For my project, I am focusing on sixth grade California Reading Comprehension Standard 2.3, which states that students should be able to “connect and clarify main ideas by identifying their relationships to other sources and related topics.” According to the California Department of Education, this is the most heavily weighted reading standard. This is due to the standard requiring students to have the skill of locating main ideas, which is imperative when reading for comprehension. It would follow that mastery in the above standard will aid students in meeting many other California state content standards across the curriculum. If students aren’t able to pick out the important parts of a reading, then they can’t begin to fully comprehend what they are reading in any subject.
In my project, I will dissect the STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) results for my five lowest performing students. This will allow me to distinguish any patterns that may occur. Then I will research our school demographics. These results may help me better understand our school population and provide some insight on why my low achieving students are failing. The next step will be to backward map the above reading comprehension standard from sixth grade to kindergarten. These results will show the overlap in the standards and what knowledge is necessary to move to the next level. Finally, I will create a Powerpoint presentation for each grade level, a sample lesson and an assessment. I will also address which level of Bloom’s taxonomy these lessons and assessment fall into. This will ensure that the students are learning at the appropriate level for their grade.
The first part of my research was to dissect the past STAR scores of my five lowest achieving students. I found this data with our school program called Edusoft. I was able to find test scores from second grade to fifth (see table 1). I found that all the students’ scores fell from fourth grade to fifth. It was interesting to observe that all the students showed some improvement from grades three to four. From grades two to three there was only one student who’s score went down, all of the other students’ scores went up. Although there were years when the students’ scores went up, most years these students stayed in the below basic to the far below basic categories. These results show that all of these students never mastered the skills necessary to move on. This information led me to understand the need for lessons and assessments to check mastery at each grade level. If students are lacking in skills, teachers could offer extra support. This would ensure that students are well prepared to move on to the next level.
The next item I researched was our school’s demographics (see table 2). I already knew that we had a pretty diverse population, but these results gave me a new perspective. Out of our 496 students, about a third of the students are English Learners. Another shocking statistic is our socioeconomically disadvantaged population, over half of our students fall into this category. This research shows me that many students who attend our school need more support than they are receiving. One way to support these students is to offer more language support. Statistics have shown that students who are either English Learners or socioeconomically disadvantaged have a lower academic language that those students who aren’t, this can really hinder the students’ ability to fully comprehend what they are reading. These students show great improvement in comprehension when background knowledge is accessed before reading a selection. When this knowledge is accessed, teachers can determine what the students know about a topic and what gaps need to be filled in. KWL charts are a fantastic way to access this information. Another tool that can be used to expand students’ academic vocabulary is to use realia. This helps students connect words that they are reading to the actual things that they represent. The next tool that is essential in teaching lower performing students is Bloom’s taxonomy. Bloom’s taxonomy helps students develop their critical thinking skills. When using Bloom’s taxonomy, each level demonstrates a different category of skills. As students progress in their schooling, their critical thinking skills should grow as well.
The next part of my research was to use the backward mapping technique. This technique aids teachers in curriculum development. When backwards mapping is used, a determination must be made to distinguish what the students need to know at the end of the unit. This lessens the reliance on the textbook and provides a clear focus of what standard or skill to focus on. I will first research where the students’ understanding on this standard should be at the sixth grade and track this back through the standards in kindergarten. I was able to utilize the California Department of Education (http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/englangdevstnd.pdf) for my research. I started with the following sixth grade reading comprehension standard 2.3: “connect and clarify main ideas by identifying their relationships to other sources and related topics.” I was able to trace this standard back to kindergarten (see table 3). After I backward mapped the standards, I was able to determine where the students understanding should be at each grade level. This immensely helped me while I was creating sample lessons, Powerpoint presentations and assessments for every grade level. To better illustrate how this specific standard took a basic skill and added to it every year, I am reporting my results from kindergarten and progress on sixth grade.
Kindergarten is the grade where the foundation of learning begins. This is the time when students are first introduced to the concept of content standards. Since this is the year when students are first exposed to the school environment, it is a great opportunity to show students how to be successful in school. As teachers, we must create a class environment where asking questions and having classroom discussions is the norm. Teachers at this grade level must take a stand and not leave any students behind. This means that when there are students who are falling behind in a certain area, there are interventions that take place to catch the students up. If this type of learning foundation is set in kindergarten and students know that everyone is held accountable for their learning, there are more chances for student success.
As I backward mapped the standard all the way back to kindergarten, I found that this grade level focused on the following skill: “ask and answer questions about essential elements of a text” (Kindergarten Reading Comprehension standard 2.5). Basically, the students must be able to read a story and comprehend what they have read. A sample lesson for kindergarten could be where the students listen to the story The Three Little Pigs. After the story is read, the students could be given a piece of construction paper that is divided into three sections (see template 1). The students would need to illustrate the answers to the following questions: Who were the characters in the story? Who wanted to get the three little pigs? Which house did not fall down? This lesson would follow the knowledge portion of Bloom’s taxonomy, as the students are asked to remember something from the reading.
