This morning I read a blog post by Lisa at “Golden Grasses. “ “Dispelling the Educational myth of the Fly-Over” discusses how so much in education is “covered” in a way that is so minimal it leaves the student unable to remember what was taught. I’ve long believed in the benefit of going deeper into fewer topics than is generally expected according to the district or state’s curriculum framework. The State of Texas TEKS has 124 objectives, to my count, for first grade reading alone. That seems like way too many.
Some of these objectives – phonics and oral language, for one – are a significant part of the school day, all year long; these objectives are just way more important than others. Some of the objectives reinforce each other. And some represent the summation of all: if you’ve got students reading by themselves and creating book reports about what they’re reading, they’re covering just about every objective in first grade literacy independently.
But back to the beginning: how do we prevent the “Educational Fly Over” that Lisa writes about? Well – in a regular classroom, it’s difficult since all the students are going at a different pace. However, trying to use hands-on support activities with the books you’re reading aloud, reading a group of of books on the same general topic aloud, re-reading the same book and performing various comprehension exercises on it – will all allow the students to get a “deeper not wider” experience.
And just for today, I’m going to map out the five “have to” reading objectives for 1st grade – do not send the student on without these or trouble is on the way:
1. Understand how English is written and printed including that spoken words are represented by letters; letters are sequenced by alphabet; know capitalization and punctuation.
2. Demonstrate phonemic awareness/be able to break words into component sounds.
3. Decode words using consonants, vowels, consonant blends, digraphs and dipthongs.
4. Read with appropriate fluency (that’s generally about 40-60 words a minute by the end of first grade).
5. Comprehend a variety of texts and predict, ask relevant questions, and summarize what has been read.
And by the way – if the student has mastered #4, fluency, and they read 60 words a minute, and understand what they’ve read and can talk to you about it – it’s a pretty good likelihood that they’ve mastered the lion’s share of the 124 total objectives.