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ELARGrade 1 | 2018
Publisher: Learning A-Z, LLCSeries includes:
The quality review is the result of extensive evidence gathering and analysis by Texas educators of how well instructional materials satisfy the criteria for quality in the subject-specific rubric. Follow the links below to view the scores and read the evidence used to determine quality.
Section 1. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS) Alignment
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Section 2. Texts (what students read, see, and hear)
Section 3. Literacy Practices and Text Interactions: Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, Thinking, Inquiry, and Research
Section 4. Developing and Sustaining Foundational Literacy Skills
Section 5. Supports for Diverse Learners
Section 6. Ease of Use and Supports for Implementation
Section 7. Technology, Cost, and Professional Learning Support
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The materials provide a variety of high-quality texts that represent the content, language, and writing produced by experts in various disciplines. Texts are well-crafted and are of publishable quality, though most texts were not previously published and were written for the program. Materials include traditional, contemporary, classical, and diverse texts that are increasingly complex in readability and sentence structure; the content contains myriad text features and is engaging for first-grade students.
Examples include but are not limited to:
Buddy the Bear by Anthony Curran is a fictional text that utilizes vivid illustrations and engaging characters. The plot revolves around Buddy the Bear needing repairs and how Buddy’s owner continues to treasure her stuffed animal.
Police Officers by Julie Harding is an informational text that has photographs of real police officers and topic-specific vocabulary. The book has enough context to identify the main idea and details, ask and answer questions about the topic, and pose higher-order thinking questions to prompt students while they are reading.
Birds by Chuck Garofano is an informational text rich in content-specific vocabulary. Words like sac, scoops, beak, emu, and cockatoos are supported with context clues in the photographs. The vocabulary used supports not only reading comprehension but science content as well.
Goliath Bird-Eating Spiders: Giant Arachnids by Ann Willis is a multi-level informational text that features high-definition images of giant spiders that can be as big as a dinner plate and eat birds.
The fictional series Carlos by Dina Anastasio begins at a Level A in Carlos Counts Kittens and increases in complexity to a Level K in Carlos’s Family Celebration. This allows students to follow the same characters through increasingly complex texts.
Frog’s Mississippi River Adventure by Laura Purdie Salas is a fictional story that uses its text style and font choice to coordinate with the plot development. For example, the words Frog’s Mississippi River are written in a wave text style to match the water waves. In a section of the story where it says “You’re growing deeper and wider,” the word deeper is written in a downward fashion, while the word wider is written with bolder and wider font.
On Marge’s French Toast by Lisa Harkrader is a fictional story that makes full use of text styles; it varies the text’s font, color, and direction in a way that correlates with what is occurring in the story. For example, the words bran flakes are always written in brown as opposed to the regular black of the rest of the text. The word gumballs is written in multiple alternating colors to match the colorful gumballs that are being used in the illustration. The words tulips and flowers are written in alternating oranges and reds to match the tulips that appear in the corresponding picture.
It’s Cinco de Mayo, Carlos by Maribeth Boelts is a realistic fiction text that can present a cultural connection to students in multiple regards; not only does it discuss the historical battle of Puebla, but it also explores the ways in which Cinco de Mayo is celebrated.
Materials include leveled fiction and nonfiction texts that provide students the opportunity to recognize the characteristics and structures of literary and informational texts. Across all units, students have the opportunity to interact with print and graphic features within a variety of genres and formats. While the text list offers many opportunities for students to read and recognize characteristics of varied texts, there was only some evidence of drama and persuasive texts covered in the Grade 1 units.
Examples of literary texts include but are not limited to:
A Trip to Rio by Katherine Follett (realistic fiction)
Are You Okay by Ellen S. Mulkerin (fantasy)
The Giant Turnip by Edie Evans (folktale)
Our Camping Trip by Dori H. Butler (personal recount)
The Boy Who Cried Wolf! retold by Anthony Curran (folktale)
Examples of informational texts include but are not limited to:
All About Coyotes by Elizabeth Jane Pustilnik (informational nonfiction)
Goats Are Great by Alyse Sweenie (persuasive)
Hooray for the Farmer’s Market by Dori H. Butler (persuasive)
How to Tie Your Shoes by Sadie Blaine Rousler (how-to nonfiction)
The First Strawberry by Harriet Rosenbloom (how-to nonfiction)
Examples of print and graphic features include but are not limited to:
Is That a Fish? by Susan Hartley uses bolded words to highlight vocabulary words introduced in the story. The author also uses labels on a photograph to show the different parts of a seahorse.
Smart Crows by Karen Mockler uses comic book photos to describe the process by which crows crack nuts for their snacks and text bubbles to illustrate how crows communicate with each other. Photographs contain descriptive captions.
“Comprehension Skills Packs” provide students direct instruction on key comprehension skills and include a fact-or-opinion persuasive pack where students distinguish fact from opinion. Texts include titles like Cats Are the Best Pets and Cookies, Cookies, Cookies!
“Readers’ Theater” scripts are a fluency resource that gives students oral reading practice in the form of drama. Texts include titles like The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk. While these texts are in dramatic form, students do not recognize characteristics of drama text.
Materials include texts that are appropriately challenging and are at an appropriate level of complexity to support first-grade students. Texts are accompanied by a text complexity analysis provided by the publisher and are at the appropriate qualitative and quantitative levels for students. Read-aloud and shared-reading texts are above the complexity level of what students can read independently.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The materials contain a printable “2019 Learning A-Z Correlation Chart” that is available with nine different leveling systems, including the “Reading A-Z Levels.” The Learning A-Z “Leveling System” follows the guidelines for determining text complexity outlined in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The standards evaluate three areas of text complexity: qualitative measures, quantitative measures, and reader and task considerations. For the Learning A-Z Leveling System, quantitative levels were determined by average sentence length, word count, syllables, and number of different words per text. The publisher uses teachers to evaluate the qualitative measures, such as illustration support, concept load, and text organization. Each book in the publisher catalog is accompanied by a quantitative description and a summary. While not every book summary includes a description of qualitative features, many do. Two additional aspects of the Learning A-Z library are that many texts come in multi-leveled versions to better accommodate for differentiation, and many texts come with versions translated into other languages.
Joey’s Stop Sign by Maribeth Boelts is described as “[r]ealistic (fiction), 486 words, Level L (Grade 2), Lexile 550L.” This text is utilized for shared reading and is above the complexity level of what students in Grade 1 can read independently. The publisher provides summaries for texts, such as this one: “There’s too much traffic on the street! How will Joey solve this problem? Joey’s Stop Sign is a realistic fiction book in which the four characters decide to request that the city install new stop signs to slow traffic. The children distribute a petition, gather data on how many cars pass before and after school, take pictures of people trying to cross, and even tell the story of a local dog that got hit by a car. Illustrations support the text.” The text organization follows a paragraph structure and pushes the rigor to a level necessary for a shared text. Also, elevated syntax includes signatures, majority, agenda, and discuss; these words are bolded, teaching students that unknown words are often bolded in the text.
Art Around Us by Cheryl Ryan is a “multilevel book” described as informational nonfiction. The version utilized in the first-grade curriculum for a read-aloud is 788 words, Level M (Grade 2), and with a Lexile of 490L. The book also comes in Levels P and T. The text teaches readers about different types of artists and art that is sometimes unusual. A brief qualitative description in the text summary states: “Painters, sculptors, potters, glassblowers, and fiber artists are highlighted. Photographs and captions support the text.”
One leveled reader example is Stella Storyteller by Barbara Schwartz. In Unit 5, this text is used as a guided-reading, leveled book during Week 1, and a “Centers” resource during Week 2. Described as realistic fiction, this text has a quantitative description of “138 words, Level F (Grade 1), Lexile 390L.” Some qualitative features of the text can be found in the second half of the text summary: “[L]ively illustrations and engaging text support emergent readers. Students will also have the opportunity to sequence events as well as to retell the story to better understand the text.”
I Live in the City by Margot Oliver is described as a personal narrative, nonfiction text, with “171 words, Level H (Grade 1), Lexile 300.” This text is also accompanied by a Spanish translation, Vivo en la Ciudad, at “168 words, Spanish Level H (Grade 1), Lexile 300.” This text “provides students with supportive text features including labels, maps, and a glossary, to aid their understanding of the information in the story.”
The informational nonfiction book Introducing Planet Earth by Celeste Fraser is used as a read-aloud book in Unit 8. This text comes in seven different translations: American English, French, Spanish, British English, Polish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. Its quantitative features are listed as “506 words, Level L (Grade 2), Lexile 580L.” There are definitions provided for science-specific terms like equator and axis tilt, and “humorous illustrations support the text.”
Materials contain questions and tasks that support students in synthesizing knowledge and ideas to deepen understanding and identify and explain themes. Questions and tasks build conceptual knowledge, are text-dependent, and prompt students to synthesize new information. Formal and informal assignments and activities focus on texts students are reading and/or listening to and require close attention to the meaning and inferences as students demonstrate comprehension. Questions and activities grow students’ understanding of topics and literacy skills over the course of each unit. Materials provide opportunities for students to evaluate and discuss information from multiple places within a text.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The “Essential Question” for Unit 1 is “What are the rights and responsibilities of people in a community?” The read-aloud texts selected for this unit are My Places; Joey’s Stop Sign; Can I Vote; and The Story of the Statue. The texts, which are a combination of fiction and nonfiction, all contain content that helps students answer the Essential Question by the end of the unit. Each text focuses on a different comprehension skill, allowing students to be exposed to different comprehension strategies over the course of the four weeks in the unit.
The leveled readers have text-dependent questions that are leveled based on complexity. For example, in Unit 1, one of the lower-level questions is “What does the energy save do?” A more complex question is “Why does a class work better when each student has a job?” Students are required to visit multiple places in the text to provide evidence for this question.
Unit 1 includes the shared-reading text Laws for Kids. Discussion cards are provided for an informal assignment where students use the cards to answer “What might happen if riders didn’t wear helmets?” and “Is it important to follow laws? Why or why not?” Students also have a formal assignment where they use a cause-and-effect worksheet to write the cause and effects of the laws they are learning about in the text Laws for Kids. Formal and informal assignments and activities are varied, requiring close attention to the text’s meaning and inferences to demonstrate comprehension.
Unit 2 includes the read-aloud text The Pirate Substitute and contains discussion cards that address text-dependent questions, such as “How does Jack change throughout the story?” and “What is the setting of the story and how do you know?” Questions and tasks presented to students are designed to build conceptual knowledge.
Unit 2 also has students read a shared-reading text, Chicken Little. Students answer text-dependent questions about the characters, setting, and plot of the story that require them to look back into the text to answer them. Some questions include “What problem did Chicken Little have?” and “On page 13, the fox licks his lips. Why do you think he did that?” In the same unit, students read The Empty Pot and practice skills such as analyzing character and retelling. For example, the students answer the question “What details from the story show that the emperor was a wise man?” and “Did the emperor make a good choice in the end? Why or why not?” Students also read The Three Little Pigs and explore the fairytale by visualizing to better understand the text. Students close their eyes and listen while the teacher reads pages from the text aloud to them; then, students draw what they visualized in their head; finally, they are invited to share their drawings with the class.
Unit 4 includes the read-aloud text Anna and the Painted Eggs. The comprehension skill being taught in the lesson is sequencing events. After reading, students are required to independently fill in a sequencing graphic organizer by going back into the text and sequencing the five most important events in order. Graphic organizers allow teachers to formally or informally assess their students’ knowledge of the content and comprehension skills taught in that lesson.
Unit 5 includes fiction series, such as Tommy Tales and The Hoppers, which promote higher-order thinking skills through the use of texts that are connected. The discussion cards provided with these texts require the students to synthesize, analyze, and evaluate. For example, in Tommy Tales: The Animal Shelter, one question from the discussion cards is “RK-5 has many special powers. How do you predict Tommy’s life will change as a result of his friendship with RK-5?”
Unit 7 includes the read-aloud Park Rangers. Higher-order thinking questions for the text include “How would national and state parks be different without park rangers?” and “What does Doug Smith mean when he says, ‘We must bring nature back to the way it was before we messed it up?’” These questions require students to synthesize the content they learned in the text and encourage students to think beyond the text.
