How can we develop partnerships to improve the early literacy skills of primary students? If I were presenting on this topic in a conference or training, the first thing I would do is try to connect my audience to the problem. A little more than a third of students enter Kindergarten lacking alphabet knowledge, and four years later, a little more than a third of students are performing below basic on standardized reading assessments.
Kindergarten teachers are already working ridiculously hard to catch these students up and teach them what they need to know in order to become beginning readers in first grade, so that they can go on to become proficient readers and access all the content they need to be college and career ready. Where can we look to for help for these students? Perhaps the answer lies in relationships outside the classroom. Perhaps we can draw on relationships outside the classroom to enhance students’ learning after they leave our rooms for the day. How can we build partnerships with parents, siblings, local middle schoolers in after school programs, or extended family to create solid learning opportunities in the sociocultural contexts that are familiar to our students?
If I were to walk my audience through the process I have followed up to this point, I would tell them that enlisting parents is definitely worth all the hard work of scheduling evening meetings, getting help from a bilingual parent liaison (if you have one), carefully selecting activities to be done at home… As long as you don’t expect everyone to participate. My experience showed me that a parent intervention program can work...for those who choose to participate. Then I would share the struggle that ensued when I spent hours preparing games and activities for the Boys & Girls Club to implement. I’d tell them how I visited weekly until everyone was comfortable with the plan. And then I’d tell them how hard it was to surrender control. How hard it was to look at the participation logs and realize that students were only given about one session a week during the 3 week duration of the program.
Right now, I’m looking forward to collecting some qualitative data to find out how a program with community partners like this could be better. I’m also looking forward (with a little fear, too) to my next round of action research: a sibling tutoring program. I’m excited about the potential, and also scared that I’ll hear horror stories of sibling rivalry from concerned parents...
Enter TPACK. As I move into my last round of action research, TPACK helps me to look at a bigger picture to answer my driving question.
Content: What content to the students need to get solid on? Simple: Letter sound knowledge.
Pedagogy: How should they be taught? Letter sound knowledge is factual information. Clark tells us that drill and practice is best for factual knowledge. Sweet! Because drill and practice is the perfect kind of activity to put in the hands of novice teachers like volunteers and family members.
Technology: What kinds of “technology” tools will best support student learning? The SITE Model reminds us that “technology” doesn’t always have to have an electronic factor--it can also include devices, strategies or systems. Along these lines, I have selected game play and simple alphabet activities as the technology that will best support the drill and practice style of teaching students letter sounds. Examples include letter sound memory games and board games, letter sound bingo, online alphabet games, and online letter sound videos.
TPK (Where technology meets pedagogy): How do I choose and manage the technology to best help students learn? I developed some criteria to help guide me in selecting technology and activities. For TPK, I believe the following two criteria apply: Activities must be free, and there must be a high focus on teaching the letter names/sounds, as opposed to higher focus on a game concept. Also, as Clark suggests, activities should mostly be drill and practice.
TCK (Where technology and content knowledge meet) This is where I believe my criteria comes into play again. The following two criteria must be met for the games, online activities and tools to be considered for my program. They must:
This week has certainly been a time for synthesis and zooming out to make connections and find missing pieces. I find myself feeling a bit overwhelmed, and at the same time, excited about seeing things more clearly!