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Design a Summer Reading Program for Early Literacy

Anytime early learners are away from school for an extended period of time, there is a risk of their literacy skills deteriorating. It’s easy to see why.

  • A school provides young students with regular, structured lessons. 
  • Students have access to experienced teachers who know how to support early learners.
  • Students also have a consistent learning environment to practice reading, with access to numerous books and other educational materials.

The concept of the summer slide or summer learning loss is very real.  This is where there is a loss of knowledge that students gained from the previous school year following  the summer break.  

Sprig highlighted the summer slide phenomenon in a previous blog, where it was mentioned what learning recovery looks like for school children.

Indeed, schools should be well equipped to manage returning students that had varied summer experiences and were exposed to diverse learning opportunities.  Some students may require more help than others in the form of one-on-one or group support. 

But how can we mitigate the summer slide? 

Or looking at it from a more positive angle, what if more learning opportunities were available during the summer so all students could continue to maintain and build their early literacy skills?

Summer reading programs provide opportunities to both retain and grow literacy skills. Not all summer reading programs are the same in how they go about doing this. 

This article focuses on designing a summer reading program for early literacy. 

Some very important questions are first answered to understand the heart of summer reading programs, followed by some thoughtful considerations on the best way forward for early literacy.

 

What is a Summer Literacy Program?

Summer Literacy Program

​​A summer learning program centered around language or reading is called a Summer Literacy Program. 

 

It is intended for students who: 

  • are struggling to read at grade level. 
  • have socioeconomic or other identified challenges to literacy achievement. 

 

There is often no fixed age range for students who are selected for the program. 

They can be early learners in kindergarten, elementary and middle schools, depending on the local education board. The 3 to 12 age group is a common participation criteria for a lot of these summer programs. 

The summer literacy program encourages students to read during their summer break so they retain the literacy skills they have gained throughout the school year. 

Many literacy activities are offered according to the age group and reading level of the student. The duration of the program is often flexible. It can range from three weeks to the whole summer.

Reading knowledge and skills are not only retained in Summer Literacy Programs, but are often added as well. Students can make literacy gains during the summer break, which they can carry back to school in the fall. 

Summer Literacy Programs are especially pertinent for young learners as there is a short window of opportunity to maximize learning at this formative stage of learning. This includes:

  • Correcting wrong learnings
  • Recovering lost learnings
  • Adding new learnings

 

Every single day in the early childhood stage of learning is important. 

The learning students acquire at this crucial juncture of their lives helps develop and establish the necessary and foundational skills. These skills, when learned properly, serve students well in their learning journey for the rest of their lives.

Summer is one quarter of the year and provides a helpful boost to early learning when this time is well used.

 

What is a Summer Literacy Camp?

A Summer Literacy Camp is very similar to the Summer Literacy Program, if not identical.  

Some school districts call it a Summer Literacy Camp and make it available to their students who are struggling. 

The students enrolled in the program are recommended by the teacher and/or principal.

 

Is There One Model of Summer Literacy Program?

There are in fact many examples of what a Summer Literacy Program can look like. 

 

Some programs are directed at groups of students from multiple school districts. They are part of a study. 

Harvard funded the Reading Enhances Achievement During Summer program where children from low-income families were mailed books to read that matched their interests and abilities. 

The findings from this study showed that the children who received these books did better than their peers who did not receive them.

 

Some programs are multimodal. They have in-person, virtual and hybrid options. 

The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge allows kids to log their reading milestones and unlock weekly milestones, thus creating an incentive to continue reading. 

It definitely helps to have such an interactive learning program which motivates children to pursue reading.

 

Some programs are completely resource based. 

Any principal, teacher or parent can benefit from a resource package that is designed specifically for early literacy. By using videos, books and other resources, they are able to create their own summer literacy programs, even if the official infrastructure for it does not exist. 

 

Is It An Early Literacy Intervention?

In some summer literacy programs, kids receive individual and small group literacy instruction. So the students who are already struggling are further differentiated to understand what would help them become better readers.

So yes, it can be thought of as an early literacy intervention during the summer break. But as discussed before, some summer literacy camps also see it as an opportunity to enrich learning. 

Usually, when schools have intervention in mind, they will explicitly create intensive summer intervention programs for a particular group of struggling students. Most reading research points to the success of such programs, showing a significant relationship between the hours of intervention and improvement of reading ability. 

 

The One Common Theme: Books

Sprig Storybooks

                                                                                                Sprig’s Storybooks

Whether it’s taking part in a reading challenge, doing a book review, participating in book giveaways, or maintaining reading logs, the one common theme in all Summer Literacy Programs is books. 

As such, it’s important to involve people who are knowledgeable about and have access to books.

Some school libraries stay open for the summer for this very reason, and the school librarian plays a key role in summer reading programs.

Even without a librarian, at the very least, kids should have access to fun books which appeal to them. These books can be accompanied by animations or other effects like augmented reality. 

Anything that encourages early learners to read should be favoured.

 

The Involvement of Parents

Involvement of Parents

The involvement of parents in summer literacy programs is not only recommended, it is actually imperative to student success! 

