’t look right. The determination on her face as she worked to solve the puzzle on the page was something I wish we could bottle up.
Every time one reader went back to the classroom to send another reader out, the classroom teacher and I burst with excitement about what we had seen-all that those new to school kindergarten kids could do and our plans for where to take them next.
This one class demonstrated that we do, in fact, have more readers than we were reporting. But as I reiterated to the classroom teacher, it was never about the level. Today, we were after noticing what our youngest readers could already do. We didn’t need to label that with a letter of the alphabet to find success, for every reader had something to celebrate.
I was, once again, reminded that there is so much joy in seeing what kids can do… and in growing readers.