1. Did these children get the foundation skills needed in the previous grade level? If no then it is the responsibility of the current teacher to provide the remedial instruction and then re-screen or progress monitor to determine if there is an improvement in performance.
2. Does the class demonstrate these skills during classroom instruction? If so then evaluate how these skills were measured on the screening. Sometimes we inadvertently provide clues to our students in the classroom that are not available in assessment situations. If a child is reliant upon these clues then the depth of their knowledge may not be adequate to not only demonstrate proficiency but also to sustain the demand of new information.
3. Are there enough materials available that allow the child opportunity to maintain mastery of certain skills? This is often overlooked when there is so much to do on a daily basis. This is also a strength in true Montessori instruction. Sometimes there is down time in a classroom and these are great moments to provide activities and materials where children can work together and actually practice skills and often they think it's so fun they don't realize it is educational!
These are just a handful of questions to ask when analyzing screening and assessment information collectively. Literacy coaches and lead teachers can also gather this information and compare classrooms with in the same grade. Teachers often have strengths in a certain area of instruction. Maybe mentoring between teachers or restructuring collaborative instruction may enhance the performance across the grade level.
-- small group instruction
-- extra time
-- peer helper
-- extra practice
-- leveled reading material
-- Guided reading
This list is minimal but hopefully you get the idea. These are components of good instruction but not INTERVENTION. An intervention identifies 1-2 specific skills and activities are designed to systematically and incrementally address the deficits. If we are still talking only about the classroom teachers responsibility at the beginning level of identifying and remediation of areas of weakness in a student there are often short activities that can be implemented with the child or a small group while independent reading or other independent activities are utilized. Here are a few examples.
-- Identifying letters:
This is not necessarily my favorite skill to address in an intervention but it is required especially of kindergarten teachers. I prefer to focus more on sound-symbol relationship than simply naming the letters of the alphabet. No matter the expectation I do believe there comes a time when we let this skill go temporarily and focus our energy on other skills but again this is my opinion. When teaching letter names there is often times a sequence is already laid out for you in the curriculum. If that is not the case one way of breaking it down is to divide the alphabet into 3 sections. This can begin to help teach alphabetizing. Then I would set up matching and Go Fish games between the child needing extra help and a child who is more proficient with the letter names because they can correct the child when they don't know a name or say the wrong name. I would also provide multi sensory opportunities on tracing the letter while saying the letter name. I would create a carrier phrase like "This is the letter A" the child would say each time writing the letter. Chunking the letters in to smaller groups and focusing extra help in one section at a time is more efficient.
Children often have trouble with this seemingly simple skill because of deficits in rapid naming and retrieval. This is why measuring rapid naming skills for colors and pictures. If the child struggles with these activities then he or she will likely struggle with rapid recall of letters and numbers as well. There are few things to look for when assessing rapid naming skills. First make sure the child is very familiar with the stimuli meaning if he is struggling with identifying letters don't measure rapid naming of letters because you won't be able to determine if there is a deficit in this area or if it is because the child doesn't know the stimuli. (Lots of teachers ask why on dart they measure rapid naming of colors and how is that supposed to help with reading. I'll save a more detailed explanation for another blog.) There are two types of "problems" in rapid naming.
One problem is in accuracy. Some children are fast but have multiple errors or stumble frequently. This indicates that the system of retrieving information from long-term memory is not efficient which will interfere with reading fluency resulting in a lot of word substitutions. I would focus on the child slowing down to increase accuracy. Keep the stimuli the same and then increase the rate over time. This type of deficit needs to be monitored because if the child often retrieves the wrong word when speaking or uses a lot of nonspecific words like stuff, that thing, etc. there may be a larger deficit in language skills specifically in processing language and word finding which would require an evaluation by a speech language pathologist.
The second problem is in speed not accuracy. This is the problem I prefer because it makes the child slow but since they are accurate they are less likely to make errors in substitution. I know that over time as the child becomes more and more familiar with the stimuli the rate will gradually increase. There is a tremendous focus on reading fluency, which is one of the reasons I do not like the DIBELS and DRA as the main or only screening measure for older students. Students can be very fluent but inaccurate but because they do not stumble over words and often make semantic substitutions their weaknesses are overlooked. However, these types of errors will accumulate over time. Children who do not pay close attention to the text or often make substitution in words based on the supped meaning cannot struggle in content related reading which inadvertently affects their overall comprehension of the material. These are often students who don't quite fit the criteria for needing help but fall apart in middle and high school and get dubbed as lazy.
In addition, these kids will study hard and know the information for a test backward and forwards but when it comes time to actually test the level of knowledge is not reflected in the grade on the test. Anxiety increases when anyone takes a test and that decreases the efficiency of our retrieval of information from long term memory. Have you ever taken a test and you knew the answer but couldn't quite grasp it. You might know where it is in your notes or the book. You might be able to picture the example on the board but the actual information remains elusive. Those are retrieval issues. There are may note taking techniques and strategies that can aid in retrieval deficits especially for content related material like science and social studies.
I think sometimes educators forget that fluency is speed and ACCURACY and we cannot sacrifice one for the other. If the child is accurate their fluency will develop naturally as their decoding skills develop. Too many times teachers describe a fluency intervention as giving a leveled passage to a student and measuring their fluency over and over. That is NOT and intervention. The skills that are interfering with the fluency are what need to be addressed. The fluency passages should be a tool and opportunity to measure progress not the intervention itself.
In my opinion the more important area to be screened, monitored, and addressed during intervention is phonological awareness skills. This is often missing from general instruction after the 1st grade. So, some children who perform fairly well in kindergarten and 1st grade begin to fall apart because their phonological awareness skills will deteriorate over time without the continued support. I'll save that for the next part.