Yes, the literacy programs and camps are a way to keep kids engaged in a productive way during the summer. But just as it is during the school year, it’s important for parents to actively participate in their child’s learning. 

Active parental involvement makes a big difference when it comes to making literacy gains.

Nearly half of parents are not even aware of the summer slide. So summer literacy programs have the responsibility to make families aware of the opportunity that exists to make use of the programs, and also support families in their own efforts to work on literacy. 

The Sprig Home app has supported parents both during and post-pandemic to provide easy, accessible learning activities that turn those everyday moments into learning opportunities. 

 

Summer Literacy Is Both Fun and Serious

Summer Literacy is Both Fun and Serious

​​While summer literacy programs are meant to be fun, it’s also serious enough that many different types of organizations (school districts, colleges, societies, and educational organizations) are now offering some version of summer literacy instruction.

In a recent study of 580 public and private elementary schools in the US, 65% of them held summer literacy programs, despite not being required or funded to do so. 

Regardless of the type of organization, it’s clear that to provide an enriching learning experience to kids that truly excites them to pursue reading, educational resources are required that are specifically created for summer literacy. 

The Family Summer Literacy Boost bundle from Joyful Literacy helps parents and summer schools teach students who are in kindergarten to Grade 2.

This fully digital video series contains downloadable books, videos from topmost experts in the field of literacy, and instructional materials geared towards reading mastery.

Sprig fully endorses the video bundle, given its equal emphasis on both teachers and parents, the collaboration of whom is absolutely essential for a successful summer literacy program. 

 

Using What Works in Summer Literacy

The group of students you select for a summer literacy program, the modes you use to teach them, and the roles you involve to coordinate the program are all important decisions. 

But it’s most important is to use an evidence-based literacy strategy that works. 

The number of literacy activities one can do are endless.

Stories

Crafts

Explorations

Worksheets

Experiments

Etc.

But to do it all in a structured setting, supervised by literacy specialists and parents, is the real difference maker. 

Teachers know their students. When teachers are given the opportunity to modify program components for their students, the effectiveness of summer literacy programs is further enhanced.

When prior assessments are conducted to understand the student’s areas of strength and growth, reading instruction is adjusted accordingly for the student. 

From that point onwards, teachers can follow an evidence-based framework to monitor student progress until full literacy has been achieved. 

Achieving early literacy for all is Sprig’s passion! If you can’t get enough of early literacy improvement articles, please also be sure to check out:

The 4 Golden Rules of Early Literacy Development

Building Early Literacy Skills in Schools. Thoughtful Considerations

Have any questions about summer reading or summer literacy programs? Contact us.

The 20 Best Strategies for Teaching Early Math Skills

Learning math is a fundamental part of early childhood education. It’s why Sprig offers the Sprig Math program, to pair Sprig Language in teaching early numeracy and literacy respectively.

To ensure every child has a fair shot at success, both core subjects of language and math are fundamental and must be taught well. They complement each other. 

Making sense of oral language helps to learn math concepts by understanding what is being said or instructed.

Math also builds reasoning, which increases comprehension, including language comprehension.

The two subjects are so interconnected that language and math learning difficulties tend to coincide in primary school. There is also evidence to show that it’s more difficult to overcome a math learning gap than it is to overcome a language learning gap. 

In a study on school readiness and later achievement, it’s said that early math skills have even greater predictive power than reading and attention skills, when it comes to determining success.

Given math is such an integral part of early childhood education, we wanted to do a comprehensive roundup of all strategies written on this topic. 

We present them in this article. 

 

The Many Strategies for Teaching Early Math Skills 

Many Strategies for Teaching Early Math Skills

There are numerous strategies for teaching early math, and they have varying degrees of shared characteristics. 

We reviewed many different strategies (from multiple sources) to arrive at this list of 20 math strategies. Their overlaps are minimized. 

 

From Many to The Best

 

Repetition

  1. Use Repetition to Build Familiarity: Although the most basic strategy in this list, it is still very popular in teaching students early math. Through repeated practice, early learners get to practice skills such as anticipation, prediction, and cause and effect.

 

Start by Counting

  1. Start by Counting: Counting is one of the most common activities in teaching early math skills. Due to its prevalence, it can be thought of as a strategy. Instead of counting by rote, it’s better to develop quantity sense. Counting is reinforced in many literacy lessons, as well as everyday life situations.

 

Hands on activities

  1. Do Hands-on activities: Abstract concepts in math can be difficult to absorb for early learners. Doing activities with manipulatives, blocks, relational rods or clay are helpful to visualize these concepts. These methods of learning math are the first step of the concrete, pictorial, abstract approach to learning math. 

 

Graphics to engage and explore

  1. Use Graphics To Engage and Explore: Using colourful moving images, catchy sound effects and songs engages students in learning. Static images are good for demonstrating math concepts, but moving visuals accompanied by audio are even better. They support deeper thinking about the mathematical concepts in which they are engaged.

 

Differentiate using technology

  1. Differentiate Learning via Technology: Most teachers use some sort of differentiation tactic to teach their students. Technology amplifies this differentiation capability, by 1) keeping track of student profiles to see what they have completed 2) offering a chance to those students who are more adept at learning on-screen.

