One of the key aspects of dealing with young children in an educational setting is being able to recognize warning signs of children who are not developing properly. Young children need regular progress tracking and assessment in each of the following areas: cognition, social/emotional behavior, physical capabilities, communication, and adaptive behavior. Atypical development in one or more of these areas can be a sign of more significant problems, explaining the need to properly evaluate students. As with many other aspects of education this process can be greatly aided by the use of technology.
Technology is a useful tool, especially in the utilization of new or non-traditional methods of diagnosis, such as informal evaluation of Reader’s theater, art, or observations. The most obvious use for technology is as a way to collect and analyze data which will be useful in diagnosis. Data collected in forms such as anecdotal reports, checklists of behavior traits, and participation skills can all be digitally recorded in a lasting format. Most commonly, this format is added to a portable hard drive or a ‘zip’ drive. In addition, the expanding features of workbook and accounting programs, such as Microsoft Excel, allows numerical information to be easily accessed, analyzed, and reviewed for recurring patterns.
The problem present in the usage of technology for the previously mentioned is that there often is not subjective numerical data to analyze with the aid of technology. The most common nationally-standardized tests are for use while preparing to attend college, leaving the elementary students with less exposure to the format and leaving elementary teachers with less opportunity to benefit from such analysis. Developing standardized ways to measure the progress of children in these areas will be crucial in allowing for technology to prove effective. In regards to cognitive abilities, a test of this nature would need to be able to view the student’s ability in regards to mental activities such as memory, organization, and purposeful planning. For example, memory can be tested by having students reproduce lists and observing not just their success levels, but the quality and efficacy of methods used by the students in these efforts.
Communication skills can be tested through interviews in which the student is given an opportunity to self report his or her own comfort level in this area. One caveat about this method is that students with low communication abilities may struggle to accurately describe their own abilities, lowering the effectiveness of this system (Bishop, 2012). Social and emotional development, as well as adaptive behavior, are closely interrelated with communication skills. However, their intricacies and similarities- and the very subjective nature of their assessment- make written tests impractical and frequently unsuccessful. For this reason, observing the social interactions of children in controlled setting is commonly used to determine their level of social and emotional development.
Physical development, which includes aspects such as fine motor skills and other physical tasks can be adequately monitored with a checklist or questionnaire. Examples include the Pediatric Symptom Checklist or the Checklist provided on North Dakota State University’s “Supporting Physical Growth and Development in Young Children” page, and such resources list certain tasks that a student should be able to perform by each age (Ringwalt, 2008; Brotherson, 2006). To evaluate a student’s physical development, their progress should be compared to the prescribed levels for their age group. Students significantly behind require more strict observation and may be in danger of physical development problems.
Standardized testing is designed, produced, and administered to a large and diverse body of young students who will have varying levels of familiarity with similar tests. For students who do not learn about or practice strategies and test-taking itself, the bottom-up programs that are initially implemented by single teachers of schools can be difficult and overwhelming. However, if similar tests are given to large enough groups of students, benchmark scores can be developed that could be used to diagnose young students easily. For this reason, the exact methods undertaken may be less important than ensuring a level of uniformity that allows for comparison across the board. It should be noted that even in a world where this type of testing system exists, there will always be value in a teacher who can adequately observe a student and make assessments without the aid of a test.
One area where technology and more standardized tests could be useful is communicating the potential problems to parents. Technologies that either record video of development problems or data signifying such give parents a much better idea about the problems faced by their child. There is always the potential for error or denial, but surely subjective data is less likely to fail to be accepted for either reason than eyewitness accounts would be. Parents could be sent periodic results for their children and also given detailed accounts of the specific areas their children are lacking in, allowing them to aid the development process while at home.
Bishop, D.V.M. (Jan. 2012) “Development of the Children’s Communication Checklist (CCC): A Methodfor AssessingQualitative Aspects of Communicative Impairment in Children – Bishop2003 – Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.” Wiley Online Library. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Retrieved from <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1469-7610.00388/abstract>.
