Evaluation for 4.3
Materials provide explicit systematic instruction in phonetic knowledge and opportunities for students to practice both in and out of context (K-2).
The materials are research-based in their instruction of foundational skills and provide explicit, systematic instruction in phonics and high-frequency word knowledge. Students practice skills in isolation and in context. The materials build spelling knowledge in accordance with, and beyond the scope of, grade-level TEKS.
Examples include but are not limited to:
Skills 1 includes Appendix A “The Core Knowledge Language Arts Program,” which explains the program is based on the research of E.D. Hirsch Jr. and the National Reading Panel. The materials state students must develop decoding and language comprehension skills in tandem to make sense of text. Appendix B provides an overview of the Skills strand scope and sequence for each unit showing sufficient opportunities for student practice to achieve grade-level mastery. Letter-sound correspondence, word building, and sight word recognition skills (to name a few) are introduced in sequence and spiral throughout the year.
The materials distinguish phonics concepts as being part of the “Basic Code” or “Advanced Code." Appendix A explains that the Basic Code teaches the most common spelling pattern for a single sound. The Advanced Code teaches all alternative spelling patterns for the “44 phonemes in English.” For instance, alternative spellings for long /a/ include “ay,” “ai,” “ey,” “eigh,” “ei,” “aigh,” and “a_e.”
Skills 4 Teacher Guide Introduction lists the following spelling patterns as objectives within the unit:
/er/ spelled “er” (her), “ur” (hurt), “ir” (bird)
/i/ spelled “y” (myth)
/ie/ spelled “y” (try), “igh” (night)
/oe/ spelled “ow” (snow)
/ee/ spelled “e” (me), “y” (funny), “ey” (key)
/aw/ spelled “al” (wall)
Over the course of Skills 1–6, students learn and practice grade-level phonics concepts from both the Basic and Advanced Code. Students record all the sound-spellings they learn in Consonant and Vowel Code Flip Books. Code book pages include the sound and the spelling of the sound, and a word with that sound-spelling pattern. In lessons where new sound-spellings are introduced, the teacher is directed to point out all of the items on the code book page and demonstrate how to read them. The materials also include “Code Charts” to be included in the print environment, which are poster-sized reproductions of Code Flip Book pages.
Beginning in Skills 1 students read from a decodable anthology of texts, referred to as a “Reader.” These texts align with previously taught phonetic patterns. This allows students opportunities to apply grade-level phonetic knowledge to connected texts and tasks. The texts in Readers grow in complexity throughout the Skills strand as students learn more correspondences. “The Cat Bandit,” the first text in the Skills 1 Reader, contains only short vowels sounds but in longer multisyllable words. The Grade 2 Reader offers no additional notations for decoding support, such as the bolded patterns or underlining present in Grade 1. This provides students with authentic practice reading in context commensurate with reading in future grade levels.
The materials refer to non-phonetic high-frequency words as Tricky Words and review them in Skills 1 and 2. Skills 3 states new Tricky Words are introduced on an “as-needed basis” after one more review set in Lesson 1. When introducing Tricky Words teachers are reminded to explicitly teach how the word is pronounced and how it breaks the rules of known phonetic patterns. The guide also notes that as spelling patterns are introduced, “some words previously introduced as Tricky Words...no longer need to be classified as Tricky Words…. As spelling patterns are introduced, the corresponding words should be removed from the Tricky Word Wall.”
In Grade 2, students read high-frequency words in isolation while studying them as spelling words, or during review activities in “Pausing Points.” In Skills 5, students learn the Tricky Word “water,” and in a Skills 3 Pausing Point a list of 42 high-frequency Tricky Words is accompanied by flashcard games for extra review.
Tricky Words are also intentionally used in the controlled text of the Reader for each unit. In Skills 6, students are explicitly taught the Tricky Words “native,” “Americans,” “signature,” and “war” because they appear in the Skills 6 Reader, The War of 1812.
The Grade 2 Skills Scope and Sequence traces spelling exercises in its own column within the sequencing table. The first spelling activity appears in Skills 1, Lesson 1. Students begin working
with one-syllable words with short-vowel sounds. This practice continues throughout the Skills strand as students review all of the common sounds that letters make. By the end of Skills 1, students have progressed to spelling words up to the CCVCC level of complexity. In Skills 2, this practice continues with double consonant spellings in the middle of the word: “yelled,” “slumped,” and “shrugged.” Throughout the remainder of the Skills strand, students are introduced to and practice spelling r-controlled vowels, initial and final consonant blends, digraphs, trigraphs, closed syllables, open syllables, VCe syllables, silent consonants, and vowel teams. There are few references to words that are fours syllables, so most of the work in the program is 2–3 syllable words, but with complex patterns that align to grade-level TEKS. The Grade 2, Skills 6, Lesson 20 spelling list includes the words: “painting, navy, Madison, troops, hawks, impressment, Washington, support, paved, monarchy, president, march, merchants, battle, Congress, death, cannon, British, and Dolley.”