Early Learners will explain concepts

  1. Ask Early Learners To Explain Concepts: It’s good to ask students how they want to solve a problem or what strategies they are thinking about. It develops meta-cognition, which is an important aspect of learning early math.

     

     

    Implement Storytelling

  2. Implement Storytelling: Stories capture the imagination and keep kids engaged. Real-life scenario problems told through stories help kids understand the practicality of math. Fictional stories also grab their attention to look at a problem closely, and the use of characters engages them to solve a problem.

 

Provide Feedback

  1. Provide Feedback: Addressing learning gaps also involves fixing errors so they don’t turn into bad habits in the learning process. While a strength-based approach helps students to learn in their preferred styles, it’s equally important to correct mistakes when they do happen. 

 

Positive Attitude

  1. Develop a Positive Attitude: It’s easier and more enjoyable to learn math if the students believe that they can succeed. It’s beneficial for students if they develop a positive identity and attitude when it comes to learning math. It’s important to reward and praise students when they do well, so they are encouraged to learn more. 

 

Play Games

  1. Play Games: Playing games is one of the ways to make math learning fun. Research shows that playing with puzzles, blocks, and cards all enhance math skills in the early years. Interactive digital games take it one step further in engaging students and increasing learning gains.

 

Schema and Patterns

  1. Use Schema and Patterns: Recognizing patterns, making connections, and predicting sequences are all things that occur when children learn from recurring designs, or patterns. Once kids at an early age figure out the schema, or the underlying pattern behind a math concept, it’s easier for them to learn.

Developmental Progression

12. Use Developmental Progression: Children have some innate abilities to recognize patterns and to count at an early stage. Developmental progression uses such abilities to build a platform from which more advanced mathematical operations can be taught.

 

Formatively Assess

13. Formatively Assess: Monitor progress of what every student has learned. Determine their current level of math knowledge and differentiate instruction accordingly. A formative assessment tool can inform instruction by monitoring progress for each student. It’s helpful for pacing instruction according to the curricular outcomes at the end of the year.

 

Connect Math

  1. Connect Math to Other Learning Areas: Encourage students who see and explain their world in mathematical terms. Introduce general concepts informally, before formally connecting those concepts to formal math vocabulary. Students become more invested in learning math when they see how it is connected to the world around them.

 

Encourage Math talk

15. Encourage Math Talk: Bring up math in every situation, so students can practice applying the learned knowledge and concepts. Verbalizing mathematical thinking gives students greater understanding and awareness of their own problem-solving skills.

 

Time for Math

16. Set Time Aside For Math: Schools have learning blocks dedicated to math, so this strategy is well practiced. But it is extremely important nonetheless to reserve time for teaching math. It should be something that kids look forward to and not dread.

 

Cooperative Learning

17. Set Up Cooperative Learning: It’s possible to learn math alone, but working together in a pair, or in a group with many other students are also great options. Students get to learn from each other and  brainstorm problem solving ideas as a group. Teaching others leads to high retention of a math skill. It’s best to pick groups that are of mixed ability.

 

Teacher Collaboration

18. Promote Teacher Collaboration: Teacher collaboration, or collaborative planning, is one of the major markers of high-quality differentiated instruction. It’s no different in teaching math. Collaborating with other teachers, coaches or specialists improves instruction skills and helps to plan more effective lessons.Furthermore, teacher collaboration helps to build the right math culture in early learning, where math ideas are made fun, and are treated as concepts to be discussed and reasoned through.

 

Support Independent Practice

  1. Support Independent Practice: Scaffolding can be used to teach math, but not to the extent where it hampers independent learning of a certain skill or concept. There should be enough opportunities provided to the student to demonstrate their understanding. 

 

Foundational Skills

  1. Work on the Foundational Skills: Early math foundation includes number sense, representation, spatial sense, measurement, estimation and patterns and problem solving. There are many early childhood math activities for each of these learning areas. There are tools available that map such activities to their respective learning outcome. Sprig Math goes one step beyond this, and maps activities to the underlying math learning processes as well. 

 

Teaching Early Math Strategy Takeaways 

Teaching Early Math Strategy Takeaways

Going over the 20 strategies mentioned above, there are some themes that can be observed. 

 

  • Focus on existing math ability
  • Sense of belonging in the classroom
  • Math’s connection to the world around us
  • Maximization of potential according to math interests

 

Math teachers do a lot when it comes to achieving these objectives! 

They meet students at the level they are in, show them how math can be fun and relevant, and provide ample opportunities for them to develop as early math learners.

With technology specifically meant for early math, it acts as a force multiplier to the work teachers already do.

Students who take part in technology-based adaptive math programs score higher on all math strands in assessment, compared to those students who do not take part. There is a clear advantage to be gained in tailoring math instruction with the help of technology.

If there is any strategy in this article that you need help with ideating, implementing or measuring, feel free to reach out to us. Sprig Learning built Sprig Math specifically for early math learners.

Early Childhood Teachers— Creating the Perfect Team

Today is National Teacher Day in the US! Where would we be without teachers and the lasting contribution they make in our lives?