Brotherson, S. (Apr. 2006). “Supporting Physical Growth and Development in Young Children.”NDSU. North Dakota State University. Web. 22 Retrieved from <http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/famsci/fs633w.htm>.
Hill, Brad. (Jan. 2012). “Comparing Adaptive and Maladaptive Behavior Problems Scales.” Come Over To.Web. Retrieved from <http://www.come-over.to/FAS/VinelandCompare.htm>
Luckock, Barry. (Dec. 2006). “SCIE Knowledge Review 12: Teaching, Learning and AssessingCommunication Skills with Children and Young People in Social Work Education.”Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) -Home Page. Retrieved from <http://www.scie.org.uk/publications/knowledgereviews/kr12.asp>.
McAfee, O., and D.J. Leong. (2007).”Assessment and Analysis Guide of Cognitive Development Memory: Education.com.” Education.com. Retrieved from <http://www.education.com/reference/article/assessment-analysis-guide-cognitive/>.
Ringwalt, Sharon. (May 2008). “Development Screening and Assessment Instructions.” Nectac.org. National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center. Retrieved from<http://www.nectac.org/~pdfs/pubs/screening.pdf>.
1.C.02 Teaching staff support children’s development of friendships and provide opportunities for children to play with and learn from each other.
2.E.03 Children have opportunities to become familiar with print. They are actively involved in making sense of print, and they have opportunities to become familiar with, recognize, and use print that is accessible throughout the classroom.
2.E.05 Children have multiple and varied opportunities to write…Various types of writing are supported, including scribbling, letter-like marks, and developmental spelling… Children are provided needed assistance in writing the words and messages they are trying to communicate.
3.G.07 Teachers use their knowledge of content to pose problems and ask questions that stimulate children’s thinking. Teachers help children express their ideas and build on the meaning of their experiences.
Content Objective: The students will demonstrate fine motor skills as well as mastery of alpha-numeric characters.
Language Objective: The students will demonstrate their retention of alpha-numeric characters in the absence of modeled letters or numbers; they should independently begin to practice drawing these characters. In the anticipatory set, students will use language in social conversation.
Purpose: This exercise provides practice for the muscle movements and successful cognition which must combine to produce correct alpha-numeric characters. Students will also communicate regarding the anticipatory set and the lesson, utilizing their basic compare-and-contrast and social skills.
Technology Integration: Unnecessary but possible for modeling phase.
Anticipatory Set: Each student will be asked to draw and label the members of their family, engaging the students in a low-stress, kinesthetic opening to the lesson. The teacher allows ten minutes for the completion of this set and for controlled discussion.
Instructional Delivery: This lesson plan requires basic art supplies, such as paper, crayons, colored pencils, and markers and should take no more than an hour from start to finish.
In the completion of the anticipatory set the students are allowed to discuss their family or drawings, provided that the classroom remains controlled and cooperative. While this anticipatory set should be mostly independent in nature, the teacher should circulate throughout the class, monitoring behavior, answering critical questions, and observing the social and cognitive learning preferences of the students when in a relaxed state.
After the anticipatory set time has elapsed, the teacher announces that students can now write other names of people, places, pets, or other things which are important to them. Each student will then be asked to pick one of these subjects and draw a simple story picture/ illustration, labeling as many of the parts of the story as possible. The teacher emphasizes that story parts may include the things already discussed or may even include the clothes that they are wearing or what they try to do.
Modeling: The teacher may use a chalkboard, white board, interactive white board, etc. to show a quick doodle of a trip to Egypt. In such an example, they might include a pyramid, the sphinx, sand, hills, camels, the sun, hieroglyphics, an obelisk, a pharaoh, the Nile, etc. The teacher should emphasize that the students can spell out hard words if they know them but that they can also choose more familiar words, such as king in the place of pharaoh or lion in the place of sphinx. The main objectives for students are: to creatively analyze words, to write, to spell, to inquire, to critically examine, and to be able to communicate their intent. The modeling process itself should take about ten minutes, including the feedback from students. The students’ story pictures should take about fifteen to twenty minutes and allow for social discussion only after each student has completed the drawing and labeling.