For the assessment, a Powerpoint lesson could be used (see presentationkinder). This Power point has the following paragraph, “We got up early Saturday morning. I helped mom pack the sandwiches for our lunch. Dad was waiting in the car, ready to take us to the zoo.” Each slide has the same paragraph, but asks the students a different question. The questions are: “What day of the week was it? What were they going to have for lunch? Who was driving the car? Where were they going? How do you think they felt about going to the zoo?” The students would answer the questions on a piece of construction paper as they did with the previous lesson (see kindergartenassessment). They would write their answer and draw a picture. This assessment would also be in the knowledge portion of Bloom’s taxonomy because it asks the students to recall information from the reading.
In the first grade, the students need to not only be able to answer questions about the text, but now they must: “Retell the central ideas of simple expository or narrative passages”(First Grade Reading Comprehension standard 2.7). So now the students have to not only understand what they read, they have to be able to find the main ideas. An introduction activity for the first grade is to use a Powerpoint (see presentationgrade1) to introduce the story elements. Each slide defines a term. The terms for this grade level are setting, characters, problem, events, and resolution. After showing the Powerpoint, read a story to the students. Help them pick out the story elements of the story and put them into this chart (see template 3). This is would be a template that would work well with a Smartboard. From the chart, guide the students on how to create a paragraph summary of the story. This lesson would fall into the comprehension section of Bloom’s taxonomy as the students are summarizing the story in their own words.
A sample lesson for this could be to use a projector and display the following website: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/dinosaurs/ . From this site, click on a dinosaur that begins with the letter A. Read the information with the students. With the class, create a table to compare the different dinosaurs (see dinosaurcomparisongrade1). The questions that need to be answered are: “what is the dinosaur called? What did it look like? How long was it? How much did it weigh? How many legs did it walk on? What did it eat? When did it live?” Next, click on a dinosaur that begins with the letter B. Help the students complete the chart for this dinosaur. The next step would be to use the information in the chart to create a paragraph about each dinosaur. Allow the students to help write the first paragraph with you. This activity needs be ongoing until the class has a dinosaur for each letter of the alphabet. Once the students grasp the concept, let them work in heterogeneous groups to create the paragraphs. Once all of the paragraphs are done, you will have class alphabet books that may be laminated and bound as a keepsake. Since this site has multiple dinosaurs for each letter, you may want to allow students to use the computer lab and use the dinosaurs that interest them. This lesson would fall into the comprehension category of Bloom’s taxonomy, as it is asking the students to classify the different dinosaurs.
The assessment for this standard could be to listen to the following story http://www.magickeys.com/books/pirate/index.html online using the Smartboard. Then have the students write a summary of what happened in the story. You could use this rubric as a checklist to see if the students included all of the story elements. This lesson would also fall into the comprehension section of Bloom’s taxonomy as the students are summarizing the story in their own words.
In the second grade students are expected to “Restate facts and details in the text to clarify and organize ideas” (Second Grade Reading Comprehension Standard 2.5). In the first grade, students needed to only find the main ideas, but now they must also find details for clarification. An introduction to this standard could be to go through a Powerpoint (see presentationgrade2) with the students. This Powerpoint will define: summarizing, main ideas, supporting details, facts, and opinions. This helps the students learn the terms, as they may be unfamiliar with them. After the definitions, students will be given a story to read and will have to answer some questions about the story and definitions. This activity falls into both the knowledge and comprehension categories of Bloom’s taxonomy, as the student is first asked to answer questions about the reading and then is asked to summarize what they have read.
For the assessment (see second grade assessment), the students will first have to come up with supporting details for a given main idea. Second, they will have to cross out the supporting detail that does not fit. Finally, they will be given a paragraph with supporting details and they will have to provide a main idea. This assessment is age appropriate, as it is in the comprehension category of Bloom’s taxonomy.
In the third grade, students should be able to: “Distinguish the main idea and supporting details in expository text” (Third Grade Reading Comprehension standard 2.5) . So, this basically takes the skills that students learned in the previous years and now applies them to expository texts. For the introductory lesson, students will follow along with a Powerpoint (see presentationgrade3). This Powerpoint will review main ideas and supporting details. The students will be prompted to read a short story about Harriet Quimby. Following the story, they will identify the main idea and the supporting details. A worksheet that would fit well with this standard is template 4. This worksheet checks to see if the students can distinguish the supporting details from the main ideas. Since this is third grade the students have now moved up to the application section of Bloom’s taxonomy, as they are asked to use their identifications skills.
An assessment that could be done for third grade could be to make a kite. For this project the students will need template 5 copied onto some construction paper, either the same size or enlarged to 12 x 18. The students will first read or listen to the article “Why Exercise is Cool” at http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/fit/work_it_out.html. Then the students will write a paragraph about the importance of exercise. They will put their main idea on the center of the kite and the supporting details will go on the kite tails. Once the writing is done, the students may decorate the kites and cut them out. The tails can then be glued onto the kite. Again this lesson is on the application level of Bloom’s taxonomy, due the task being associated with identification.
