Pre-K And Kindergarten Teachers Convene To Boost Student Preparedness

Friday, July 11, 2014

Two hundred and fifty Hamilton County school administrators, pre-K and kindergarten teachers will gather on Tuesday to learn more about how to help students develop the skills they need to get a successful start in school.  The first  Pre-K/Kindergarten Institute will meet from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the University Center on the campus of UTC.

Educator Jonathan Fribley will be the keynote speaker.  Mr. Fribley is a long-time early educator, coach and mentor from St Cloud, Mn., who leads professional development focused on young children’s language and literacy development, adult-child interaction, and children’s thinking.   Mr. Fribley recently joined the Center for Early Education and Development at the University of Minnesota and is in the last year of a 4-year early literacy project with the United Way of Miami.  He believes, as Garrison Keillor says, “Nothing you do for a child is ever wasted.” 

“Kindergarten is where students really start to read,” says Becky Coleman, director of Literacy for Hamilton County schools.  “We are using data from Read 20’s Kindergarten Screening Tool to help us assess what students know and don’t know so that we can target our instruction to the needs of students.  We want every student to be successful, and this is the way to make that happen.”  

The Hamilton County Department of Education and Read 20 worked together to develop the innovative and much–needed Kindergarten Screening Tool to determine how well a child is prepared as he/she enters kindergarten. The screening tool is research-based and uses a holistic approach including all developmental domains: language, cognition, fine motor, gross motor and social/emotional. 

It measures age-appropriate academic skills – for instance, can the student rhyme two words like “cat” and “hat” – but also measures whether a student can stand on one foot or take turns talking in a conversation.

“Skills like these provide the basis for success in school,” says Shawn Kurrelmeier-Lee, Hamilton County’s chief reading officer.  “Gross and fine motor skills are important for holding pencils and drawing letters, and social skills are important for listening and successful classroom interactions.”  

Most four-year-olds will not have mastered all of these skills, but the more skills they know, the easier it will be to master the all-important task of learning to read, said officials.

Aggregate data from two years of using the Kindergarten Screening Tool will give teachers at the Institute an idea of overall student preparation, and will help pre-k teachers know what they need to work on before they pass their students on to kindergarten classrooms.

"The Kindergarten Screening Tool has proven to be a unique and valuable resource,” says Ms. Kurrelmeier-Lee, who reports getting requests from all over the country for copies of it.

In addition to assessment, other topics covered at the Kindergarten Institute will include Guided Reading; Shared Reading/Room Arrangement/Purposeful Practice and Writer’s Workshop.  

The Pre-K/Kindergarten Institute is an outgrowth of the Scenic City Literacy Conference and continues a partnership between Read 20, Hamilton County schools, and UTC.  This year, the United Way of Greater Chattanooga is joining the partnership as well.

Read 20 is a public/private partnership promoting literacy skills for early childhood, in an effort to create a community of readers, and in support of Hamilton County's community literacy goals. Since it was created in 2006, Read 20 has distributed 492,702 books,  interacted with over 290,991 children, confirmed at least 47,401 adults reading with children every day and provided resources and training for 2,919 teachers in area public schools and day cares.

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