Differentiation: Students with physical or mental disabilities may need more assistance to convey their ideas. If not already done, students with similar interests and challenges should be grouped for their mutual encouragement. During the monitoring of both the anticipatory set and the guided lesson, the teacher should circulate throughout the class and ensure that some letters and words are modeled for students who struggle with literacy.
Grading/ Rubric: Students are given a participation grade and are notified that these story pictures will go home to parents.
Closure: Volunteering students come to the front of the class, show their picture, and write the words on the board for the entire class to see.
Independent Practice: Students should bring this drawing home with them and discuss it with family members or friends. Word usage and spelling are then reinforced in a private and social setting, adding value to the learning and improving retention.
Reflection: Students’ interactions with their teacher, their peers, and their parents or friends should create a stronger cognitive link between visual and written memory and provide a greater understanding of the creative, social, and practical value of literacy.
3.G.02 Teachers use multiple sources to identify what children have learned, adapt curriculum and teaching to meet children’s needs and interests… and support self-initiated learning.
3.G.13 Teachers promote children’s engagement and learning by guiding them in acquiring specific skills and by explicitly teaching those skills.
4.D.01 Teachers…observe their strengths, interests, and needs and on an ongoing basis conduct assessments to inform classroom instruction and to make sound decisions about individual and group curriculum content, teaching approaches, and personal interactions.
Content Objective: To provide information and memorization strategies simultaneously and still engage students.
Purpose: This lesson is designed to test the students’ cognitive skills, including their memory skills and their ability to plan in a way that best allows them to remember.
Technology Integration: A PowerPoint with graphic designs and custom animations would benefit the classroom and keep students with ADD/ADHD more engaged in the learning process.
Anticipatory Set: Students will be given lists of items and asked to reproduce the lists, but not in specific orders, allowing them to use alphabetic or categorical ordering to help them remember if they choose. They will be given lists of items that are of interest to young children such as candies or toys to make them more interested.
Instructional Delivery: The exercise will be done verbally, but students will be given access to paper and writing devices in case they feel that writing down the list will aid their attempts to later reproduce it from memory.
Modeling and Guided Practice: The teacher can recommend mnemonic methods of recalling and reproducing the lists, but should not give too specific of examples as testing the students’ ability to make use these devices is one objective. The teacher should make sure that no student who is struggling is attempting to undergo the process without any sort of memory aiding techniques.
Differentiation: As stated earlier, a colorful PowerPoint with custom animations should hold the attention of students with ADD/ADHD more. Any students who have physical or attentive barriers to writing the list may choose to speak it (quietly) or to create a dance or signs to go with certain numbers or letters. The teacher must be very active in guidance during such differentiation.
Grading/ Rubric: The students should have made at least two attempts at completing each series which they began during class. In addition, their participation and cooperation while learning these skills will influence this grade. For the homework, the self-analysis worksheet with the two series should be complete and have the simple, one-sentence conclusion for a perfect school. Completion of only one series merits a seventy and other missing components (labeling strategy, conclusion, or results) should reduce a perfect score by ten points for each omission.
Standards: The student will be expected to be able to reproduce fixed numbers of items given to them. It also will test how they go about taking those memorization skills. Each time a list is successfully reproduced, they will be asked to do the same with a longer list in an attempt to find their capacity for memory.
Closure: The teacher provides a list of popular memorization strategies, briefly summarizes each (and provides a short example), and asks the students to look them over and ask questions about any strategies which are unclear to them. Notify them of their homework (explained below). Remind them that learning these skills will help them remember what they have studied.
Independent Practice: For homework, the students attempt the first series three times and in the same way(s) that they used during class. The students select one new learning strategy from their take-home list, write it on the series page, and attempt the second series three times or until complete.
