Where did the Inspiration Stem From?
From the moment I became a Kindergarten teacher, and performed my first incoming Kindergarten assessments, it become overwhelmingly apparent to me how many students are entering our classrooms behind before they even begin. It was a daunting realization to come to that on the first day of school (and in Kindergarten, I truly mean on their first day of school) a large majority of my students were stepping foot onto an uphill battle. As an educator the thought of this alarmed and saddened me because my aim has and always will be to ensure an inspirational, and equitable education that will prepare ALL of my students for success. My goal as a Kindergarten teacher became to guarantee my students the promise of reading readiness no matter their entry level through the implementation of daily phonics instruction. I became driven by the potential of how prepared my students could exit my classroom, rather than on how unprepared they were when they entered the classroom. With this motivation in constant mind, I began to tackle with how to deliver such daily phonics instruction in a motivating, engaging, and effective manner in order to meet the phonemic needs of all of my learners. I knew that I wanted my phonics instruction to implement technology and to incorporate the use of multimedia because of the motivating and engaging nature it proved to possess in other areas of my instruction. This need became the foundation for the action research I conducted throughout the duration of the Innovative Learning program.
The Inspiration Gains Background and Need:
Over the past three years, less than half (43.90% in 2017) of California’s Grade 3 students have met or exceeded the English Language Arts/Literacy standards as measured by the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) (https://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr17/yr17rel67a.asp). In consideration of all grades tested (3rd-8th, and 11th), less than half (48.56%) of students in 2017 met or exceeded the English Language Arts/Literacy standards as measured by the CAASPP (12.09% of English Learners, 35.52% of economically disadvantaged students, and 13.86% of students with disabilities met or exceeded the English Language Arts/Literacy standards). This data released in the California Department of Education’s 2017 CAASPP Test Results news release suggests that early literacy skills are an area in California’s educational system that is lacking and in need of significant improvement.
The school district of this study has adopted the use of the DIBELS Next assessment to measure the acquisition of early literacy skills in elementary students. The district yielded the following results for the beginning Letter Naming Fluency section as measured by the 2017-2018 DIBELS Next assessment: 63% of Kindergarten students were likely to need intensive support, 12% were likely to need strategic support, and 25% were likely to need core support. In addition, 45% of Kindergarten students were likely to need intensive support as measured by the beginning period’s First Sound Fluency section of the 2017-2018 DIBELS Next assessment, 22% were likely to need strategic support, and 33% were likely to need core support. This district-specific data, suggested that over half of the incoming Kindergarten population were in need of intensive support to meet the core benchmark standard in Letter Naming Fluency, and nearly half were also in need of intensive support to meet the core standard in First Sound Fluency in the 2017-2018 school year.
The Transformation of the Inspiration through Literature Review:
A number of researchers have studied the benefits of computer-based technology and computer-assisted instruction as a means of acquiring early literacy skills, especially in reference to preparing pre-kindergarten students for success in school.
Overall, the research conducted thus far has provided evidence in support of the use of supplemental computer-assisted instruction and tutoring programs as a means of improving the phonological awareness and early literacy skills of both pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten students. In addition, research has also suggested the increase in early literacy skills of pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten students who interact with other technological resources, such as eBooks, videos, online games, as well as interactive whiteboards and accompanied software programs. There is a lack of research about the use of whole-class direct phonics instruction, in which PowerPoint is used as a tool to deliver the multimedia-enhanced content driven by the pacing of the classroom’s district-adopted curriculum. There is also a gap in the present research regarding the incorporation of sight words, and writing (both content and conventions) components within the computer-assisted and other technological programs aimed at improving early literacy skills.
According to Gardner’s (1983) research regarding Multiple Intelligences, students learn in very different ways, and therefore instruction and assessment should reflect this, and learning should be taught and assessed in many ways as well. The purpose of the multi-media approaches in this study were to embrace Gardner’s eight Multiple Learning Intelligences, thereby meeting the needs of all students’ multiple learning styles. By engaging multiple learning styles through multimedia approaches, the primary goal for this specific research is for the students to become proficient in their ability to identify letters, letter sounds, and blend sounds together to read grade-level words. Ultimately, the aim is for students to be able to transfer the skills of letter and letter-sound identification, segmenting, and blending that they are taught during the direct, systematic phonics instruction to all reading and writing that takes place in and out of the classroom. In order to create and teach a direct and systematic phonics instruction that will best benefit students, I needed to know what phonics and early literacy skills they already knew, as well as, an effective order by which letter, and sounds are introduced as measured by the DIBELS Next program. This would ensure that the lessons would be tailored to meet the students’ needs directly and systematically.