Also in Unit 7, comprehension skills for Ducks and Geese specifically target making inferences and drawing conclusions. For example, students read the sentence “I put on my hat, gloves, and boots.” Then, students write down what they have learned from the passage that is applicable to the sentence and draw a conclusion based on these two things. Finally, the students write why they wrote those things down (facts and their conclusion) and draw a picture of their conclusion.
Still in Unit 7, with the guided-reading text A Trip to Rio, students are first asked to use the book cover and the title to make predictions and text-to-self connections. During the reading, the teacher asks questions, including “Why did Julia visit Rio?” and “How did the events at the stadium on the opening night of the Olympics affect Julia’s feelings towards Rio?” After the questions, students cite evidence from the book to justify their responses. Students are guided to look at the illustrations to help their understanding and attain more details. Questions are used to address the illustrations: “How do the pictures help you understand more about Rio?” and “How do the pictures help you see Julia’s attitude change during the story?”
Literacy skills within a unit are spiraled and sequenced in a way that can enhance students’ understanding of topics and literacy skills. Each unit always includes two reading strategies and at least two comprehension skills. The targeted strategies and skills are sequenced in a way that supports understanding. The materials also provide graphic organizers that require students to go back to multiple places in the text, prompting them to find the characters, setting, problem, solution, and text evidence.
The materials contain some opportunities to evaluate, make inferences, and draw conclusions about the author’s purpose in a variety of texts. Some texts require students to analyze the author’s word choice and how its impact on their comprehension. Materials do not contain opportunities for students to compare and contrast the purposes of different authors’ writing on the same topic.
Examples include but are not limited to:
Outside of the Grade 1 “Literacy Curriculum Map,” students have access to “Paired Books,” including questions and tasks that promote analysis of textual elements. Each paired book lesson includes text-dependent questions about each text separately, and then about both texts combined. One example of this can be found with the texts City Animals and Country Animals; in this lesson students use the texts to answer questions like “What kind of animals live in cities?” and “Which of the country animals in the book depend on trees for food or to make their homes?” before answering cross-text questions like “Do city squirrels behave differently from country squirrels?”
In Unit 1, with American Symbols, students learn about the many kinds of symbols associated with the United States while also drawing conclusions about the author’s purpose for writing the story. To analyze the author’s choices and how they influence and communicate meaning, the students are asked to think about how they feel while reading the story: “Are you entertained? Do you feel like the author is trying to convince you of anything?” Then the teacher is told to “point out that thinking about how the details affect the reader will help them determine the author’s purpose.”
Unit 2 addresses the need to evaluate, infer, and draw conclusions about the author’s purpose with proper justification through the shared-reading text Stormingo! Teachers guide students to look at the title and cover of the book and to choose between “persuade, inform, or entertain” for the story. Students are also given a graphic organizer where they select between the three choices and draw their text evidence to support their choice. During the reading, students periodically work in groups to review details they have read and discuss their effect on the reader. Each time they gather, groups discuss their opinion on the author’s purpose for writing. The teacher models evaluating details to determine the author’s purpose through a think-aloud. For example, “All of these details amuse and interest me, so I believe the author’s purpose is to entertain.”
Unit 4 addresses studying the language within texts to support understanding. Students visualize to create mental images based on words in a text to strengthen comprehension. While opportunities are given to identify boldface words, captions, maps, and sequencing patterns, the students do not evaluate the author’s choices. For example, the teacher points out words that are in bold and simply mentions they are darker to draw attention to important words. Opportunities to analyze the author’s choices and how they influence and communicate meaning are not developed through these tasks.
In Unit 6, students read Arctic Life and study the author’s use of language. Students support their understanding with sentences like “The description of the Arctic reminds me of…because….” “When I read about how the Arctic hare changes colors, it reminded me of when I read about….” Embedded questions also include “How did the author help you identify the main idea on each page? How does the author organize information in this book?”
According to the “Standards Snapshot” in the “Literacy Curriculum Map,” discussing the author’s purpose for writing text is taught in Units 1, 2, 3, 6, and 8. Discussing how the text structure contributes to the author’s purpose is taught in Units 2, 4, and 5. Discussing the use of print and graphic features and how it contributes to the author’s purpose is taught in all eight units. Discussing how the author uses words that help the reader visualize is taught in Units 2, 4, and 6.
The materials provide vocabulary instruction with each leveled text, and each individual lesson plan provides guidance on how to introduce academic and content-specific vocabulary. Materials contain resources for vocabulary development; however, the materials do not contain sufficient scaffolds and supports for teachers to differentiate vocabulary development for all learners. The materials do not include an “at-a-glance” year-long plan for building academic vocabulary.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The “Primary Protocols” document provides teachers with a framework on how vocabulary instruction should look in shared and guided reading over the course of a five-day literacy block. While there are suggested routines and procedures for how to teach vocabulary each day of the week, these suggestions are general and do not vary over the course of the year. While there is no plan on how to use previously learned vocabulary in a new text, all of the texts within a unit are on similar topics, which allows students to use their newly-acquired vocabulary appropriately.
Within the “Weekly Planner” and “Literacy Curriculum Map” resources, individual lesson plans do not provide a plan for differentiated vocabulary instruction. Each Weekly Planner file includes a folder titled “Resources for Differentiation,” which can be found in any of the six reading component folders: “Shared Reading,” “Phonics,” “Guided Reading,” “Centers,” “Read Aloud,” and “Writing.” However, when referenced in the Weekly Planner document, these resources for differentiation are essentially instructional options for the teacher. There are no further instructions for implementation, and documents do not vary over the course of the year. They do not include scaffolds and supports for teachers to differentiate vocabulary development for all learners. Each leveled text includes a lesson plan listing new vocabulary words and includes a script that teachers can follow to introduce the words. Sometimes, the materials reference additional graphic organizers and flashcards that can be used to practice the new vocabulary. However, these resources are not scaffolded for students at varying levels.
The “ELL” (English Language Learner) “Language Skill Packs” are a prominent resource throughout the curriculum. They “provide content-based resources for developing vocabulary and strengthening English language learners’ reading, listening, speaking and writing skills.” The ELL Language Skills Packs are one of the resources that teachers have for differentiation; however, the materials included in the pack are not directly related to the texts in the Weekly Planner. While vocabulary resources include “Vocabulary & Idiom Books,” “Graphic Organizers,” and “Word Sorts,” there are no differentiation opportunities among these resources.
In Unit 4, students address content and academic vocabulary in Weeks 1–3 and content and foreign vocabulary in Week 4. In Week 3, students are expected to “(1) determine the meaning of content vocabulary in a nonfiction text and use it appropriately in conversation or writing; and (2) understand and use general academic and domain-specific words and phrases.” Teachers are asked to address the vocabulary words before the reading by discussing each word and turning to the glossary for the definition. Based on the definition, teachers demonstrate modeled sentences. Afterward, the teacher places students in groups to create posters for the words. The teacher is expected to ask students to include “the word, its part of speech, definition, the word in an example sentence, and the picture illustrating the meaning of the word.” The primary teaching option is a “Primary Graphic Organizer,” which is the same generic resource for K–2, and the differentiation suggestion is a stock “Vocabulary KWL Chart.” Neither resource provides differentiated vocabulary development for students performing above or below grade level.
In Unit 5, the differentiation folder within the shared-reading plan has a vocabulary graphic organizer called a “Y-chart.” The students combine what the word “looks like, sounds like, and feels like” to help process the meaning. The folder also has high-frequency word cards to support vocabulary development for students struggling to master grade-level content. This resource is framed as a resource for differentiation but is essentially an additional instructional vocabulary resource. There are no scaffolds or extension opportunities within this document.
In Unit 8, the vocabulary skills covered across the four weeks are learning content and academic vocabulary in nonfiction texts and using the words appropriately in conversation or writing. The shared-reading text in Week 1 is Migrating Geese, which introduces the words flocks, goose, goslings, hatched, mate, and migrating. The students preview the book to talk about the illustrations as the teacher reinforces the vocabulary words that will be covered throughout the text. Additionally, the teacher models and reminds students to use decoding and context clues strategies to read and understand unfamiliar words. The Weekly Planner suggests using the “Vocabulary KWL Chart” as a resource for differentiation. This is the same resource referenced throughout the materials; again, it does not include specialized differentiation for these words, nor for students performing above and below grade level.
The program includes self-sustained reading opportunities for students via “Centers,” but the opportunities are dependent upon the amount of time teachers allot to Centers in their individual schedules, and the materials lack procedures and protocols to guide teachers through the implementation of self-sustained reading in their classrooms. Materials provide limited support for teachers to establish meaningful independent reading practices that are based on self-selected and self-sustained reading opportunities.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The Grade 1 “Literacy Curriculum Map” has a “Primary Protocols” document that gives teachers guidance on how to set up their literacy block in the classroom; it only mentions independent reading in the “Oral Language Development/Discussion” section, where the program describes how students should be engaging in deep discussion about texts they have read, including discussions about independent reading texts with other students, and in the “Reading Center” rotation. The Centers section mentions that self-selected reading time allows students to read for authentic reading purposes, practice reading skills, read a wide range of text types and genres, build reading fluency, and build endurance and confidence as they sustain uninterrupted reading over a 15–20 minute period. Although the document explains what self-selected reading is and why it is important, it does not provide instructions nor suggestions on effective practices for fostering self-sustained reading.
The program does go into detail about how to use “Literature Circles” as a choice during Reading Center rotations. Literature Circles allow students to choose a book on their independent reading level and participate in book talks with students that are reading the same book. The program provides detailed explanations of the teacher’s role in setting up Literature Circles and the roles that students will play once they begin Literature Circles. First, students read their book independently as they use the “Literature Circle Journal,” which includes reading comprehension skills such as making predictions, recording questions, comparing and contrasting, cause and effect, sequencing, summarizing, and illustrating information from the text. The Literature Circle Journal helps to hold students accountable for their independent reading before they gather as a group to discuss.
The Primary Protocols document mentions setting and reviewing student goals, but the document does not specifically mention self-selected texts or independent reading goals.
The “Reading Room” is a digital library for students to quickly find relevant, high-interest content. In the Reading Room, students can choose to either listen to or read a story before completing an associated comprehension quiz. Students can navigate through the different categories on their own or “favorite” books they find interesting, while teachers can directly assign texts for students to read. Assigning texts to students can increase accountability; however, there is no instruction for students to decide which books are best for them.
In Units 4 and 8, students are to read on-level and self-select texts with purpose and understanding. Throughout the unit, students read independently or buddy-read a book from the class library or “Kids A-Z.”
Materials provide students some opportunities to write literary texts for multiple purposes and audiences, such as dictating or writing poetry using poetry elements. The materials have ample opportunities to dictate or write personal narratives that convey students’ thoughts and feelings about an experience. The materials provide opportunities for students to engage with informational text writing but provide limited opportunities to dictate or write procedural texts.
Examples include but are not limited to:
In Unit 1, with the shared-reading story Jobs We Do At School, the students are given the opportunity to convey their thoughts and feelings about an experience through the prompt “Write about a time when you helped your community.” Teachers use the “Process Writing Lesson Plan: Personal Narratives” to teach this lesson over three weeks. This prompt is expected to further develop throughout the unit as students continue to revisit their writing throughout the unit. First, students organize their ideas using the “Personal Narrative Graphic Organizer.” The graphic organizer includes prompts for what, where, with whom, what happened, and feelings about the experience. After prewriting, students write the first draft, self-revise their work using the “Personal Narrative Revision Checklist,” self-edit using the “Editing Guide,” and publish their final draft.
Unit 3 provides a shared-reading lesson on “My Stars,” which is a poem. The shared-reading lesson introduces the characteristics of poems. Students discuss rhyming and non-rhyming words and react to the expression with which the teacher reads the poem. During Centers, the students are writing acrostic poems. Students draw a card with a word on it, for example, sky, then write an acrostic poem using letters from the word card. Students draw a picture for their poem. Evidence supporting the writing or dictating of poetry is found in this lesson only.
Additionally, Unit 3 teaches informational writing, using the prompt “Where does light come from and what happens when it shines on objects?” The “Weekly Planner” uses the lesson plan “Process Writing: Informative/Explanatory-Informational Report” to guide students in writing an informational text. In Week 1, the students focus on planning informational pieces by developing informational ideas. In Week 2, the students focus on writing an informational piece that gives facts gathered throughout the unit; students also begin to revise the piece. In Week 3, students work on editing their piece. Similar evidence is found of this writing process in Units 1, 4, 5, 6, and 8; in all of these units, students answer the unit questions in an informational-text format.