Reflection: The first and second series scores should be compared and evaluated by a short answer, such as “The silly words were better” if Elvis’ Guitar Broke Down Friday helped them remember the musical scale. Exposure to the new words and reflection about naming and strategies should provide a deeper understanding of the variety available, especially with the assistance of teachers and family members or friends.
2.E.04 Children have varied opportunities to … retell and reenact events in storybooks… engage in conversations that help them understand the content of the book, and be assisted in linking books to other aspects of the curriculum.
2.E.05 Children have multiple and varied opportunities to write…Children have daily opportunities to write or dictate their ideas … Children are provided needed assistance in writing the words and messages they are trying to communicate.
2.D.03 Children have varied opportunities to develop competence in verbal and nonverbal communication by responding to questions, communicating needs, thoughts, and experiences, and describing things and events.
2.D.07 Children are provided varied opportunities and materials that encourage them to engage in discussions with each other.
2.B.07 Children have varied opportunities to understand, empathize with, and take into account other people’s perspectives.
Content Objective: This lesson plan and series of exercises will informally test the students’ verbal and written communication skills and attempt to determine their level of competence in both of these areas. Discover student interests and experiences which may allow for common interests to be paired for social interaction or which may be areas for future lesson plan development.
Language Objective: Expand students’ knowledge of spelling and content-area and subject-area vocabulary.
Purpose: This lesson is designed to test the students’ cognitive skills, including their memory skills and their ability to plan in a way that best allows them to remember.
Technology Integration: May choose to show vacation slides or Junie B. illustrations.
Anticipatory Set: The students will be asked to write a letter to another student. The teacher will recommend that each student write about a family vacation or some other type of event. This is optional. After the alotted twenty minutes have elapsed, the letter will be given to other students, who will then read, reread, and try to summarize the letter verbally for the teacher.
Instructional Delivery: This exercise requires that the student have basic reading and writing skills. The teacher administrating each will be asked to teach the students how to properly format letters and what information they are looking for the students to give them when they summarize the other letter.
This should take place over multiple sessions, with a day or a free period where the teacher can read the initial letter separating them. The second portion requires one-on-one interaction between students and teachers, so it will take a longer period of time than the first.
Modeling: Read a letter account from a popular source of children’s literature. One such example may be located at the beginning of the popular children’s book Junie B.: First Grader (At Last!). Ask the students what they know from the letter, what they learned, and what questions they still have. (Use a modified K-W-L strategy.)
Guided Practice: The teacher may advise the writing (or reading) student to utilize a new way of thinking about the events. For example, thinking of a series of photographs may help establish some retention and an understanding of the sequence of the events and of the details and setting. Differentiation: Encourage all students to respond in some manner- whether that includes a verbal response, a thumbs-up, a nod of the head, etc.
Grading/ Rubric: The teacher will check each individual letter after they are written. Those that are not written correctly will be given back to the students with feedback given on how they can improve their written communication skills.
Closure: The teacher will check each individual letter after they are written. Those that are not written correctly will be given back to the students with feedback given on how they can improve their written communication skills. Regardless, positive reinforcement for students showing a clear effort should be given.
Independent Practice: For homework, students should write a letter describing the same event, but this letter should be to someone that they have never met, such as a relative in another country, their favorite historical person, or even to all the people in a particular time period, country, etc.
Reflection: The student will reflect upon the use of the senses in their letter. What could have made the experience easier for the reader to fully understand and even feel? Before the next day’s lesson, a student is called upon to share the recipient of their stranger letter and what their event was. After which, the teacher asks this student why they selected this particular event to write about and why they selected this recipient. If the recipient is a hero of theirs, then they should be able to briefly explain why they admire this person and how this person (the recipient) would most likely think about this letter. This is a creative and critical thinking follow-up, so the teacher should use simple language and rhetorical questions and wait for responses.