To mark this special day, we want to highlight the team aspect of teaching. 

There are many studies that suggest teachers think highly of collaborative teaching and consider it a valuable and effective use of their time.

As the teaching profession evolves, there are new roles created that focus on a single specialty or help manage a number of different activities.

All of such roles ultimately have an unified purpose of providing the maximum benefit to the student. 

The goal is always to raise student success and ensure student well being. 

Despite all the challenges commonly faced by teachers, they are committed to the teaching profession to help students.

It takes an enormous amount of effort and dedication to teach preschoolers, kindergarteners and students in the early elementary grades. That’s why Sprig Learning supports the teaching cause by designing holistic early learning programs for Pre-K to Grade 3. 

For this year’s National Teacher Day, let’s take time to understand each teaching role to truly appreciate them! 

 

The Most Essential Early Childhood Teacher Roles in Pre-K to Grade 3

Most Essential Childhood Teacher Roles

The foundational years are absolutely critical to a child’s long-term educational success. Listed below are the customary and indispensable roles in early childhood education. 

All early childhood teachers contribute tremendously to the assessing, teaching and evaluation of early learners. 

 

Pre-K Teacher

Preschool or Pre-K teachers both instruct and care for children typically aged two to four years old. They have to prepare their young students for kindergarten.

At this stage, it’s crucial that all early development milestones are reached. 

 

Kindergarten Teacher

Kindergarten is considered to be the start of formal education. It is the starting grade level for the majority of elementary schools in North America.

Kindergarten teachers have to plan and implement lessons for children generally aged five years old. They have to supervise their students, keep them motivated, and guide their development as they develop the foundational early learning skills.

For many school systems, assessments also start at this level. There are best practices to design assessments for early childhood education.

 

Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3 Teachers

Early primary teachers (namely in Grades 1, 2 and 3) help children transition into the elementary grades. They ensure learning progress in all the core subjects: language, math, science and social studies. 

 

Teacher Aide/ Teacher Assistant

The teacher aide assists preschool teachers in their work. They perform a variety of tasks such as preparing classroom materials and completing administrative tasks. There are teacher aides in preschool, kindergarten and the early elementary grades.

 

Remediation Teacher/Intervention Specialist

Remediation teachers help children who are struggling with early reading and/or math. They work alongside the student’s regular teacher, and work one-on-one with those students who require the most help.

 

Reading Specialist/Literacy Specialist/ Elementary Math Specialist

Reading specialists teach kids that are struggling with reading and/or writing. They work with students in small groups, and like homeroom teachers, they also plan, teach and evaluate instruction.

Reading specialists have advanced training and experience in teaching reading. They assess literacy performance of readers in general, and struggling readers in particular.

 

Literacy Coach/Literary Coordinator

Literacy coaches work with educators and students to improve literacy scores. They help to develop lesson plans, conduct lesson demonstrations and evaluations, and analyze student literacy achievement data. The coach can also observe the teachers as they present lessons and make suggestions for improvement. 

Sometimes the role can also include leading professional development and collaborating with all teachers to improve literacy for an entire grade or the whole school. 

 

Director of Elementary Education

The Director of Elementary Education formulates and implements a vision for the district’s instructional programs from Pre-K to Grade 6. 

 

Don’t Forget The Home

Parents/Caregivers

Learning happens both in the school and at home. Parental involvement is critical for student success. Parents and other caregivers are able to support the learning journey of the child as they go to school everyday and come back home. 

 

The Need For Collaboration in Early Childhood Education

Need for Collaboration in Early Childhood Education

At a school level, the administrators always want to understand the role of each educator in creating a successful learning program. It’s important for them to understand the relationship between the members of the team.

In kindergarten classrooms that have an educator team consisting of more than one role, it’s seen that the team members have complementary skills that allow them to address individual student’s needs and ensure meaningful learning opportunities. 

In its full-day kindergarten programs, Ontario pairs teachers with early childhood educators, who are trained in child development, observation and play-based learning. 

There has been a lot of research done on the positive influence of teacher collaboration on student achievement. While teacher quality alone is a big factor in determining student performance, working collaboratively enhances teacher effectiveness and expertise.

In light of all the emerging evidence that advocates for teacher collaboration, there is a rise in early childhood educator teams where collaborative planning is a part of the agenda. 

By respecting the unique skill sets each teacher brings to the table, it’s possible to optimize high-quality early learning for every child. 

 

All for One. One for All.

Early Learning Dream Team

Early Learning Dream Team

Sprig Learning is a purpose-built company that provides early learners, educators and parents with access to the tools needed to build a foundation for lifelong learning.

We produce early learning programs that are culturally relevant, teacher developed, and curriculum aligned. 

Any teacher can quickly be set up with an account on Sprig Language or Sprig Math. They can begin managing their class in no time at all. 

They can access holistic assessments, personalized activities targeting learning areas, and surveys from others to get a better perspective of the student.

When every teacher onboards on the platform, the teaching experience transforms into something even more magical! 

The homeroom teacher, or main classroom teacher in preschool, kindergarten and the early primary grades, can keep track of all students from one platform. They can assign activities that work on all the different learning outcomes outlined in the curriculum. 