Unit 4 also has evidence of informational text prompts, in response to which students are asked to write an informational text: “Describe a type of art that you like. Explain why you like it and where people might find this type of art.” The Weekly Planner references the “Process Writing Lesson: Informative/Explanatory—Informational Report” to guide students in writing their text. In Week 1, students pre-write and draft their informational report using the “Informational Report Graphic Organizer.” Students write down two questions they will answer in their report and supporting details. In Week 2, students begin to self-edit and revise their piece using the “Editing Guide” and “Informational Report Revision Checklist.” In Week 3, students publish their piece in a presentation format such as a formal report, a book, or a multimedia presentation.
In Unit 5, students work with personal narratives. Students are given the prompt “Describe a time when a person showed care and concern for you.” In this lesson plan, students learn that a personal narrative is a story about something that has really happened. Students determine if the answer to the prompt will give information about something that really happened or will tell a made-up story. The teacher guides the students to understand that their writing activity will be about something that has taken place in the past. This writing prompt is taught across Weeks 1 to 3 using the personal narrative process writing lesson plan. Students use the different parts of the writing process over the course of the three weeks to respond to the prompt and to publish a personal narrative that tells about a time when a person showed care and concern for them.
Unit 6 spirals informational text writing back into lesson plans; students write an informational text, responding to the prompt “Choose two animals that live in different habitats. How are they alike? How are they different?” The Weekly Planner refers the teacher to “Process Writing Lesson: Informative/Explanatory Essay: Compare/Contrast” to help students in this writing process. After viewing a sample graphic organizer during the first week, students plan their draft using the graphic organizer; students then preview samples of the written report and begin their prewriting; they draft their essay, keeping in mind the provided revision checklist; finally, when their reports are finished, students publish and present in any manner they choose. There is a process writing lesson focused on procedural texts, “Process Writing Lesson: Informative/Explanatory—How To.” This six-part resource teaches the process of writing necessary steps for completing a task, and it is cited as a resource for differentiation if teachers choose to alter the writing focus.
In Unit 7, after students read the story Yellowstone: A Place of Wild Wonders, they imagine that they are at Yellowstone and draw a picture or write a postcard to a friend telling them about their experience. In that same week, there is a seven-day lesson plan for writing a friendly letter, found in the differentiation folder of the writing folder. The unit guide directs the teacher to “use the lesson plan as needed to support the instruction on composing correspondences to others.” Based on teacher discretion, this would allow the students more opportunities to practice this type of correspondence. Students practice dictating and writing correspondence only in Unit 7.
Across the leveled reader library, there are some texts that include “Cross-Curricular Connections” at the end of the text. These additional tasks are meant to extend student learning and sometimes include writing opportunities for students. After the text How to Make a Paper Airplane, students complete the following task: “What is something you know how to make or do? Write the steps in order. Have a friend read your directions and follow them.” This extension opportunity is an example of students writing procedural texts if teachers choose to have students complete the assignment. A similar example can be found following the leveled text William Shakespeare, where students complete the following task: “Write an acrostic poem about Shakespeare. Use the name Shakespeare as the acrostic. Each letter in his name begins a line in your poem.” Direction and guidance is limited with these Cross-Curricular Connections activities.
Materials engage students in the writing process to develop text in oral, pictorial, or written form. Materials facilitate students’ coherent use of the elements of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing, and sharing/publishing) to compose text. Students utilize drawing and brainstorming to generate drafts, and they organize their drafts by speaking, drawing, or writing.
Examples include but are not limited to:
In both Grade 1 and Grade 2, the section of the “Primary Protocols” document (a document that provides suggestions for daily routines and procedures to help support the implementation of the “Weekly Planner”) utilized for writing instruction is called “Process Writing.” The Primary Protocols document provides two versions of Process Writing. Version 1 is used when students develop writing compositions, and the specific genre varies depending on the weekly planner. Version 2 is used when students respond to text-based questions. Version 1 has the following framework: Week 1, planning and drafting; Week 2, drafting, revising, and editing; Week 3, editing and publishing; Week 4, responding to texts. Version 2 has the following framework: Week 1, responding to texts; Week 2, planning and drafting; Week 3, drafting, revising, editing; Week 4, editing and publishing. Both versions facilitate students’ use of the elements of process writing.
In both versions, the planning-and-drafting week is broken down even further into a five-day lesson. Days 1–2 are devoted to planning the draft orally. For example, on Day 1, “the students share experiences they have had or ideas they would like to write about.” The students also summarize their learning from the unit. On Day 2, the students discuss the “different sections of the writing piece. They describe the importance of each piece and how they work together.” On Day 3, the students complete a graphic organizer. They first observe as the teacher models how to organize thinking with a prewrite graphic organizer. After students independently complete their own graphic organizer, they are “encouraged to turn and talk to share their topic,” sharing their completed graphic organizer with a partner. The graphic organizers allow students to plan and organize their drafts at whatever level is appropriate for them. This might look like coherent writing for the fluent writer or it might look like pictures or even strings of letters for the beginning writer. The revision checklist guides the students in self-monitoring their writing process. Finally, students take part in discussions with partners to finish the brainstorming process.
Each unit has a “Process Writing Lesson Plan” that is specific to the genre the students are writing in. The Process Writing Lesson Plans teach the students the five-step writing process using four main genres: “informative/explanatory, narrative, opinion/argument, and transactional.” Each of those genres is divided into four developmental writing levels (beginning, early beginning, developing, and fluent). These lesson plans provide scaffolding and explicit directions for the teacher while providing more opportunities for students to practice their craft. These lessons also all have examples of texts, examples of filled graphic organizers, blank graphic organizers, a revision checklist, and a sample report.
In Unit 2, students write their own fairytales. The “Weekly Planner” prompts teachers to use the Primary Protocols document and Process Writing Lesson “Narrative—Fairytale” throughout the unit. The Primary Protocols document lays out the pacing of each part of the writing process. The Process Writing Lesson is a scripted lesson plan that teachers can use to teach each part of the writing process within a specific genre. In Week 1, students are exposed to the elements of fairytales by brainstorming ideas with the teacher and creating an example of a fairytale as a class. Then, they begin to prewrite and draft their fairytales using graphic organizers, and they discuss their ideas with partners.
In Unit 8, students respond to the prompt “Which season do you think is the best season and why?” Teachers are prompted to use the Process Writing Lesson “Opinion/Argument—Persuasive” to teach the writing process for this genre; they are prompted to use the framework provided in the Primary Protocols document to pace the lesson over three weeks. In Week 1, students are exposed to the genre of persuasive writing using real-life examples, such as having pizza for school lunch. Using this real-life example, they practice forming opinions for both sides of the argument. Next, teachers can use their example to focus on the writing prompt and guide students in planning their writing using a “Persuasive Graphic Organizer.” In Week 2, students begin to revise and edit their drafts. They are provided a “Persuasive Revision Checklist” and an “Editing Guide” to self-check their writing. In Week 3, students publish their writing in one of the following formats: “a newspaper article, a multimedia presentation, a speech, or a debate.”
Over the course of the year, students have multiple opportunities to apply grade-level standard English conventions to their writing. The materials provide opportunities for the practice and application of the conventions of academic language when speaking and writing, including punctuation and grammar. Grammar, punctuation, and usage are taught systematically, both in and out of context.
Examples include but are not limited to:
Materials include thirty weeks of daily grammar practice activities that target key grammar skills at the four developmental writing levels: beginning, early developing, developing, and fluent. The activities provide quick practice with grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and other essential skills for writing. The “Write Rights” activities are listed weekly in the “Weekly Planners” under the “Writing” section. The “Primary Protocols” document states that “Grammar and Mechanics” instruction is embedded specifically in the “Read Aloud” and Writing portions of the day and is reinforced and practiced throughout different components of the literacy block. Grammar and Mechanics instruction is taught five days per week.
In Unit 1, students identify proper nouns within the text The Story of the Statue, make a class list of proper nouns, and then apply the skill independently by completing the proper noun worksheet, discussing their work with a partner if time allows. A Unit 1 guided-reading lesson specifically targets declarative sentences; students follow along in the text and point out capital letters and punctuation in each of the sentences. The teacher checks for understanding and has the students work in pairs to create declarative sentences; students then discuss their sentences with the class. The independent-practice portion of this lesson also includes a supporting worksheet on declarative sentences. Within the text “Jobs We Do,” students learn about verbs and verbs as actions; they also learn about the identification and creation of declarative sentences. Students discuss the “why” of grammar and mechanics. For instance, “Why is this a declarative sentence?” The students create examples of declarative sentences and apply what they have learned through worksheets during individual practice. Students then engage in class discussions about the sentences they have written. The teacher projects the book Can I Vote? and points out the punctuation at the end of sentences throughout the story, discussing the purposes of each type of punctuation. Later, the teacher reviews the “Write Rights Rule Sheet” with the students, and they complete it independently.
In Unit 2, during the read-aloud story Chicken Little, the teacher pauses when identifying proper nouns, asking the students to name what they notice about the words. The teacher uses the characters’ names to point out that proper nouns, such as names, begin with capital letters. Students then complete a Grammar and Mechanics worksheet on capitalization. This unit also includes a Write Rights Rule Sheet and activities for students to complete on a daily basis. In these activities, students add punctuation marks to sentences, fix spelling, choose best-fit punctuation marks, and fix sentences.
In Unit 3, the Weekly Planner lists the “Write Rights Week 7: Beginning” worksheets to be completed over the course of the unit for student practice in the capitalization of proper nouns. In addition to practicing these skills, students also add punctuation to sentences, fix the spelling of high-frequency words, and capitalize the beginning of sentences. During the guided reading of Caretakers, the teacher reads a page aloud and asks students to point to the word he. The teacher asks who the word he is talking about and explains what a pronoun is. Students repeat the sentence “Jon is standing” and then read it again, replacing Jon with he. They continue the same process with other sentences in the book. Afterward, students share their own sentences orally, using the pronouns he, she, and they. Then, students complete “Write Rights: Daily Grammar” worksheets, where they choose the indicated part of speech from a list, underline nouns, add missing punctuation, and correct a sentence while also underlining the nouns.
In Unit 5, students practice identifying and using possessive nouns during a read-aloud of The Empty Pot. The Weekly Planner lists five stopping points throughout the text for the teacher to facilitate a discussion about possessive nouns. Some examples include cricket’s, emperor’s, and Chen’s.
In Unit 6, the teacher pauses to point out prepositional phrases during read-alouds. The students discuss what they know about prepositional phrases and identify the noun and the preposition in a phrase, then discuss the relationship between the other words in the sentence. For example, in the sentence “You might look in remote corners of the globe,” the teacher draws attention to the phrase of the globe to reinforce the concepts of prepositional phrases.
The materials include some practice for students to write legibly in print, but the materials do not include instruction on print writing, nor do they include a plan for procedures and supports for teachers to assess students’ handwriting development.
Examples include but are not limited to:
Materials include practice sheets for all twenty-six letters, both uppercase and lowercase. For example, the letter A includes practice tracing uppercase A, writing uppercase A without tracing, writing uppercase A with the keyword Ant, tracing lowercase a, writing lowercase a without tracing, and writing lowercase a with the keyword ant. While these practice sheets are included, there is no guidance, plan, or procedure for implementation and assessment. They are not referenced in the “Weekly Planners.”
The materials support students’ listening and speaking about texts and provide opportunities for students to listen actively and to ask questions to understand information. Students have multiple opportunities to engage in discussions that require sharing information and ideas about the topics they are discussing.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The “Primary Protocols” document states that the “Speaking/Listening” objectives found in the “Read Aloud” section of the “Weekly Planner” provide opportunities for teachers to model how to participate in structured, whole-group discussions. Students practice participating in these whole-group discussions so that they can transfer their discussion skills to small-group or partner discussions.
In Unit 1, students listen to the text My Places. Teachers use the “Comprehension Questions” provided in the lesson plan to monitor students’ comprehension of the text. After reading, students respond to questions such as “What kinds of places are special to the author of this poetry book? How do you know? What do you think is the author’s purpose for writing this book? How did the words used in the poems create images in your mind of each place?” These questions require students to share information from the text and use evidence from the text to support their answers.
