This year, as we piloted the new TCRWP Phonics Units of Study in kindergarten, there were many moments of approximation. Not knowing what to expect, kept us on our toes and just trying to keep up at times.
At one point, as we reviewed assessments and benchmarks, I remember someone saying, “but really… expecting them to spell 35 snap words by the end of the year seems kind of crazy. I’m not sure that will happen.”
I remember shrugging slightly and saying, “let’s see what happens.” Inside I thought, “Lets see what happens when we believe they can. I believe.”
Last week, I was in a kindergarten classroom where the teacher and para were working to finish up end of the year assessments during independent reading time. As I glanced around at the beautiful and quiet hum of kindergarten readers, I offered to help.
I pulled Lionel over to write a few snap words on a white board. About halfway through, I said “How about friend,” I said. “Can you spell that one?”
Lionel immediately went to work. I watched his mouth stretch out the word, over and over, trying to catch all of the sounds. I watched him write FRIND, across the board, careful to start each letter at the top of the board. “Is there an e?” he asked looking up from his board.
“Hmmm,” I said. “What do you think?”
Lionel then stood up and turned towards the word wall. He quickly scanned and found what he was looking for. Dropping back to the rug, he squeezed an e into the word.
This brief moment told me all that I needed to know. In the process of watching, I learned so much about what these students have learned this year… and it is glorious.
This tiny interaction represented so much of the work I have witness this year- how our Phonics work has strengthened our reading and writing work. Our students have tools that they can utilize independently to check their own work- and they are checking! They’re not scared to write or make mistakes. They believe they can. These are all things they have learned in the short time they have been elementary school students.
In looking over our kindergarten data, nearly every student in the grade has met the sight word spelling benchmark- most have exceeded, spelling between 50 and 65 words correctly. This isn’t because they were drilled or had weekly spelling assessments. It’s because they are readers and writers. It’s because their teachers believed in them and so they too believe.
These beautiful approximations of the work are worth celebrating, maybe even more than the correct answers. Within these approximations, we see a glimpse of the process and these amazing minds at work.