The reading specialist or elementary mathematics specialist can closely monitor performance in the different learning domains in language and math. They can group students accordingly to deliver differentiated instruction.

Those students who need even more support can be looked at by the remediation or intervention specialist. They can formulate a one-on-one learning strategy, and take help from classroom resources available in the program, or look at survey results from caregivers for more insight into the early learner’s educational environment. 

The director of elementary education, or any assessment director at the elementary level, can compare classroom performances to see what is working and identify teacher collaborative planning strategies.

Team work really does make the dream work, especially in early learning! To learn more about how Sprig Learning can facilitate team work to raise student achievement, simply reach out!

Again, let’s take this time to celebrate all the different teachers working every day for our early learners. 

To show our gratitude, we have slashed prices at the Sprig Store by 20% for all products. Simply use the promo code Sprigforteachers at the checkout cart. 

Using Play-based Technology to Teach Early Math Skills

Play-based learning has always been a major staple of early childhood education. 

In kindergarten and in the early primary grades, engaging students is as important as teaching students. This is especially true for mathematics, where negative experiences can dissuade a student from further pursuing the subject.

Encouraging and motivating a student during their early math experiences allows them to develop a keen interest in math. Such enjoyment and persistence in learning math pays off. Students explore creative ways to advance their learning instead of being discouraged and frustrated. 

Play-based learning drives engagement in the early years. 

Technology facilitates play. 

In this article, we explore technology’s potential in teaching early math skills. 

 

Technology’s Role in Teaching Early Math Skills

Technology Role Teaching Early Math

​​By engaging students early on using technology, educators have more power to teach the essential math skills and concepts. 

When you can capture a student’s attention, teacher’s are in a better position to deliver the content and concepts of the lesson.

Technology also enables teachers to monitor the progress of students and collect valuable insights.

It’s a way to differentiate instruction and ensure all students benefit from personalized instruction.

The Sprig Math program is an example of leveraging technology to teach early math skills. 

It provides every child a strong foundation in early numeracy by focussing on the underlying concepts (or processes) that are critical to success in mathematics.

The intuitive Sprig Math app is easily downloadable by teachers and parents alike. 

The program combines technology and classroom resources such as the Sprig Math Classroom Kit. It fits seamlessly into day-to-day lesson plans mapped to the local curriculum.

 

The Right Way to Teach Early Math Skills and Technology’s Fit

Teach Early Math Skills Technology Fit

High-quality, challenging and accessible mathematics education for 3 to 8 year olds is necessary to build the right foundation for future mathematics learning. 

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) lists 6 principles for school mathematics that are relevant across all grade levels, including early childhood. They are:

Equity: Equally high expectations and strong support for all students.

Curriculum: Coherent, well articulated, and focused on important mathematics.

Teaching: Understanding what students need to learn and then challenging and supporting them to learn it well. 

Learning: Learning mathematics by understanding and actively building new knowledge.

Assessment: Supporting the learning of important math concepts and providing useful information to both teachers and students. 

Technology: Influencing the mathematics that is taught and enhancing student’s learning.

 

Taking a look at Sprig Math, it is carefully designed to meet all the criteria for effective early math instruction. It uses holistic assessments to identify the strengths, interests and needs of every learner, thus ensuring educational equity for diverse learners. 

The Sprig Math program maps to local curriculum and supports the teaching of essential math skills with targeted learning activities. 

Students benefit from learning the underlying math processes, which helps them develop a deeper understanding of early math and build a strong foundation for success. This learning is made possible by the Sprig Math App, an example of technology that enables educators to more effectively enhance learning, differentiate instruction and manage a classroom of diverse learners. 

Thus we see that technology is fast becoming an inseparable part of teaching mathematics in early childhood education. 

It is a strong facilitator of the principles of teaching math, and it is a principle in itself. 

 

From Math Apps to Math Games

Math Apps to Math Games

We see that technology is an instrumental part of teaching early math. Examples include apps, assessments, etc. What about interactive technology? 

Studies have shown that using interactive technology promotes student collaboration and engagement in a play-based learning environment. Using game-based math learning apps lead to greater learning gains in math compared to students who do not.

Do Digital Math Games Work?

The short answer is yes! 

In a world that is rapidly becoming gamified, there is a role for digital games in education, especially when educators and parents are allowed to monitor its application.

A 4-week Stanford study on Grade 3 students found that those who played a digital math game for 10 minutes a day, 3 days a week, demonstrated a 20.5% improvement in scores, compared to those who received the same material and instruction, but did not play the game. 

 

The Next Frontier- The Sprig Math Game

Aliet is no ordinary bear! 

She is one of the beloved Sprig Learning characters that early learners love to interact with and learn from. 

Originally created for the Mi’kmaq community in Nova Scotia, she, like all Sprig Learning characters, has her own story, puppet and digital classroom resources that portray her.  

Each of the characters’ stories has also been casted as animated videos for a more engaging experience, complete with sounds and motions. 

Sprig Learning will soon take the next leap from animated storybooks to augmented reality (AR) and interactive learning games. 

You would not only see Aliet move, but experience her in three dimensions, and engage in learning activities in AR.