Using the Unit 3 text Gordy Gorilla and His Five Senses, the teacher starts the lesson off with a discussion, by having students discuss the book’s print concepts. This discussion is supported by associated questions, like “What can you tell about this story just by looking at the cover?” and “What do you think this story will be about?” The teacher models how to read the book, and students go home and reread the book. During a third read, students focus on close reading and discussion; students focus on the specific story element of characters by discussing two questions: “Who are the characters in the story?” and “What can you tell about the characters from the things they do, the things they say, and the pictures?” The concept of characterization is returned to again in the “Connect to the Reading” section, when teachers are directed: “[A]sk students if Gordy reminds them of themselves or other people they know. Ask them if they have done any of the things that Gordy does in the story.”
In Unit 4, students have opportunities to ask questions about the read-aloud text Art Made From What? The teacher models questions using the questioning words who, what, when, where, why, and how. Students respond to text-dependent questions such as “What are the three main categories of uncommon art materials? How did Peter Rocha make a portrait of President Ronald Reagan? According to this author, why are all the examples in this book considered art?” In addition to discussing text-dependent questions, the teacher also asks students to discuss any book they might have read already that also told them about art. Students are given discussion stems, like “This book reminded me of another book on art that I’ve read because….” “When I saw the word…it reminded me of….” This discussion increases student understanding, prompts students to make connections, and prompts students to discuss experiences related to the topic.
Unit 5 has students listen to the story The Empty Pot during the Read Aloud portion of the literacy block. Before reading, students are reminded to ask questions about the text using the question words who, what, when, where, why and how. The Weekly Planner also provides an additional lesson, “ELL Language Skill Pack: ‘School,’ Answering Questions,” as a “Resource for Differentiation.” In this lesson plan, students study question words and how they are to form their own questions. In addition to using question words to form their own questions, students practice answering questions that are written with question words. This lesson plan can be used to guide Grade 1 students in answering questions that they have written themselves.
In Unit 7, with the read-aloud Celebrating Food and Family, students are given discussion cards to help them ask each other questions about the text. The discussion card questions include “Which of the holidays would you like to be a part of? Why?” and “Why are all of the festivals in this book celebrated in the fall?” Additional discussion opportunities are given when students discuss what they see on the cover and what they think the book may be about, the words that are found in the glossary and their meanings, and the main idea of the story.
Materials engage students in collaborative discussions. Materials provide consistent opportunities for students to engage in discussion and to practice grade-appropriate speaking skills using the standard conventions of the English language.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The “Primary Protocols” document outlines how the literacy block provides opportunities for students to engage in deep discussion in order to build their oral language skills through academic discussions. The guidance is specific to engaging in discussion during shared reading, independent reading, and texts that have been read aloud. The conversations should revolve around the reading skills and strategies being taught. Additionally, the opportunities to have these discussions are varied between a whole-group setting, small-group setting, or while students are working in “Centers.” Students are also provided with opportunities to practice the rules and expectations of different types of conversations: taking turns, listening when others are speaking, and understanding nonverbal behaviors and cues that add meaning to conversations. During these conversations, students use standard conventions of the English language correctly; practice with some of these conventions can be found in the oral practice portions of units. After reading, students answer as many questions from the text as possible in discussion and they create new questions not answered by the text.
The teacher models how to participate in structured, whole-group discussions with behaviors such as contributing relevant information, responding to others’ comments, speaking clearly, and listening actively. After the teacher models, students practice their own speaking skills through whole-group discussions that can then be transferred into small-group and partner discussions.
In Unit 1, students listen attentively during discussions. During the read-aloud poem “My Places,” the teacher pauses to point out moments in reading and discussion that require active listening. For a section of the poem, the teacher covers the picture so that students focus on listening carefully as they visualize the description read. The teacher then shows the picture and allows students to discuss what they visualized, comparing their visualizations with those of others. During the read-aloud Joey’s Stop Sign, the teacher leads the students to brainstorm rules to follow during a class discussion, such as bodies in control, listen and speak one at a time, speak so others can hear, and be kind to others. The teacher reviews these rules over the subsequent weeks until students show independence.
During Unit 2, students listen to The Frog Chef during a read-aloud. The “Speaking/Listening” objective for this read-aloud is to follow previously-agreed-upon rules for discussion that were established in Unit 1. The lesson plan for this text provides multiple opportunities for students to engage in discussion and to practice the Speaking/Listening objective. Before reading, students go on a “Book Walk” and discuss the front and back covers, the title, the author, and the illustrator using the following sentence stems: “On the cover, I see…. The title of the story is….” After reading, students make text-to-text connections by framing their responses with the following sentence stems: “This story reminds me of the story…because….” “The illustration on page…reminds me of…because….” These sentence stems allow students to frame their responses using the standard conventions of the English language.
Unit 5 provides many opportunities for students to explicitly practice their oral language development during the read-alouds. During each of the four read-aloud stories, students ask and answer questions about a text before, during, and after reading. Teachers first model asking questions using question words: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Students focus on asking questions to clarify information while discussing the text and also practice responding using text evidence. Additionally, teachers review the rules for discussion established in previous weeks to model and reinforce how to take turns speaking.
In Unit 7, the teacher models how to listen actively to others during a discussion of what the read-aloud stories will be about. Students focus on listening actively while discussing the read-aloud texts in all four weeks of Unit 7. The teacher also models how to ask relevant questions during a discussion by responding first to what was said by someone else before asking a question. To model asking relevant questions during the reading, teachers engage in a think-aloud, where they stop at previously planned points to ask questions based on the plot, grammar, vocabulary, and/or figurative language.
In Unit 8, during phonics instruction, students generate a list of -ight words and circle the -ight on every word before discussing their answers. The teacher models how to follow rules during a discussion, and students focus on following rules of a discussion while listening. During a Social Studies connection, students research another planet in our system and then have a discussion in which they “compare and contrast the living conditions on Earth versus the other planets in our solar system.” The teacher also models how to take turns in a discussion so that students focus on taking turns while discussing different ideas.
While students ask and generate general questions throughout materials, there are no opportunities for first-grade students to generate questions specifically for inquiry. Students do not generate and follow a specific research plan of their own, nor do they identify relevant sources during inquiry. Students practice understanding, organizing, and communicating ideas and information in accordance with the purpose of the research; however, there is only some direct instruction on research. The limited opportunities for research and inquiry are embedded in activities regarding the writing process. While research skills are tangentially related to the writing task, they are not the focus.
Examples include but are not limited to:
In Unit 3, over the course of three weeks, students write an informational report on the topic of butterflies. Teachers use the “Informative/Explanatory—Informational Report” lesson plan to teach these concepts. Although the “Informative/Explanatory—Informational Report” lesson plan does provide steps for inquiry and research, the “Weekly Planner” does not tag this activity as a research standard nor does it appear under the objectives. The procedure is designed to last two weeks and does walk the teacher and students through the entire informational report process. In this lesson plan, students generate questions, consider sources, organize information, edit, and publish. Materials note that students choose information from different resources, but the “Research Packet” provided online includes one source for students to navigate. Similarly, materials mention plagiarism and paraphrasing, but students do not practice these research skills.
In Unit 5, teachers can use the same “Informative/Explanatory—Informational Report'' resource as a resource for differentiation. In Week 4, students use evidence from texts they have read throughout the unit to answer the “Unit Question”: “How can texts help teach us how to show care for others?” This prompt is less conducive to research and more aligned to opinion writing. There are no prompt-specific resources to differentiate instruction or research plan for this question.
Outside of the Grade 1 “Literacy Curriculum Map,” students have access to “Process Writing Lesson Plan: Experiment" which includes some direct instruction on research skills. In this lesson plan students explore the scientific method and the characteristics of an experiment: hypothesis, materials list, procedure, results, and conclusion. There are some research skills practiced during the hypothesis portion, but most student writing is based on an experiment rather than inquiry. This optional lesson plan can be implemented at the teacher’s own discretion, but it is not part of the scope and sequence for the year.
The materials contain interconnected tasks that build student knowledge. Questions and tasks are designed so that students build and apply knowledge and skills in reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking, and language. Tasks integrate reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking; include components of vocabulary, comprehension, and syntax; and provide opportunities for increased independence.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The curriculum is designed for a 90- to 120-minute block; during the block, the literacy tasks are divided into six parts: “Shared Reading,” “Read Alouds,” “Guided Reading,” “Phonics,” “Phonological Awareness,” and “Writing,” to which an additional “Center” component is added weekly. Within each of these components of the literacy block, reading, speaking, listening, thinking, writing, and language skills are addressed.
In the Unit 1 shared reading of Laws for Kids, for the comprehension skill, students read, write, speak, listen, and think as they apply the comprehension skill of cause and effect. Students first listen to an explanation: “[O]ne way to understand information in a story is to think about what happened and why it happened.” After drawing a two-column chart on the board, students speak to share the effects of the word happiness. During the reading, students think about the causes and effects they are encountering and write them down on their worksheet. For an added writing activity, students complete a cause-and-effect worksheet and then speak and listen as they discuss their responses.
In the Unit 3 guided reading of Too Hot!, during a book extension activity with phonics instruction, students listen to words that have the short /o/ in order to “identify which letter represents the short /o/ sound in the word hot.” In small groups, students listen and speak as together they create a list of words that have the short /o/ sound. Volunteers from each small group write their words on the board, creating one class list. Students think as the teacher calls out the words, and they stand each time they hear a word that has the short /o/ sound. Students then write two rhyming words for each of the following words: dog, lock, top. Volunteers share their answers with the class. In this example, students apply their knowledge and skills of phonics short /o/ sound as they read, write, speak, listen, and think.
In Unit 5, the shared-reading text Who Ate My Latkes has questions and tasks that require students to apply skills in reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking, and language. Before reading, students build background knowledge and discuss what they know about Hanukkah and their favorite holiday foods. Students are also introduced to new vocabulary words using vocabulary picture cards and class discussion. Students are given the opportunity to learn the definition of the words and use the words in a new sentence. After reading, students make text-to-text connections using the sentence stems “This story reminds me of the story…because…. The illustration on page…reminds me of…because…. When I read about…, it made me think about….” Students discuss the problem and solution in the story as well as answer comprehension questions. The lesson plan provides shared-writing instruction where students practice writing sentences with similes.
The curriculum provides opportunities for students to “use newly acquired vocabulary expressively” in every unit. The students locate words and discuss their meanings; then, based on the discussion, they illustrate each vocabulary word on a poster with a group/partner and share their products with their classmates. In Unit 2, students read the shared-reading text Chicken Little and apply multiple literacy skills and their knowledge of new vocabulary words. On Day 1 of the shared-reading lesson plan, students learn the vocabulary words acorn, king, piece, sky, and tell using vocabulary picture cards. The teacher engages the students in a discussion about the words, using sentence stems such as “Can you tell me what this is a picture of? What does this picture remind you of?” Using the vocabulary words, students make predictions about the text. On Day 3, students use the vocabulary picture cards to retell the story as a dramatization or by working with a partner. Then, students use their knowledge of the text to answer comprehension questions and make text-to-text connections.
Although materials do include some opportunities for spiraling and distributed practice throughout the year, there are some necessary standards that are sparsely spiraled or not returned to at all after they are introduced to students. There are many resources for differentiation, including scaffolded materials, leveled books, vocabulary resources, and leveled language resources.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The program is organized into eight units, each containing four weeks of instruction. Each unit includes an overview document and a “Weekly Planner” detailing topics of study, including topics like comprehension strategies, vocabulary, phonics, fluency, text features, etc. Materials for each lesson are located in the Weekly Planner, “Primary Protocols” document, and text-based lesson plans. “Shared Reading,” “Read Aloud,” and “Writing” talks all relate to the unit theme and unit question. Each week of instruction includes a folder of “Differentiation Resources” that can be used as a scaffold or support. Examples include graphic organizers, vocabulary books, high-frequency word packs, and additional worksheets.
