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Kindergarten Literacy Case Study


e Andrew Nebl
r ECMT 6000
Armstrong State University

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Ben is a five year old male kindergarten student at Beach Lake Elementary

School in Coopersville, Alabama. Ben was specifically assigned to this case study by the

Cooperating Teacher (CT) for two reasons. The first reason is that academically Ben has

shown an average or standard literacy progression and growth thoughout the school year.

The CT believed that this student’s current literacy level would provide the appropriate

challenge to assess and develop. The second reason Ben is assigned to me is for a social

development and personal nature. Ben resides with his grandmother and mothers. The CT

thought it would be beneficial for a male teacher to work with him to fill some of the

male influence gap that may be missing from his day to day activities.

On a standard school day, Ben works on literacy development from 9:00 am to

11:15 am with a 30 minute recess break in between. The first hour of literacy activity

consists of “centers” where the students complete assigned literacy tasks in groups with

peers with like reading levels. The remaining time of literacy instruction usually is

devoted to a short phonics instruction by the teacher followed by an associated worksheet

task to complete. While I assist with the training of all the students in class, I devote

special attention to Ben’s performance and attitude. Most of what I have observed and

noted has come from his performance during the group activities. This is because Ben

does not like to do tasks separate from what his peers are doing. Those times that I have

conducted one on one assessments and instruction, he continuously queried whether or

not he could return to his group and lost interest in what he is doing. Though, the one-on-

one training has been short in duration and infrequent, I believe that enough data has been
compiled to build a training model to assist with Ben’s literacy development over the

next two months.


Through my initial studies of early childhood literacy development, I have learned

that literacy is a multi-faceted subject that requires a scaffold approach to correctly assess

and instruct. I assessed Ben based on the literacy domains of Interest and Attitude, Letter

Knowledge, Concepts of Print, Phonemic Awareness, Phonological Awareness, Sight

Word Vocabulary, Comprehension, and Writing. For each of the domains, I gave the

student a rating that will guide future instruction. The results are depicted in Fig. 1.


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Initially, I wanted to gain an understanding of Ben’s level of literacy interest and

his total attitude towards reading. To accomplish this, I read his library book to him

which was from the Clifford the Red Dog series. It was full of pictures and words that

showed items such as toys, sporting equipment, colors, animals and other things that as I

read stopped and asked which items he liked best. It proved to be a great aid in

determining his literacy interests. Additionally, I learned more about his literacy attitude

upon observations in a group setting. Frequently, I observed that Ben loses interest in

completing the assigned work when not under direct supervision. Often, I found that I

needed to ask him questions and provide guidance to keep him focused on task

completion. As I spent more time with the student, I frequently would receive responses

to my questions such as “I don’t know” and “sound it out for me”. When I would

segment the word and sound it out, the student generally provided the correct written

response. Because the student possesses the ability to form the correct answers, I believe

his lack of focus is not entirely attributed to a lack of proficiency, but rather a lack of

motivation or ability to focus. This student best responds to one on one individual


On the Letter Knowledge Assessment from my literacy assessment toolkit, Ben

performed well completing the test with a ninety five percent accuracy. He correctly

responded with the letter name for all the capital letters. On the lower case letter names,

the student scored a 24/26 misidentifying the letters q and g. On the word response, the

student scored a 21/25. He stumbled with reciting words that began with the letters i, g, q

and a (if required to give a word other than apple). Overall in this literacy category, the

student is performing at or above the prescribed standard.

Ben has shown proficiency in the Concepts of Print domain. Unlike the other

domains, this assessment has not been administered as a specific, stand-alone test. I

routinely handed the student a book backwards or upside down and he routinely oriented

the book in correct fashion. He knew whom the author and illustrator was and used

punctuation correctly. This assessment and instruction is continuous and administered at

every literacy activity.

I found that Ben has a solid grasp on rhyming production and rhyming perception

tasks and only needs minor literacy maintenance to keep him on track and performing to

standard. Ben is meeting the standards in the Phonological Awareness knowledge


Phonics takes up a large part of the literacy instruction in Ben’s class. I have

observed multiple lessons and determine that the student is progressing, but not yet

achieving the desired performance standard. Daily, he works on Consonant – Vowel –

Consonant (CVC) words. He routinely inserts the incorrect verb when writing the word.

He is good at segmenting, but struggles to blend words on his own. Additionally, he has

difficulty determining the last sound of the word he is given. Overall, in the Phonemic

Awareness domain, Ben requires additional support and interventions to achieve the


While it is part of the teacher’s curriculum, the Sight Word Vocabulary domain is

not injected into Ben’s training with any regularity or frequency. I have heard the teacher

and para-professional mention completing sight word tests and see the children use a

sight word wall to complete assignments, but have not observed any other instruction

using a sight word strategy. I administered a brief sight word test to Ben and one of his

peers using a stack of flashcards. I was surprised to learn that after approximately 25

words, the two students correctly identified five. I can’t help but compare other students

in a different class to Ben and his peer in this domain. I have observed other students in a

different class complete the entire stack of 100 sight word flashcards with ease. It shows

a vast contrast between the phonics and whole language approaches to literacy training.

Reading Comprehension tests are administered regularly through a program

called Accelerated Reader (AR). Ben and his classmates take these tests daily to check

their comprehension of the library books read to them. Students are motivated to take

these tests because they receive treats for every 100 percent score. The AR test is a great

tool for measuring a student’s comprehension skills. Ben does well on them and

demonstrates that he his retaining the story elements. I would say that Ben is exceeding

the standard with regards to reading comprehension if he were routinely taking and

passing the AR tests after reading the book himself. I believe that his scores on the AR

test would be different after reading the books on his own and therefore feel that he is

progressing rather than meeting or exceeding the standard in this domain.