Furthermore, you will be able to have an interactive math experience with Aliet and friends, by doing engaging activities in a play-based setting and learning essential math concepts.

Pikto’l Bridge is one of the activities in the soon to be released Sprig Math Game. The new Sprig Math Game will include hundreds of math activities that are organized into the Big Ideas that help children develop the underlying math concepts.  The math activities will include levels and incentives for students that will ensure learning these math concepts is both fun and engaging!

For example, Pikto’l’s Bridge is a quantity sense activity, which helps young students build their reasoning, representing and problem solving skills.  

Students use wooden planks of different lengths, modeled after Cuisenaire rods, to complete the bridge. Students demonstrate their ability to represent and partition numbers up to 20 using the wooden planks. They show their understanding of the addition of two single-digit numbers pictorially, as well as model story problems with Pikto’l.

 

Beginning of an activity in the game.

Pikto'l's Bridge Beginning

Completion of the activity.

Pikto'l's Bridge Activity Completion

The activity has different levels and sublevels that get increasingly more difficult and have different incentives and rewards for students. 

In one sublevel, the student is asked to complete the different rows of the bridge using as many different combinations of planks as possible. 

On another, the student has to add the plank that fits perfectly into the different sized gaps.

The game is being developed in collaboration with the Faculty of Education at St. Francis Xavier University, Indigenous math educators from Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, math researchers, numeracy specialists from the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and our developers, designers and illustrators at Sprig Learning.  

 

Focusing on Math Essentials by All Means

Focusing on Math Essentials

Similarly to early literacy and reading, foundational math skills are strongly linked to success in the later grades, leading all the way up to graduation from high-school. 

Sprig Math is unique because it focuses on the  mathematics processes that span the K-12 curriculum and are critical to success. Combining that focus with technology and a game-based learning experience, Sprig Math is able to nurture a positive math mindset for young learners. 

During this play-based approach teachers continue to control the differentiated learning experiences, as they guide students in their exploration of math concepts. By giving enough freedom while at the same time offering instruction, the scope for productive play opens up, where students are better able to understand the essential math concepts. 

As presented in the article, the evidence for play-based learning in early math is overwhelming. At a time when we are all trying to close the achievement gaps, it’s an approach that better helps children to see, hear and feel mathematics. It helps students develop a positive attitude towards math early on, that reap massive benefits in the years to come.

Sprig Learning will be presenting its work at the Ontario Association for Mathematics Education golden jubilee event next month. 

Even if you are not registered for the event, you can sign up here to attend the virtual trade show. See a demo of Sprig Math. All attendees are entered into a draw to win a Sprig Math Classroom Kit!

Early Learning Student Successes From 3 Amazing Case Studies.

Sprig Learning develops early learning programs for preK to Grade 3. 

Student success is often top of mind for educators and administrators. 

Other early learning outcomes are all indirectly related to the main outcome of student achievement.

Given the high gravitas student success carries, Sprig Learning covers case studies highlighting what works in a school setting to achieve equitable results for all students.

It may be easier to raise the performance standards for some students, but it’s a much more difficult task to ensure all students receive the academic support they need. 

Whether it’s creating the right vision for early learning, or writing a high-performing school improvement plan, Sprig aims to present what has worked for schools.

This article is the latest installment of our early learning school improvement series. We present 3 case studies from the US that resulted in early learning student success. Each case is followed by a takeaway. 

 

Concerted Effort for Early Learning Student Success

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Credit: Google Earth. Charlotte-Mecklenburg School.

In the early 2000s, Houston Independent School District, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Sacramento Unified School District were able to reduce the achievement gap for disadvantaged and minority students. 

They demonstrated an upward trend of overall student achievement for at least three years.

Improvement was consistent and the rate of improvement was higher than in comparison districts. 

All three of these large urban school districts shared commonalities regarding what worked for them in improving student success.

They were able to align curricula with state standards and translate these standards into instructional practice.

In particular, attention was paid to the lowest performing schools to help them with resources, teachers and administrators. 

Data from early and ongoing assessments were provided to educators and principals to help identify both student and teacher weaknesses, so improvements could be made.

Rather than making all changes at once, the reforms started at the elementary grade levels.

There was also a high degree of shared accountability between the board and superintendent of student success. In each case, vision and goals were refined jointly and the relationship was lengthy.  

 

Systematic and Acute Planning for Better Student Results

There were so many things done right at these three school districts. At the heart of it all was directed planning.  

It was decided from the beginning that the goal would be to improve the assessment scores of those students at the lower end of the achievement distribution.

Every other decision was made in support of this ultimate goal. 

The alignment between the board and the superintendent was ensured from the beginning, to solidify the vision.

The standard of content and instruction were raised that would benefit the students once the changes were made.

On a day-to-day level, the frequent usage of assessment data came into practice, which really helped educators identify students in need of greater support.

From top to bottom, the plan was created and executed to accomplish the set goal of reducing performance disparity.

 

Partnering for Early Learning Student Success

Andover Public Schools

Credit: Andover Public Schools

Andover Public Schools was able to decrease the share of K–2 students scoring below benchmark on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) assessment by ten percentage points for the 2018-2019 school year. 