While there are some examples in the materials where skills are spiraled throughout the yearly curriculum, there are many skills that are not. With teacher support, students first practice identifying and describing characters in a story when they analyze elements of a story in Unit 2. While students return to storytelling later in the year, they do not engage in another direct lesson on identifying and describing main characters. This is similarly true for describing the setting of a story. While setting is a focus across all four weeks of Unit 2 instruction, it is not spiraled into instruction later in the school year. Another example of a skill that lacks distributed practice over the course of the year is making inferences and using evidence to support understanding with adult assistance. This skill is taught through Shared Reading and “Guided Reading” during one week of instruction in Unit 5. Direct instruction occurs during one other unit when students again practice the skill during Shared Reading and Guided Reading for Weeks 1 and 3 of Unit 7. When it comes to students recognizing genre-specific characteristics, structures, and purposes, the materials inconsistently distribute practice. While recognizing characteristics and structures of informational texts is spiraled through all units of study, that is not the case for literature, poetry, and persuasive text. When it comes to identifying characteristics of literature, there is only one week in the curriculum (in Unit 2) where this objective is the reading focus. Students later compare and contrast structure through writing, but do not again analyze through reading. This is similarly true of analyzing poetry and persuasive text structure: poetry structure is only taught Week 1 of Unit 3 and persuasive structure is only taught Week 3 of Unit 8.
Over the course of the year, students practice writing with different purposes in mind. There is a balanced combination of whole-class writing activities and writing in “Centers.” The majority of the writing instruction depends on a set of “Process Writing Lessons” that fall into four main categories: “Informative/Explanatory,” “Narrative,” “Opinion/Argument,” and “Transactional.” Within these categories, there are specific lessons about more specialized writing purposes. For example, within the Opinion/Argument category, there is both a “Persuasive” and a “Pro/Con” lesson plan. Scaffolding exists for each lesson plan, as it is paired with “Student Resources and Teacher Rubrics” that vary based on reading ability. The four leveled sets include “Beginning,” “Early Development,” “Developing,” and “Fluent.” The teacher can utilize these scaled resources to support students as they spiral through the writing styles over the school year.
Within the instructional materials, there are comprehension checks that allow for repeated practice of comprehension skills that aren’t explicitly being covered within that lesson. In the Unit 3 shared-reading text Disappearing Moon, the target comprehension skill is “Cause and Effect.” To repeatedly address standards within and across units, there is a “comprehension check” that includes a book quiz and a retelling rubric that can be used to monitor students’ understanding of the comprehension standards. There are also discussion cards that cover “comprehension skills and strategies not explicitly taught with the book and provided as an extension activity.”
Academic rigor within questions and tasks depends on the reading level of the text that the teacher uses for the lesson plan. “Higher-Order Thinking Cards” provide teachers with questions to engage students in discussion after reading/listening to a text. For example, in Unit 2, students listen to The Three Little Pigs, a Level F text. After reading, students are engaged in a discussion using four questions. Main Idea and Details: “What are the main idea and three supporting details of this fairy tale?” Analyze: “This book is a work of fiction. What makes this story a fairy tale? How can you tell?” Evaluate: “What lesson do you think the pigs learned about building houses?” Compare and Contrast: “How does the second pig’s house compare to the third pig’s house?” Similar questions can be seen in Unit 7 when students discuss Incredible Places to Stay, a Level J text. Make Inferences/Draw Conclusions: “Which hotel would be difficult to visit in the summer? Why?” Analyze: “How would you sort the hotels from this book into different groups?” Main Idea and Details: “What is the main idea of this book?” Evaluate: “If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, which hotel would you want to visit? Why?” In these two units, students use similar comprehension skills but apply these skills to more challenging texts.
Materials provide explicit instruction in print concepts and opportunities for student practice. Materials connect print awareness to books/texts and provide opportunities for students to connect print awareness knowledge to texts during shared-reading lessons. The “Primary Protocols” also include guidance for teachers on how to implement print concept instruction with texts.
Examples include but are not limited to:
In Unit 1, the teacher uses the shared-reading text American Symbols to teach students how to use text features, such as the table of contents, to access information. The teacher starts by reviewing skills learned in Kindergarten; the teacher shows students the title page and discusses the information located there, such as the author’s name. The teacher then previews the table of contents and tells students that the table of contents provides an overview of the book. Students share what they expect the book to be about on the basis of the information in the table of contents.
In Unit 2, the “Primary Protocols” prompt the teacher to identify the connection between illustrations and print during shared reading. Sentence frames, prompting questions, and tasks are provided to help the teacher teach and the students practice this new skill. For example, to figure out the purpose of a photograph or illustration, the following prompt provided: “What does the photograph or illustration help you understand?” Students use the following sentence frame to respond: “The photograph/illustration/caption helps me understand that….”
In Unit 5, the teacher uses the shared-reading text I’m the Small One to give students opportunities to connect print awareness knowledge to texts. The teacher projects the cover and asks the students what they notice about the title of the book and anything else on the front and back covers; students offer ideas on what type of book it is and what it may be about. The same process is followed in Unit 7 with the texts Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Amazing Antarctica.
In Unit 6, the teacher uses the shared-reading text A Forest Is Full of Life to teach identifying and using graphics to support understanding of a text. Before reading, students go on a “Book Walk” to discuss the front and back covers, title, and author of the text. Students predict what the text will be about based on the title and photographs. The teacher points out there is no illustrator listed on the cover and engages students in a discussion about why there is no illustrator. The teacher introduces the table of contents, and students match the sections in the table of contents with the section headings. Next, the teacher introduces the text feature of diagrams in nonfiction texts and engages students in a discussion about the information shown in multiple diagrams in the text and why the author included the diagrams; “Why did the author choose to put the information in a diagram rather than explain it in a paragraph on the page?”
In Unit 7, the teacher uses the shared-reading text Amazing Antarctica to teach students to identify and use captions to support understanding of a text. The teacher explains that captions clarify what is happening in a picture in a text. Students read a caption in the text and respond to the following questions: “How does the caption help you understand what is happening in the picture? How does this caption give you more information than is presented in the text? Why are captions an important tool for labeling pictures?” Then, students review the other pictures in the book and discuss how each caption helped them better understand the picture and text.
Materials provide explicit instruction in phonological skills and opportunities for student daily practice. Materials provide opportunities for students to practice oral language activities, explicit instruction in each newly taught sound and sound pattern, and opportunities for students to practice each newly taught sound and sound/phoneme pattern.
Examples include but are not limited to:
In Unit 1, the teacher models how to isolate initial, medial, and final phonemes in CVC words such as cat, hot, pen, lip, and fun. The teacher says the words aloud and models segmenting them. Then the teacher asks students to isolate the three phonemes out of order (for example, saying a word aloud and asking students to say the final sound in the word and then the middle sound).
In Unit 2, a phonological awareness objective is substituting and deleting sounds in one-syllable words to make new words. The teacher first models substituting initial and final sounds in one-syllable words, like mice to nice. Students then practice with additional CVC words. Students also orally delete initial and final sounds in one-syllable words to make new words. For example, mice to ice and wind to win. Students continue practicing these skills with new words throughout the week.
In Unit 3, the teacher uses the guided-reading leveled text Senses to lead students in orally blending phonemes. The teacher begins the lesson by segmenting the sounds in the word touch and then models how to blend the sounds back together to say the full word. Students repeat the segmenting and blending with the word touch. This process is repeated with the words five, go, sweet, see, bird, and smell.
In Unit 5, a phonological awareness objective is discriminating between short and long vowel sounds in spoken single-syllable words. The teacher reviews the difference between short and long vowel sounds by providing students with examples of words (can/came, pet/Pete, and fin/fine) to help them hear the contrast between the two different sounds. Using picture cards, the teacher says the name of the object on each card, and the students determine whether each word has a short or long vowel sound. The class uses a T-chart to sort the words to show short versus long vowel sounds.
In Unit 8, students practice identifying words in sentences, using counters as a manipulative to push up for each word they hear in a sentence. The teacher models with the sentence “I like to go to the mall” and asks the class how many counters they pushed up. The class then practices with additional sentences.
Materials provide explicit systematic instruction in phonetic knowledge and opportunities for students to practice both in and out of context. Materials include a research-based sequence of grade-level foundational skills instruction and opportunities for sufficient student practice to achieve grade-level mastery. Materials systematically develop knowledge of grade-level phonics patterns as addressed in the Grade 1 TEKS, with opportunities for students to apply their knowledge to connected texts and tasks. Materials provide explicit instruction in grade-level high-frequency words and opportunities for students to read high-frequency words both in and out of context. Materials include building spelling knowledge as identified in the TEKS.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The materials include a variety of research citations to support their phonics approach. According to the research, phonics instruction can and should begin as early as Kindergarten due to the significant and substantial effect on later reading ability. Additionally, the research supports the integration of two major components: systematic instruction and practice. The systematic instruction component entails direct and explicit teaching of the major sounds-symbol relationships in a specific and clearly defined sequence. The sequence begins with single letter sound-symbol relationships and then progresses toward more complex sound-symbol relationships.
The materials include a scope and sequence for foundational reading instruction. The “Phonics Snapshot” indicates when each phonics skill is taught and which specific skill is being introduced. For example, Unit 2 teaches the final consonant blends -nd, -nk, and -nt in Week 1; teaches final consonant blends -ft, -ld, -lp, -lt, and -mp in Week 2; reviews initial and final consonant blends in Week 3; and teaches consonant trigraphs in Week 4. The skills found in the Phonics Snapshot are directly correlated with the Grade 1 TEKS. The materials also include instructional routines for practicing phonics skills. For example, within each lesson, students practice saying the associated sounds, use letter tiles to build words with the focus phonics pattern, and read decodable books and identify the words with the target phonics pattern found in the text.
In Unit 1, students learn about the consonant digraph /ch/. After looking at word cards that contain the /ch/ sound, students independently read the decodable book Chip the Chimp. Students then use a letter/digraph workmat and letter cards to discuss how to make the long /i/ sound and how to spell the word chime. Students continue practicing with the words pinch champ, chill, batch, finish, bench, chop, catch, chiver, and drench. Students also have additional opportunities to practice during “Centers” through the use of letter cards, word-family cards, bingo, place markers, and word cards.
In Unit 2, students learn about final n-blends such as -nd, -nk, and -nt in context with the decodable book Grand Slam Tennis. The teacher leads students in explicit instruction and practice with this phonics pattern over the course of five days. For example, after reading Grand Slam Tennis, students pull words with final n-blends from the text to create a word sort.
Instruction on high-frequency words begins in Unit 1, and every unit introduces three to four high-frequency words each week. According to the year snapshot, the high-frequency words included in the materials come from a research-based list. The materials direct teachers on which high-frequency words to use with each “Shared Reading” text. The teacher follows the routine of introducing the words on flashcards, spelling each word aloud, and having students chorally respond by saying the word. There are a total of 11 words introduced in Unit 1.
In Unit 5, students receive explicit instruction on the high-frequency words jump, think, and away with the shared-reading text I Broke It. The teacher points out these words while reading the text with students, shows them to students on flashcards, and leads students in practicing reading and spelling them on Day 1. On Days 2–5, the teacher reinforces the high-frequency words with echo reading, choral reading, and independent reading of the flashcards on the “Word Wall.” The teacher also incorporates practice of previously-taught high-frequency words by adding the flashcards to a deck with other cards and shuffling them before having students choral read the cards aloud. The materials provide additional resources for differentiation to support students who need extra practice with the high-frequency words. For example, the book Jump On can be used for additional practice reading the word jump and away.
The materials include daily grammar practice and writing activities over the course of thirty weeks that allow students to practice and build their spelling knowledge. Every week includes a focus spelling rule with an activity sheet for students to explicitly practice the rule. The activity sheets involve a variety of tasks, including identifying correct spellings, correcting spelling errors, and correcting sentences for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Spelling instruction includes practice with spelling words according to phonics patterns as well as spelling high-frequency words. For example, in Units 6–8, students work on spelling words with vowel digraphs, r-controlled vowels, vowel diphthongs, and open vowels.
Materials provide frequent opportunities for students to practice and develop fluency while reading a wide variety of grade-level texts. Materials include explicit instruction in fluency, including rate, accuracy, and prosody. Materials provide opportunities and routines for teachers to regularly monitor and provide corrective feedback on rate, accuracy, and prosody.
