For example, in small groups, we facilitate guided reading. This provides differentiated instruction by focusing on a student’s instructional level within a small group. Skills are tailored to students based on their reading level as well as targeted skills, like decoding. In addition to guided reading, we utilize scaffolds and tools to provide students an opportunity to practice grade-level skills while working on independent and small-group rotation work. This may include a 2nd grade student listening to a text instead of reading it or providing more questions to guide students so they can access grade-level content, thus, increasing their understanding.
This is what mastery learning looks like. Teachers are able to manage their time by differentiating instruction based on data from weekly assessments in order to provide students the support they need while also continuing with grade-level standards. This acceleration of learning allows for continuation without ignoring the gaps in learning that exist.
Why This Matters
We want our students to be effective communicators. We want them to have the tools to empower them to influence their world through reading, writing, speaking, and listening. If a 2nd-grader is reading at a kindergarten level because they missed 1st grade due to the pandemic, it is not effective or developmentally appropriate to maintain instruction at a kindergarten level. With quality instruction focused on mastery learning, students can increase their chances of reading at grade-level in a shorter period of time – closing gaps while avoiding creating new gaps in learning.
It takes a lot of hard work for educators to balance acceleration with additional support. It’s juggling between homing in on what students need a recap on and blending in new, grade-level material. Based on their current reading skill proficiencies, individual students need different approaches to help them close gaps. Many of our students simply haven’t been given the opportunity to catch up. As educators, if we can work to close the opportunity gap, we will be that much closer to closing the achievement gap.
At this time, we are starting to see our students become more proficient readers. Though test scores aren’t where we would like them to be, our reading data is greatly improving. For instance, in January 2020, only 7 percent of kindergarten students were reading within the kindergarten proficiency level. However, in January 2022, 51 percent of those same students as 2nd graders were reading within the 2nd grade proficiency band. This is tremendous growth, especially considering these students spent their 18 months in full remote learning during their kindergarten and 1st grade years.
By providing both differentiation and grade-level material, we predict our students will have the necessary skills and strong literacy foundation needed for their future success.
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