DIBELS is a set of procedures and measures for assessing the acquisition of literacy skills. 

In that same school year, there was a 14% decrease in out-of-district placements. An out-of-district placement occurs when it is determined that a student needs more intensive support than can be provided in the district. 

Andover partnered with the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Institute of Health Professions, to develop literacy micro-credentialing coursework throughout the first half of the school year. There were 25 Instructional Assistants from 5 elementary schools that were selected.

The training included ten hours of instruction on leading literacy interventions. It also consisted of structured observations of both advanced and struggling readers.

 

Training Paraprofessionals

Andover Public schools realized that their educators needed more support in providing the type of specific interventions that were required to help struggling readers. 

Such help was ensured very smartly through a collaboration with a local institution, so certain members of the early learning workforce could be appropriately upskilled. 

Seeing the success of involving the instructional assistants, Andover will continue to measure students’ growth in literacy over time, to deploy the right resources to services involving paraprofessionals.

It’s important to partner with the right organizations who have the capacity to train specialists who are adept at doing a particular task. They greatly help teachers in assisting those students who demand more attention. 

 

Involving the Whole Community for Early Learning Student Success

Sunflower County Consolidated School District.

Credit: Google Earth. Sunflower County Consolidated School District.

The community in Indianola, Mississippi was able to increase the rate of kindergarten readiness by nearly 25%, despite struggling with lack of access to resources and intergenerational poverty. 

There is an assessment level that predicts whether a student will be reading at grade-level by the end of the third grade. From 2014 onwards, there was an upward trend of the percent of students entering kindergarten who met or exceeded this assessment threshold. 

This was accomplished by working with the Indianola Promise Community to create better early childhood programs and services in the area and the local school district.

The Early Head Start Child Care Partnership program’s Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®1) scores from different teachers were analyzed to identify teachers making the most gains with their students.

(CLASS®1) is a PreK teacher-child observation instrument used to assess preK children. 

These high-quality teacher-child interactions were studied for modeling purposes. 

The strategic use of data to align early childhood strategies continued into elementary school. The Sunflower County Consolidated School District in Indianola had to build the culture of using data at the classroom level. 

The district created a tracker that each teacher, principal, superintendent, school could use.

The data from this tracker was used to identify students who needed extra support. Targeted interventions were subsequently personalized to meet students’ needs. 

The school district also regularly sent data cards home to families and provided activities to help parents interpret the data. 

 

A Joint Effort Between Early Learning Programs, the School District and Families.

What happened in the community of Indianola is a classic example of involving the whole community to be more child centric. 

By sharing data between the early learning programs, the school district, and the parents, it became easier to track student progress as they moved through the education system.

 

Early Learning Student Successes You Can Replicate

Early Learning in Student Success

These case studies all demonstrate that it is indeed possible to ensure school readiness, achieve greater scores and reduce the performance gap by taking the right actions. 

Sprig Learning was developed particularly for early learners. 

In line with these case studies, assessment is a big part of what we do, where every data point is collected for a particular purpose. Literacy specialists and intervention specialists use our products. We also involve the whole community in what is a holistic approach to early learning. 

To learn more about how you can bring these ideas into life, give us a shout. 

Applying the Science of Reading in Early Literacy Strategies

Sprig Learning provides every child a fair shot at success by improving early literacy.

Sprig Language leverages data from assessments to create an evidence-based approach that improves early literacy gains. 

When discussing early literacy strategies, there can be more than one evidence-based approach. Science of reading, or structured literacy, is a well studied concept. 

Throughout the years, this concept has had its supporters. Due to the evolving nature of research, it is difficult to be conclusive in stating what is the best approach for early literacy development. 

There are hundreds of different factors that determine literacy success, and there are potentially more factors that remain unresearched.

That being said, the evidence for the Science of Reading deserves thorough consideration from educators who are looking for ways to build early literacy skills in and develop proficient readers in their classrooms.

In this article, we look at how the Science of Reading informs early literacy strategies. 

 

The Science of Reading—In Theory and Practice

Science of Reading

The International Literacy Association defines the Science of Reading as a body of “objective investigation and accumulation of reliable evidence about how humans learn to read and how reading should be taught.”

Thus, the Science of Reading is composed of two main parts. One is understanding how language is learned. The other is the application of such knowledge.

The Science of Reading draws from several academic disciplines to understand the processes that are required for successful reading acquisition. 

It has been argued that what we know so far about the Science of Reading has not been adequately transferred into instructional practices for reading in the classroom. 

 

Achieving the Ultimate Literacy Goal Through Science of Reading

Reading comprehension is hailed as the ultimate goal of learning to read. 

There is strong evidence to suggest that reading comprehension arises from the ability to comprehend spoken language and to read words.

In order to achieve this, an early learner must first be well versed in oral language and acquire sufficient skill to decode words.

In classrooms, this translates to educators ensuring that their students are able to make sounds, and are aware of the sound structure of the words they are speaking. 

A solution that specializes in oral language development can help to ensure progression through the different levels of phonological awareness. 

The transition from oral language to phonological awareness to decoding words on print is further corroborated by research in the following section. 