Examples include but are not limited to:
Weekly fluency skills are addressed during multiple portions of the literacy block. Teachers model fluent reading during read-alouds, and they monitor fluency skills during guided reading when students read texts independently. Teachers use their observations during guided reading to provide differentiated instruction in the form of modeling, direct instruction, goal setting, and conferencing. During “Centers,” students read and reread a variety of texts to practice reading words automatically with proper rate, accuracy, and expression. “Fluency Center” activities include reading and rereading fluency passages, “Readers’ Theater” scripts, and shared- and guided-reading texts; reading aloud to self or to a buddy; having students record themselves reading; and listening to and reading along with examples of fluent readings that have proper accuracy, rate, and prosody. The materials incorporate a variety of texts (including leveled books and fluency passages) and oral reading methods (including partner reading and Readers’ Theater) to promote reading fluency.
An outline of explicit fluency instruction, including regularly monitoring and providing corrective feedback, is given through the “Primary Protocols.” The materials recommend regular monitoring take place during “Guided Reading” starting on Day 2 and continuing on to Days 3 and 4 of each week. On Day 2, the teacher sets a purpose for reading related to the fluency skill, comprehension skill, and/or reading strategy for the week. On Days 3–4, students set their own purpose. The students read silently while the teacher walks around conducting observations as an informal assessment. The teacher asks individual students to read a sentence or two aloud and takes notes on difficulties with decoding, comprehension, and fluency. The materials guide the teacher to use this assessment to guide instruction to provide support as necessary in the form of modeling, direct instruction, goal setting, and conferencing. After conducting a guided reading with more monitoring and feedback, students reflect on the purpose they set for reading related to the fluency skill. On Day 5, students continue to build fluency when the teacher provides independent practice opportunities as needed based on the observations made during the week. Teachers model rereading portions of the text and invite students to then model reading themselves, with accuracy, rate, and expression.
In Unit 1, the fluency components of rate, accuracy, and prosody (addressed in the materials as “expression”) are targeted separately by weeks before combining in Week 4. For example, in Week 2, during Fluency Centers, students practice reading Jobs We Do At School with a partner to demonstrate appropriate accuracy and rate. Afterward, during the read-aloud, the teacher models reading with accuracy and appropriate rate. In Week 3, with Josh Gets Glasses, students focus on reading in small groups with an appropriate rate as they monitor their own reading to self-correct for accuracy. To reinforce fluency practice, during the read-aloud, teachers model reading with the appropriate rate. In Week 4, the teacher reads The Story of the Statue and models how to read with accuracy, rate, and expression.
In Unit 7, students receive explicit instruction in reading with accuracy and appropriate rate. On Day 1, the teacher introduces reading with accuracy and appropriate rate and models it with the read-aloud text Park Rangers. On Days 2–5, the teacher continues to model fluent reading with the same read-aloud text, emphasizing accuracy and rate. Students also practice fluency by reading the text independently or with a partner. The Fluency Center for the week also focuses on reading on-level text orally with accuracy and appropriate rate.
The materials include additional resources for students to practice fluency and guidance to support teachers in monitoring students’ rate, accuracy, and prosody. Provided fluency passages are available at Levels F–Z and can be used as repeated practice readings. Students may read these passages with the teacher, tracking their accuracy and calculating their rate, or they may use the passages independently or with a partner along with a stopwatch to record their own data. A “Fluency Standards Table” helps teachers determine whether students are making progress towards grade-level standards and provide feedback to students on their fluency.
Timed fluency reading passages for Levels F–G are also included, which involve a one-minute timed reading of a passage to assess accuracy and rate. The Fluency Standards Table tells teachers where their students should be reading in terms of rate and accuracy.
Materials include assessments on foundational skills, but they do not distinguish between the assessments’ purposes. Materials do not state whether assessments should be used for diagnostic or placement purposes. There are some additional resources meant to assist in foundational skills instruction, and assessments yield meaningful information for teachers to use when planning. However, the materials do not give sufficient guidance to teachers on how to respond to this student data.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The materials include numerous foundational skills assessments, but they do not designate any assessments as “diagnostics,” nor do the materials advise teachers to use or implement an assessment prior to initially teaching a foundational skill. The materials mention pre-assessment prior to the five-day learning cycle: “Give a quick informal assessment of the weekly skills to determine where students need explicit instruction and at what level instruction should be given. This information helps ensure proper grouping of students and differentiation of resources.” However, the materials do not note which assessments to give nor how to respond to them.
Quarterly assessments include little guidance for teachers on when these assessments should be given, other than calling them “quarterly assessments.” For example, the phonological awareness assessments section asks teachers to determine whether to focus on onset and rime, rhyme, syllables, or phonemic awareness skills using the assessments. There are eighteen assessments, but only a few are noted in the weekly planners to be used at specific times throughout the year. The materials do not note the order assessments should be given in.
As a resource meant to assist in foundational skills instruction, the program includes “Tutoring & Mentoring Packs” covering all foundational skills. Each comprehension pack includes numerous intervention lessons, letter books, picture cards, academic games, practice sheets, etc. While these resources do assist foundational skills instruction, the program depends on classroom teachers or trained professionals to interpret assessment, assess students’ growth, and respond accordingly.
Materials contain multiple options for reading level, alphabet naming, phonological awareness, phonics, and high-frequency words assessment; however, assessment is neither regular nor systematic. There is minimal evidence of formal assessment on print concepts. Materials offer teachers some guidance on how to respond to individual students’ literacy needs based on their assessment performance by providing resources such as additional lesson plans, decodable books, or “Center” activities. However, the guidance to teachers is often lacking specificity on which lessons to select and how to guide a student to mastery.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The program has an “Assessments” section where teachers can find progress-monitoring assessments for reading levels, alphabet naming, phonological awareness, phonics, and high-frequency words. Assessments are usually completed one on one; some are assigned online, and some are used as progress-monitoring tools for foundational skills. Assessments are not organized by grade level but are organized by skill. Assessments include alphabet letter naming and high-frequency word assessments. Other assessments available to the teacher include retelling rubrics, which include a three-part student leveling assessment; phonological awareness assessments, which assess how children listen for, identify, discriminate, and produce sounds; phonics assessments, which assess sound-symbol relationships and the ability to read nonsense words; fluency timed reading assessments, which assess the ability to read passages accurately in one minute; and sentence reading assessments. Not every assessment is referenced within the “Unit Weekly Planners.” When they are, these assessments provide teachers with few suggested resources for differentiation to reteach skills based on the results of an assessment. The materials do not provide clear guidance or support for teachers on actions to take after a student completes the online assessments.
There is little teacher guidance and direction to respond to individual students’ literacy needs based on assessments appropriate to the grade level. The materials have a “Primary Protocols” document that states “assessments should be administered to determine students’ skill gaps and the instructional focus needed to close these gaps,” but this does not focus on how to close the gaps post-assessment. For example, the retelling rubrics are available for teachers to assess how well students comprehend what is read. The materials simply indicate that the software will help teachers identify comprehension skills for additional practice. For further monitoring, the materials recommend using benchmark passages and/or books. Teachers are also given the note that those students who are not progressing at an expected rate should be assessed “even more frequently.” No additional supports are provided that address individual student needs.
The Primary Protocols document explains assessment opportunities to assess students’ phonological awareness skills. The materials note that teachers should keep a weekly observational datasheet; the phonological awareness assessment resources are labeled as “quarterly assessments.” These assessment target skills include rhyme awareness, onset and rime awareness, syllable awareness, initial sounds, final sounds, medial sounds, and phonemes. There are single assessments for rhyme, onset and rime, and syllable awareness; there are four assessments each for initial, final, and medial sounds; there are three different assessments for phonemes. In Unit 1, the Weekly Planner lists the “Phonological Awareness Assessment, Initial Sounds, Form 1.” In this assessment, students point to different pictures, name the picture, and identify the initial sound of the name of the picture. Based on the assessment results, teachers can determine which students need more support in identifying the initial sounds in one-syllable words. However, the Weekly Planner and assessment both do not provide teachers with guidance on the next steps based on the results of the assessment.
Teachers have access to phonics-based assessments that aid in determining students’ understanding of sound-symbol relationships broken into two types of phonics assessments: the “Identifying Sounds Assessment” assesses a student’s ability to associate a sound with a given symbol, and the “Identifying Symbols Assessment” assesses a student’s ability to associate a symbol with a given sound. There are also nine “Nonsense Word Assessments” that measure decoding skills. The Primary Protocols document states for teachers to “provide additional support or enrichment as needed based on the weekly assessment.” Yet, there is inconsistent guidance detailing how to reteach these skills and how to address individual students’ needs.
Teachers use guided reading to monitor and assess individual students’ reading fluency. During guided reading, students read leveled texts to practice reading and comprehension strategies, build vocabulary, and build reading fluency. On Day 1, teachers listen while students read and note any difficulties with decoding and fluency. On Days 2–4, teachers continue to monitor fluency and provide support in the form of modeling, direct instruction, goal setting, and conferencing. On Day 5, the teacher models rereading portions of the text fluently and invites students to model reading with appropriate accuracy, rate, and expression. The materials also include “Fluency Timed Reading” passages so that the teacher can incorporate monitoring and feedback into the lessons. There are two types of assessments available: one is a one-minute timed reading of a passage to measure the rate and accuracy of words read, and the second asks the students to read a series of sentences and then answer true/false statements to assess comprehension.
The materials do not contain a formal assessment covering print concepts such as print awareness; informal checks for understanding are present in materials that cover print concepts.
Materials provide some planning and learning opportunities, including extensions and differentiation, for students who demonstrate literacy skills above that expected at the grade level. There is a clear plan for identifying a student’s independent reading level; materials differentiate for students working above grade level in the confines of small-group or guided-reading activities. The materials and lessons provide some opportunities for students who demonstrate proficiency above grade level to extend their knowledge. Activities and lesson plans listed above grade level require students to complete more work with a more complex text rather than apply their knowledge in an extension activity. Most resources for differentiation are provided for students performing at or below grade level.
Examples include but are not limited to:
Across the leveled reader library, there are some texts that include “Cross-Curricular Connections” at the end of the text. These additional tasks are meant to extend student learning and often include connections to writing, science, math, and art.
In Unit 2, students respond to the shared-reading text The Little Red Hen. In the “Science Connection,” the teacher shows the class pictures of wheat in different stages; then, the teacher mixes up the pictures and calls on a volunteer to put them in sequential order. The discussion cards provide higher-order-thinking questions for the class to answer after reading the text. The extension activities do not specify that they are for students above grade level.
In Unit 4, students respond to the following writing prompt: “Describe a type of art that you like. Explain why you like it and where people might find this type of art.” The “Weekly Planner” lists guidance for teachers to use for this prompt. It also indicates that teachers should use the “Beginning” rubric to assess their students’ writing. For students performing above grade level, teachers can use writing samples, graphic organizers, and rubrics at a higher level; however, there is no guidance provided for teachers on which writing level to use for students performing above grade level.
Unit 6 uses the read-aloud text Deep in the Ocean. The skills taught using this book include asking and answering questions and identifying and using compound words. The Weekly Planner lists the “Reading Graphic Organizer: Ask and Answer Questions, Primary” as a “Resource for Differentiation” that does not apply only to students above grade level. The lesson plan indicates cross-curricular connections to extend the lesson for all students. Students have the opportunity to write about whether or not they would want to be an oceanographer when they grow up. In a “Science Connection,” they research an animal that lives deep in the ocean, create a poster, and list at least one interesting fact about that animal. These extensions are provided for all students.
The program provides teachers with a reading leveling system that is used to assign each student a reading level. Using this leveling system, teachers can assign texts at the developmentally appropriate level for a child working above grade level and follow that text’s lesson plan for any small-group or even large-group lesson. This gives students performing above grade level opportunities to work with more complex texts and continue to grow in reading levels. The online portion also allows teachers to assign texts and comprehension questions based on a child’s individual reading level.
Materials include supports for students who perform below grade level to ensure they are meeting the grade-level literacy standards. Materials provide planning and learning opportunities, including extensions and differentiation, for students who demonstrate literacy skills below that expected at the grade level.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The program provides a leveling system that teachers can use to determine if a child’s reading level is below grade level. Using the “Assessing a Student’s Level” section in the “Teacher Corner,” teachers can find step-by-step directions about how to use benchmark passages, retelling rubrics, and comprehension quizzes to assess a student’s reading level. The first step is to use “Benchmark Passages” and “Running Records” to determine a child’s instructional and independent reading level. Each reading level contains a fiction and nonfiction Benchmark Passage. First, the child reads the passage to the teacher, while the teacher takes a running record. The student reads, then answers comprehension questions about the passage. The program provides information on how a teacher should score the running record and comprehension questions to determine a child’s reading level. In Grade 1, students are expected to begin the year reading at Level D and end the year at Level J. In addition to running records, teachers use “Retelling Rubrics” to identify strengths and weaknesses students have in comprehending fiction or nonfiction texts and “Comprehension Quick Check Quizzes,” which use multiple-choice questions to demonstrate a student’s comprehension of a story. Knowing this information, teachers can determine if their students are reading below grade-level expectations.