In the fourth grade the students must be able to “evaluate new information and hypotheses by testing them against known information and ideas” (Fourth Grade Reading Comprehension standard 2.4). This is the grade where students who like to investigate tend to thrive. This is also true for students who have been exposed to different ideas and concepts. This is due to the connections that students have to make once they read about something that is new to them.
For the fourth grade, a Powerpoint (see presentationgrade4) can be used to introduce the students to the following terms: hypothesis, information, experiment, evaluation, and theory. Following the terms, the students will be asked to do an experiment. They will do some research online using The Weather Channel and then predict the weather for the next five days. This lesson is one that asks the students to use their predictions skills so it falls into the synthesis level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
For the assessment students will have to choose a science fair project. They will need to do research on an interesting topic and see what others have found. Based on this, they will formulate their own hypothesis. They will do their own experiment and come up with a conclusion. This will all be documented in an essay. This essay will be graded against the 4th grade science project rubric. Since the students are making a prediction and creating a project, this assignment is on the synthesis level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
In the fifth grade students must be able to: “Discern main ideas and concepts presented in texts, identifying and assessing evidence that supports those ideas” (Fifth Grade Reading Comprehension Standard 2.3). This grade is where students must now put all of the pieces together. They first need to be about to locate the main ideas in a text. The next step is to look for evidence that supports those ideas and determine whether it is valid.
For fifth grade, have the students review main ideas and supporting details with the following Powerpoint (see presentationgrade5). Then have them use the graphic organizer in the Powerpoint to analyze an expository reading. The questions that are posed to the students are: “list three main concepts, describe the key concepts in their own words, explain why the concepts are important and explain how the concept relates to others.” Since this assignment is asking the students to analyze the reading it falls into the analysis level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
Another activity that can be done with fifth grade is to give them an expository reading. Then have them read through it. They need to look for the main idea, topic sentence, and the supporting details. The following activity will help in assessing which students are able to differentiate the above. Have students trace an outline of their hand, fingers, and wrist on a piece of paper. Have them write the main idea in their own words on the palm. Then they will write the topic sentence on the thumb. The supporting details with evidence will go on the fingers. Finally, have them draw a bracelet around the wrist and write a summary in their own words. This is a fairly simple activity and only asks that students organize the information that they learned into a graphic organizer, so it falls into the application level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
For the assessment, have the students read a persuasive essay. They must write a response to the essay. In the essay, they must either agree or disagree with the essay. They need to restate the main ideas, and offer insight on the supporting details. They also need to show support for the main idea or proof against it. Then see the 5th grade persuasive essay rubric, this can be used to assess the student’s mastery of this standard. This assignment asks that the students take a side and offer support, so it falls into the evaluation level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
In the sixth grade students are expected to: “Connect and clarify main ideas by identifying their relationships to other sources and related topics” (Sixth Grade Reading Comprehension Standard 2.3). This means that they must be in the mastery level locating and understanding the main ideas in the reading, distinguishing connections between the main ideas and evaluating how they relate to other sources. In order to review with the students, use the following Powerpoint (presentationgrade6) to define the terms: summary, main ideas, and supporting details. Then have the students read the two stated articles, they will be asked to find the main ideas, and supporting details in each. They will also be asked to determine whether the information read in the two articles is similar or different. This assignment first asks the students to find the main ideas and supporting details which puts this assignment on the comprehension level of Bloom’s taxonomy. The next part of the assignment asks the students to look for similarities and differences which falls into the analysis level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
The assessment for this standard could be an extension activity. The students would be asked to write an essay using the sources provided in the Powerpoint as well as additional resources. This essay would focus on evidence either for or against the presence of water and habitability. The essay would be graded by using the research report rubric. This assessment asks the students to use their evaluation skills so it falls into the evaluation level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
The assessment assignments for this project were designed in a manner where they could be put into student portfolios. The value of these portfolios is that they can follow the student to the next grade or school. This allows the teacher to not only have a letter grade to determine student competency of a standard, but also a work sample. These work samples can help the teachers design lessons that will reach all of the students.
This project is an example of how teachers can work together for the success of all students. If a school was to implement a curriculum policy where teachers meet with a grade above and a grade below their current grade level, then there would be a better understanding of where students are and what assistance they may need. In these meetings teachers could bring their previous year’s student assessment scores, portfolios, and the actual standards at their grade level. This would widen all the teachers’ perspective of what student expectations are at other grade levels. Discussions could be had on what it is that the students need to know at the end of each school year. This would be a great time to discuss what this “knowledge” would look like, and what type of evidence would be acceptable. This would help lead into planning. Starting the year off with meeting in this manner may eliminate many time consuming assessments that determine where each student is and lead to a successful school year.