 

The Science of Reading: 5 Components for Effective Reading Instruction

Effective Reading Instruction

Several decades of scientific research on reading reveals that effective reading instruction addresses five key areas. Namely:

  • Phonemic awareness
  • Phonics
  • Fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension

 

Phonemic awareness is the most advanced stage of phonological awareness, consisting of activities such as blending sounds into words and segmenting words into sounds. It is the culmination of oral language skills.

Phonics becomes relevant in the decoding phase of the early learner’s journey, which is both visual and auditory in nature. Students make the connection between words and sounds while attempting to read.

Fluency is the ability to read accurately with proper expression. Sentence syntax and punctuation are important here. 

Vocabulary involves learning the meaning of more words to extend the range of what can be read and understood.

Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading. It is the ability to construct meaning from all other skills before it. 

 

Strategic Reading Instruction— Systematic and Explicit Teaching

In any teaching strategy, systematic and explicit instruction is proven to be the best way to teach the 5 essential reading components.

Jointly, they might be referred to as strategic reading instruction.

Systematic instruction is the act of teaching skills and concepts in a planned and logically progressive sequence. 

As demonstrated before, the 5 reading components are best taught sequentially in strategic reading instruction. 

It’s not that early learners can’t learn how to read otherwise, but the linkage between each of the steps is evident. 

A study of over 1,000 school children from preschool to Grade 3, found that oral language had both a direct and indirect positive effect on word recognition. It provided a better foundation for early reading skill, compared to only relying on vocabulary. 

In addition to the order of lessons in the curriculum, the other part of the equation is the act of teaching itself. In this regard, explicit instruction is favored. 

Explicit instruction is the act of telling the students what is being taught. Lessons are clearly defined where the students understand what they have to do. 

Opportunities are provided to practice the demonstration of the newly learned skill or concept. 

Timely assessments are administered to monitor progress. These are known as formative assessments. 

 

Stages of Literacy Development

Stages of Literacy Development

As the science of reading is a systematic process of instruction, it helps to look at this medium of instruction via the lens of literacy development. 

Maryanne Wolf, author, professor, and early literacy advocate, proposes 5 stages of literacy development. Of these, the first three are pertinent to early learning as it deals with preschool to Grade 3 education.

  • The emerging pre-reader, who is typically under 6 years of age.

At this stage, the early learner learns through exposure to high-quality literacy materials and work on their oral language development. 

  • The novice reader, who is typically between 6 and 7 years of age.

At this stage, the student learns the relationships between letters and sounds and between spoken and printed words. 

  • The decoding reader, who is typically between 7 and 9 years of age.

At this stage, the early learner begins to read with increasing fluency.

 

Progression of Steps

Thus, we see the evolution of the early reader, who gains proficiency in reading by progressing from preschool to kindergarten and then to the primary years.

There are two more stages. The fluent reader, who is typically between 9 and 15 years of age. And the expert reader, who is typically above 16 years of age. 

In these stages, the reader uses all of their knowledge and skills gained to think about and comprehend what is being read. They also read from a wide variety of subject matters. 

It’s the earlier stages however, that has the most significant impact on reading success later on in life. 

The science of reading makes a particular difference in the early learning phase, where certain skills have to be taught and assessed that have to do with the act of reading. 

 

Using the Science of Reading for Effective Early Literacy Instruction

Science of Reading for Effective Early Literacy Instruction

A meta-analysis of more than 70,000 studies looked at interventions that improved performance in the language and literacy domains of: language, phonological awareness, print knowledge, decoding, early writing, and general literacy. 

It found that instruction that taught a specific literacy domain is likely to increase student performance in that domain. 

Interventions that focused on the domain of language exclusively, had a greater positive impact in smaller groups or one-on-one settings, compared to bigger groups.

Thus, for effective early literacy instruction, the Science of Reading approach is helpful as it isolates each learning component so strong bonds between each component can be formed. 

It does not attempt to try to teach everything simultaneously.

Furthermore, the importance of oral language is stressed, especially in smaller settings. 

Indeed, it’s why Sprig Learning programs collect student insights, which can be used to provide differentiated instruction to groups of students or individual students. Early learners can be grouped into different levels according to their reading ability. 

Sprig Language focuses particularly on the development of oral language. 

Another finding was that instruction that teaches both phonological awareness and print knowledge leads to improvements in decoding. 

This further establishes the fact how all the early literacy domains are interconnected. 

By not only learning reading skills, but having access to high-quality reading materials, it is possible to advance in reading. 

 

The Science of Reading—A Part of Early Literacy Strategy

Science of Reading Early Literacy Strategy

Regardless of what the future holds for the Science of Reading (depending on new evidence), it’s worth exploring at a time when there is mass learning recovery happening across North America. 

Even before the pandemic, literacy assessment scores were on the decline. 

In tandem with other early literacy strategies, the Science of Reading concepts are worth introducing into classrooms. Especially when there is ample evidence for its success.

To learn more about how to apply some of the Science of Reading concepts discussed in this article, (such as focusing individually on each early literacy component, systematically assessing each student, and incorporating high-quality reading materials into the curriculum), please get in touch with us.