After the teacher establishes the student’s reading level, they can assign books at the student’s independent reading level in the online portion of the program. The teacher searches for the appropriate book for a student reading below grade level and clicks “assign.” This makes the task appear on the student’s individual account. The text is there when the student logs in; the student listens to the text, reads the text, and then takes a ten-question comprehension quiz. When teachers use the online portion of this curriculum, they are providing instructional opportunities for students working at their independent reading level. Using this option, students have the opportunity to demonstrate their independent ability on grade-level standards.
In the “Focused Instruction” “Intervention” tab, there is a “Tutoring & Mentoring” section that includes “developmentally appropriate resources that address a child’s specific learning needs.” These materials include an “extensive collection of printable, research-based materials in six instructional categories: alphabet, phonological awareness, phonics, high-frequency words, fluency, and comprehension.” There is also a section of additional support that includes reading graphic organizers, forms and tools, game packs, and assessments. In the game packs, Grade 1 material is paired with Kindergarten. One of the games available is a “Rhyming Go Fish”: students are dealt six cards, place the ones that rhyme on the table, and then take turns asking each other for a card that rhymes with one of their own words. The rhyming words are provided so that the teacher can print them to use with students.
Under the Teacher Corner tab, the teacher can click on “Instructional Tools” and then see the “Response to Intervention” and “Special Educations” resources. The Response to Intervention section explains how instruction is distributed between Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3, with a clear indication of where the materials align with each tier. Tier 1 intervention is a base-line “universal screening for ALL students.” There are a variety of materials for Tier 2 and Tier 3 that are dedicated to working with smaller groups of students to provide opportunities to enhance the instruction in a way that will allow students more opportunities to understand the material. Tier 2 materials are combined with Tier 1 materials in such a way that teachers are able to choose from any of the materials based on the student’s skill; for example, the student could see a Tier 1 lesson but this time in a small-group setting. For Tier 3 instruction, the teachers are referred to the Tutoring & Mentoring packs provided.
In Unit 3, students identify and produce the letter-sound correspondence for the final consonant digraphs ck and ng, using the lesson plans for the texts Click, Clack, Quack and The King Lost His Ring. These lesson plans are divided into two sections. Section 1 is the core lesson, which can be used with most students. In the core lesson for ck, students blend ck-digraph words, blend onset and rime, sort word-family cards, practice decoding using Click, Clack, Quack, and learn new high-frequency words. Section 2 consists of optional activities designed to reinforce the elements taught in the core lesson in a small-group or individual setting. In this section, students needing more support blend more ck-digraph words, blend onset and rimes with words ending in ck, spell and write ck words, and complete a learning-center activity. In addition to the phonics lesson plans included with the texts, the “Weekly Planner” lists the “Sound/Symbol Books: Digraph NG and Digraph CK” as “Resources for Differentiation.” The “Digraph NG” text uses the words ring, king, swing, and hanger to teach students to recognize the digraph ng and hear its sound in the final and medial positions of words.
Unit 8 teaches author’s purpose using the “Shared Reading” text Blizzards. For Tier 1 instruction, the Weekly Planner states that teachers should use the “Comprehension Skill” section in the lesson plan to teach how to identify the author’s purpose with the whole class. The Weekly Planner lists the “Comprehension Skill Pack: Author’s Purpose (Grade 1)” as a Resource for Differentiation. This resource provides direct and explicit instruction for students to identify and analyze the author’s purpose relating to informational text. These packs deliver opportunities for repeated practice until the skill becomes more automatic for struggling students. After the teacher models how to identify the author’s purpose using the model passage, the students apply their own knowledge through the practice passage and a graphic organizer that guides them to identify facts relevant to the main topic and purpose of the author.
Materials include supports for English Learners (ELs) to meet grade-level learning expectations. Materials include accommodations commensurate with various levels of English language proficiency as defined by the English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS). Materials provide scaffolds and encourage the strategic use of students’ first language as a means to development in English. Vocabulary is developed in the context of connected discourse.
Examples include but are not limited to:
Materials include resources for ELs within the “ELL” (English Language Learner) “Edition,” including EL “Leveled Reader Packs” that can be used as companions to the core leveled books. A “Language Proficiency Alignment” is included in the leveling system; materials note how it aligns to state levels. The reader packs are separated into five English proficiency levels that correlate with Texas’ proficiency levels in the following manner: Level 1, “Beginning”; Level 2, not applicable; Level 3, “Intermediate”; Level 4, “Advanced”; Level 5, “Advanced High.” Distinctions are made according to state proficiency levels, where Texas is indicated to have Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced, and Advanced High levels for language proficiency alignment. The “Teacher’s Corner” also includes a “Language Proficiency Standards” page, which teachers can use to search within the materials for resources that correlate to the ELPS established by the state of Texas.
The EL “Content Picture Packs” and accompanying digital resources, called “Interactivities,” are leveled 1–2, 3–4, and 5, commensurate with students’ level of English proficiency. For example, the objectives in the Content Picture Pack for Fables are to demonstrate comprehension of content vocabulary. The lesson plan includes leveled sentence stems: For Levels 1–2, “The word…is in the…group.” For Levels 3–4, “It belongs to….” For Level 5, “I classify…as…because….” The corresponding Interactivity requires students to label vocabulary using single words (Levels 1–3) and sentences (Levels 4–5).
Leveled texts are accompanied by lesson plans that include comprehension, vocabulary, and grammar objectives. For example, the book Changes is intended for use with students at Level 5 (Advanced). The five-day lesson plan focuses on comprehension and decoding on Day 1, guided reading on Days 2–3, buddy reading on Day 4, and independent reading on Day 5. The objectives focus on retelling events from the text and orally summarizing the text using targeted vocabulary, personally connecting to the story by describing a similar experience, writing a narrative using vocabulary from the text, using simple past and present perfect verbs to express actions, and using conjunctions.
The lesson plans that accompany texts provide language support throughout the lesson. For example, the lesson plan for the text Fire Safety (Level G/Advanced High) guides teachers to ask questions during shared reading to build students’ understanding of unknown vocabulary. Questions include: “Do you know this word or phrase?” “Do you think the pictures will help us figure out the word or phrase?” “Do you see a pattern in the pictures on each page?” On the third day of instruction with this text, students use cards with vocabulary words and associated pictures to group vocabulary terms by concept. Students are given the following sentence frames to discuss their grouping decisions: “I grouped…, …, and…together because…. And I think you grouped…, …, and…together because….”
The materials provide a variety of materials translated into Spanish, including, but not limited to, Spanish leveled books and Spanish graphic organizers. For example, there is a multi-leveled Grade 1 series called La Vida en Latinoamerica y España (Life in Latin America and Spain), which explores the Spanish-speaking world through the eyes of fictional characters. Some texts are available in other languages as well; for example, the text La Tormenta is a Spanish translated text that is also available in American English, British English, French, Polish, and Ukrainian.
The materials include additional supports to aid teachers in strategically using students’ first language as a means to development in English. For example, the lesson plan for the text I Can Be (Level C/Intermediate) includes a “Teacher Reference Vocabulary Chart” with Spanish translations for vocabulary such as cheetah, fast, loud, meek, peacock, proud, slug, compare, and explain. The chart also indicates words from the text that are cognates in English and Spanish.
Vocabulary is also addressed in additional resources called EL “Vocabulary Books.” In the Vocabulary Book Holidays, there are colored vocabulary cards, a matching activity sheet, a cloze activity, and vocabulary games. Students use the present simple verb tense in complete sentences to classify vocabulary into logical categories and use the vocabulary in discussion. For example, students use the vocabulary words celebrate and holiday along with dialogue frames to ask and answer questions about holidays with a partner. The dialogue frames included are “Where do people celebrate…? People celebrate…(holiday) in/around….” “How do people celebrate…? They celebrate by….”
The materials include EL “Comic Conversations” resources designed for Beginning to Intermediate ELs to build vocabulary and conversational fluency. Each comic introduces a basic language function that students can apply in their own lives at school and at home and provides guided instruction to students as they read the comic, learn new vocabulary, and practice a conversation. For example, Unit 4 uses the shared-reading text Statues in the Ice to introduce students to using boldface words. In the corresponding Comic Conversation book Marty and the Book, the main character uses text features (table of contents, captions, boldface words, and glossary). Using this resource, students make predictions, listen closely during their conversations, examine pictures, and answer questions with a partner. After the reading, students role-play the conversation from the book in their group.
The materials provide some assessments and guidance for teachers and administrators to monitor progress. The materials include a clear alignment between the assessments and the TEKS in the unit guides. The materials offer a variety of formative and progress-monitoring assessments but insufficient summative assessments. Some assessments provide scoring information; however, there is limited guidance for interpreting and responding to student performance for most assessments.
Examples include but are not limited to:
Each leveled text includes many resources that teachers can use as formative assessments. Some resources include graphic organizers, comprehension worksheets, discussion cards, and comprehension quizzes. The comprehension quizzes that come with each leveled book assess the comprehension skill taught within the lesson plan as well as the content taught in the text. The leveled texts also include higher-order discussion cards that teachers can use as a formative assessment for student comprehension of the text and comprehension skills. The program uses a leveling system to assess each student’s reading level. The program suggests that these assessments be completed every four to six weeks to monitor student growth across reading levels. Grade 1 does have the option of using each unit’s writing project as a summative assessment. However, this is the only evidence of a summative assessment that teachers can use to assess student knowledge of an entire unit. There is little evidence of summative assessments for foundational skills. The only assessments included for these skills are progress-monitoring forms.
Unit 1 uses the read-aloud text Can I Vote. The leveled book’s lesson plan includes a reading-strategy worksheet where students visualize events to better understand the text; a phonics worksheet where students identify the variant vowel /oo/; a grammar-and-mechanics worksheet where students recognize and use contractions; discussion cards; and a comprehension quiz that assesses different reading strategies and content that was taught in the text. Using the visualizing worksheet, students draw what they are visualizing in specific sections of the book to help them better comprehend the content in the text. After reading, students take a comprehension quiz that assesses main idea and details, point of view, story elements, sequencing events, author’s purpose, vocabulary, making inferences/drawing conclusions, and analyzing characters. All of these worksheets are skills directly taught in the text’s lesson plan. Teachers can use these as formative assessments to collect data on which skills students need additional support.
Unit 3 shows students working on r-controlled vowels through the text The Disappearing Moon. During the phonological awareness part of the lesson, the students repeat words such as matter, small, smaller, and big, listening for the emphasized /er/ sound made by the teacher. Then, after a quick teach of the concept, the teacher conducts a formative assessment by having the students put their thumbs up/down to signal if they hear the /er/ sound at the end of words such as moon, later, after, looked, silver, and other. This is one example of formative assessment; however, this skill does not align with the standards being taught in the unit guide. The unit guide for Week 3 states that the student will blend spoken phonemes to produce one-syllable words, specifically focusing on consonant blends. Formative assessment lacks guidance for interpreting and responding to data.
Another text provided with the Unit 3 phonological awareness lesson is Rainbows. The Rainbows lesson plan contains a consonant blend lesson along with a formative assessment. For example, the teacher says the words stories and must; the students say the /st/ sound, then repeat the words after the teacher. After the teach time, the teacher conducts a quick formative assessment by having the students put their hands on their heads when they hear a word that begins with /st/ and clap their hands on their desks when they hear a word that ends with /st/. The example words provided for the teacher include step, stack, last, still, must, nest, stuck, and bust. This lesson and assessment meet the criteria of formative assessments that are aligned in purpose, use, and TEKS emphasis. It is unclear in the unit guide which text the teacher should use to accomplish this task; if they choose the wrong text, they could miss the opportunity to cover the TEKS intended by the publisher. Formative assessment lacks guidance for interpreting and responding to data.
Unit 7, “Phonological Awareness & Phonics,” includes the story Jake and Gail Go to Spain, through which the teacher provides opportunities for formative and summative assessments that align in purpose, intended use, and TEKS emphasis. The long /a/ is the focus of the lesson. As a form of informal assessment, the students view a picture card that includes the long /a/; they say the word and then point to the digraph ai that makes the long /a/. Additionally, after the teacher writes the words maid, pain, day, and way, the students go up to the board to point to each long /a/ digraph as the rest of the group says the sound. Based on how students are following along throughout the lesson, teachers are asked to make decisions for formative assessment and provide a letter/digraph workmat and letter cards to blend the words above. Formative assessment is evident, as a second section is offered with optional activities designed to reinforce the element taught in the core lesson; these work well for small-group and individual instruction. Formative assessment lacks guidance for interpreting and responding to data.
Additionally, the materials assess students using a three-part online running record. Students complete an online reading and a recorded retelling of a story, then send the recordings to the teacher’s account. The students also take a “Comprehension Quiz” scored by the online system. Based on the rubric and quiz results, the teacher can assign students an independent reading level, which allows the system to provide corresponding leveled texts in the student’s online portal. Each leveled text includes graphic organizers and comprehension quizzes directly related to the content taught in the text. The materials provide an assessment schedule to progress monitor students. A note suggests students not progressing at the expected rate should be assessed more frequently than the assessment schedule suggests. Additionally, the materials include a chart detailing the scores students should attain before moving to a new level.
Under the “Assessments” tab, teachers can find progress-monitoring assessments for “Benchmark Books/Passages,” “Retelling Rubrics,” “Alphabet Letter Naming,” “Phonological Awareness,” “Phonics,” “High-Frequency Words,” and “Fluency Time Reading.” While the program does not state when these assessments should be used, teachers can choose from the different types of assessments based on instruction and student need. For example, if a teacher wants to assess “Initial Sounds Recognition,” teachers have four assessments to choose from. Based on the results of the Initial Sounds assessments, teachers can choose from three lesson plans that provide reinforcement in these skills. Teachers can use these progress-monitoring assessments as often as needed across the school year.
Materials include year-long plans and supports for teachers to identify the needs of students and provide differentiated instruction to meet the needs of a range of learners to ensure grade-level success. Materials provide an overarching year-long plan for teachers to engage students in multiple grouping (and other) structures. Plans are comprehensive and attend to differentiation to support students via many learning opportunities. “Teacher Edition” materials include annotations and support for engaging students in the materials as well as support for implementing ancillary and resource materials and student progress components. Annotations and ancillary materials provide support for student learning and assistance for teachers.
Examples include but are not limited to:
The materials provide an overarching year-long plan through eight unit “Weekly Planners.” Each unit has a “Unit Snapshot” that consists of four weeks, for a total of 32 weeks of instruction. The plans are separated into 11 components, allowing the students to receive daily instruction on a “Reading Strategy,” “Comprehension,” “Vocabulary,” “High-Frequency Words,” “Text Features/Concepts about Print,” “Phonological Awareness,” “Phonics,” “Fluency,” “Speaking/Listening,” “Writing,” and “Grammar and Mechanics”/“Word Work.” Instruction of these components is intended to be given through multiple grouping structures. The reading strategy, comprehension, vocabulary, high-frequency words, and concepts about print are taught through a shared-reading grouping structure; the teacher leads whole-group reading and also provides opportunities to work with partners as students search for concepts in the stories. Phonological awareness and phonics are covered through a leveled book chosen for the week; students have opportunities to discuss with a partner, share information with the whole group, and read independently. The reading strategy, comprehension, and vocabulary components are targeted again through guided-reading opportunities. During “Centers,” students work in their small groups, focusing on fluency, phonics, reading, and writing opportunities with the skills of the week. Students listen attentively and ask questions during a whole-group read-aloud for further reinforcement of the reading strategy, grammar & mechanics, speaking/listening, and fluency.
The program has a variety of assessments that teachers can use at their own discretion to progress monitor skills; these include benchmark books, benchmark passages, retelling rubrics, alphabet letter naming, phonological awareness, phonics, high-frequency words, and fluency timed reading. Teachers can use these assessments at any point in the school year, or they can use them to supplement whole-group lessons in the “Literacy Curriculum Map.” The program also has a section titled “Response to Intervention” (RtI), located in the “Teacher Corner.” Materials explain the framework for RtI and list additional resources. The program defines Tier 1 as whole-group instruction, Tier 2 as small-group instruction, and Tier 3 as individual, one-on-one instruction. The goal of the RtI framework is to provide struggling students with differentiated instruction so that they can remain in the general education environment. Teachers can use formative assessments, progress-monitoring assessments for foundational skills, and the text leveling system to determine which students are struggling and need additional support. The text leveling system helps teachers to accurately and reliably measure text complexity to support differentiated instruction. This assessment should be done at the beginning of the year so that teachers are aware of the varying levels of the class. Once teachers know the reading level of each student, they will be able to select texts and additional materials to support student learning.
The Literacy Curriculum Map provides teachers with annotations and ancillary materials that support student learning. Teachers can find these ancillary materials in the individual units’ folders. Each folder provides teachers with resources to use during whole-group instruction and a subfolder named “Resources for Differentiation.” The resources in these folders are the ones listed on the Literacy Curriculum Map under the Resources for Differentiation column.
The “Primary Protocols” are an overview document that encompasses all of the Centers throughout the curriculum, which cover “Fluency,” “Phonics,” “Phonological Awareness,” “Grammar,” “Word Work,” and “Writing.” This Centers document provides the teacher with organization and implementation tips. A few examples of the implementation tips are to review picture cards so that students can identify the pictures, to provide a hard surface to work at or a clipboard, to swap out letter cards for magnetic letters (to change up the Center occasionally), and to repurpose other “Reading A-Z” resources for Learning Centers.
The English Learner (EL) “Language Skills Pack” is available as an ancillary content-based resource to support student learning in the areas of vocabulary development and the strengthening of skills across the four language domains: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The annotations and guidance included for teachers include two options for teachers to consider when using the Language Skills Pack. One option is to connect assessment results with targeted instruction for each student; teachers administer an EL Assessment to identify specific language strengths and weaknesses, record the results, and then select lessons within a Language Skills Pack to address the identified needs. The other option is to connect language development and academic content instruction through the Language Skills Pack; teachers first select a grade level, then select a Language Skills Pack under a specific content area, and finally use the lessons within the pack to teach content vocabulary and targeted skills across the four language domains. Further annotations are given by providing teachers with the instructional sequence: building background, presentation, practice and application, check for understanding, and review. Teachers are able to become familiar with the sequence that is consistently followed in the packs using the list and descriptions of each pack.
The materials include a scope and sequence of standards that are taught in each unit throughout the year, but there is no evidence of how the standards connect and build across grade levels. The materials include supports to help teachers implement the materials as intended, but there is no evidence of additional supports for administrators to support teachers with implementation. The materials include realistic pacing guidance for a 160-day schedule.
Examples include but are not limited to
The “Standard Snapshot” document includes a scope and sequence that details the TEKS that are taught in each unit, including information on which standards are spiraled throughout the year. There are instances of skills and standards listed in the Standard Snapshot as being taught in only one unit, but which are listed in the unit guides for multiple units. For example, “responding using newly acquired vocabulary” is only taught in Unit 2 according to the Standard Snapshot, but there is evidence in the unit guides that this standard is actually taught in all eight units.
The “Literacy Curriculum Map” shows the theme for each unit and how the “Essential Questions” vary throughout the grade levels. For example, the Unit 1 theme is “Civics, Leaders, and U.S. Government,” and the Essential Questions are “What is a community?” (Kindergarten), “What are the rights and responsibilities of people in a community?” (Grade 1), and “What is the role of government in people’s lives?” (Grade 2).
Unit guides provide teachers with a summary of the content students will be learning, the materials needed for each lesson, and the resources needed for differentiation and extension. Each unit is four weeks long and includes a weekly planner with information about the focus topics and skills related to “Reading Strategy,” “Comprehension,” “Vocabulary,” “High-Frequency Words,” “Text Features/Concepts About Print,” “Phonological Awareness,” “Phonics,” “Fluency,” “Speaking/Listening,” “Writing,” and “Grammar and Mechanics”/“Word Work.”
The materials include “Primary Protocols” to support teachers in planning and executing lessons. The Protocols provide teachers with a detailed explanation of each of the six components of the literacy block (“Guided Reading,” “Shared Reading,” “Phonics/Phonological Awareness,” “Read Alouds,” “Centers,” and “Writing”), guidance on how to teach specific skills, a timeframe to follow for instruction, and suggestions for daily routines and procedures. For example, the Primary Protocols provide the following suggested weekly pacing for a fairytale writing assignment during Unit 2: previewing samples and pre-writing (Week 2), drafting and revising (Week 3), and editing and publishing (Week 4).
An online component called the “Teacher Corner” provides additional resources for teachers to effectively and efficiently implement the program. For example, teachers can search by state standard and grade level to access aligned texts and materials they can use to teach specific content.
The materials include eight units that contain four weeks of instruction each, for a total of 32 weeks or 160 days. The materials also include resources for administering benchmark assessments and other progress monitoring procedures outside of daily instruction.
The visual design of the “Student Edition” (whether in print or digital) is neither distracting nor chaotic. Materials include appropriate use of white space and design that supports and does not distract from student learning. Pictures and graphics are supportive of student learning and engagement without being visually distracting.
Examples include but are not limited to:
In the “Kids A-Z” online student reading portal, there is an appropriate use of white space and design that supports and does not distract from student learning. Students can select from six sections—“Level Up,” “Messages,” “Backgrounds,” “Badges,” “Assessments,” and “Reading Assignments”—that are distinguished with a simple graphic, making it easy, even for non-readers, to remember where to click to reach the desired destination.
The materials include PDF versions of all the texts and ancillary materials to allow students multiple access opportunities, including viewing the projected stories and/or printouts to support the e-texts that students can read through their online platform. These materials, whether in print or digital, contain a normal range of white space and design without any major distractions to the user.
Graphic organizers contain appropriate space for students to write; minimal other graphics that would distract from student learning or work are on the page. Graphic organizers logically section information into boxes or tables. Student worksheets contain sufficient space for Grade 1 students to write and record answers and often include handwriting lines to assist.
While listening to the read-aloud The Hoppers Start School, students look for compound words in the images of the text. For example, the food page has images of a hamburger, oatmeal, and a gingerbread house. The photographs are images of things that students are familiar with, and they help them enhance their vocabulary even if they are not yet self-sufficient readers.
The materials contain a “Reading” tab that offers “Level Up!” “Reading Room,” “Assignment,” and “Assessment” sections. These components are student-friendly and support student learning along with appropriate teacher guidance. Students are given the opportunity to listen to and read stories, take quizzes, and complete interactivities. As students complete their exercises, they earn points and badges to level up and build their personal avatar. There is also a message functionality that allows the teacher to communicate with the student.
On the student homepage, students see the tabs “Reading Room,” “Reading,” “Vocabulary,” “Messages,” “My Stats,” and “Star Zone.”
In the Reading Room, students select books and topics at their individual reading levels. The program tracks whether the students listen to and read the story. Once students listen to and read the story, they can complete the comprehension quiz to earn points. While listening to a story, the books track each sentence and word, so the student can follow along. If students do not listen to the entire story, the program bookmarks where the student left off. When a student independently reads the story, the program can track if the student reads too fast or too slow, and, depending on the rate, may ensure the student rereads the story. After the student successfully listens to and reads the story, the student can move onto the comprehension quiz.
In the Level Up! section, students choose stories to read or listen to. Listening versions are read with a voice that has proper reading intonation. As the voice reads, the phrase being read is highlighted in yellow; further tracking guidance is provided with a green highlight that moves one word at a time. The student can pause the story as needed, and, when the page finishes, the student has the option of clicking the arrow to go to the next page or of clicking on the page to have it read again. However, the student cannot select a specific section to be reread; the student must reread the whole page.
For any of the activities assigned, students earn stars for the assignments that they successfully complete. The more difficult the task is to complete, the more stars the students earn for the task. For example, students earn 10 stars for listening to a book, and they earn 500 stars for completing an entire activity. These stars can be spent to upgrade their avatar, their avatar’s background, and their avatar’s “RAZ rocket.” The more stars they earn, the more impressive the upgrades they can buy.
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