Writing is another element that is routinely practiced and assessed. Mostly, I have

observed Ben writing simple words and not yet constructing sentences of his own. He has

tendencies like others to interchange letters like p, b, d, and q. Overall, his writing is

legible and the words he constructs are generally spelled correctly. There is not much

more data available to correctly assess Ben’s writing skills, therefore future analysis is



The terminal learning objective is to turn every puzzle piece green, meeting or

exceeding all literacy standards. This likely will not occur in a single Kindergarten school

year and most certainly will not happen during the next two months of personalized

instruction. Students learn to read at different levels and an individual, customized

training plan is essential for maximum development. Over the next eight weeks of class,

ideally, I would like to target the sight word vocabulary and the phonemic domains. At

this point, I feel it would be rather difficult to teach sight word vocabulary to one student

in a classroom generally void of this type of instruction. I chose to concentrate my

training focus on phoneme development, specifically in distinguishing the difference in

vowel sounds and the identification of the last sound in words.

A strategy I want to try and employ is the use of hand motions when sounding out

vowels. A student can correlate a body motion with the shape of the letter and the sound

they hear to assist in the identification of the vowel. This multi-sensory style of teaching

has yielded data that indicates it works with those children that are visual learners.

Overtime, identification of the correct vowel and sound will become automatic and the

need to make the hand motion will be eliminated. Fig. 2 below shows the corresponding

hand motion that correlates to the vowel sound. Then, I will use a series of short vowel

training aids, like ladder charts and missing vowel mats to test and evaluate the hand

. practices taught in class.

2 To combat the deficiency in determining the last sound of words, I am going to

continue focusing phonics lessons on segmenting and blending words, but place heavy

emphasis on the last sounds heard. I will use mostly CVC words, but also incorporate

new vocabulary that is new and interesting to the student/s. Classroom instruction will be

reinforced with one-on-one instruction. Informal verbal assessments will be conducted

along with formative assessments via final sound activities and worksheets.

Post-Assessment Results:

Just prior to implementing my strategy for improving phoneme development, the

CT and I talked about the general deficit in sight word recognition proficiency in the

classroom. She expressed a concern that many of her students, including Ben were not

close to the expected level of proficiency within the sight word domain at this point in the

school year. She wanted to shift the training focus to broaden the scope of literacy

development to really concentrate on sight word recognition. Since, I previously

identified an extreme deficit here, I decided to align my strategy with the CT and also

concentrate improvement efforts within the sight word domain. I will address those

results later.

While I shifted most of my training strategy, I did focus briefly on improving the

Phonemic Awareness domain specifically the identification of vowel and last sounds in

CVC words. Interestingly, Ben performed very well on the formative assessments almost

immediately within the eight-week training period. The results of “fill in the blank” and

oral type of assessments indicated that I initially misdiagnosed Ben’s level of proficiency.

Fig. 5 and 6 in the student sample section show an example of the type of performance

Ben provided on these assessments. On the missing vowel worksheet, he answered 11 out

of 12 correctly and on the last sound/letter worksheet he scored a 9 out of 10. Results

such as these indicated that Ben is meeting exceeding performance in this domain. This

was contrary to what I had observed in the very recent past when Ben struggled with like

assessments. The reason for the disparity Ben’s performance became evident as I shifted

training objectives to sight word development.

During sight word training, I frequently observed Ben attempting to segment the

words. When he didn’t immediately recognize and recall a given sight word, he would

attempt to sound it out to determine the correct answer. No matter the number of times he

was told to try and recall the word from memory and not sound it out, he still made it a

habit. Times when he segmented those words, he initially would sound out each letter

correctly (corresponding the letters’ actual sounds, not the sound it makes within the

word). For example, given the word COME, Ben would sound /c/ /o/ /m/ /e/. Then he

would attempt to blend those sounds a few times. When he realized that those sounds did

not produce any discernible word, he would get frustrated and answer with another 4-

letter word that he recalled from memory, often times, a word that sounded nothing like

the word he was given. He may answer with the word PLAY, given the word COME. I

believe the incorrect response is attributable to Ben’s frustration level or low levels of

interest/attention. During the Assessment phase, I attributed Ben’s deficiencies in the

phonemic domain as purely from a lack of literacy proficiency. I now find that Ben meets

or exceeds the standard within the Phonemic Awareness domain because he has

demonstrated this level of performance when he is focused and interested. Further

discussion of these findings is posted in the lessons learned portion of the study.

While not initially part of my training strategy, most of the time was devoted to

improving the Sight Word Awareness domain. The CT employed various strategies, but

primarily focused on the generation of flashcards for repeated training in the classroom

and continued training at home. Ben and I reviewed the flashcards each time I was in

class. I also implemented techniques that would generate and keep his interest in

learning. An example of a type of activity that I employed is shown in Fig. 7. I asked Ben

multiple times if he was reviewing the flashcards at home, and he always answered “no”.

With the added classroom emphasis on sight word development, Ben showed minor

progress. During the Assessment phase, Ben could correctly identify 5 out of 25 sight

words. After the 8-week training period Ben could correctly identify 11 out of 25 sight

words. I find that Ben requires additional support and further interventions to achieve the

standard within the Sight Word domain. My summative analysis is represented in Fig. 3


and 4 below.

gLessons Learned:

I wanted to employ the hand motion concept to assist with the identification of

vowels and their sounds. I believed this multi-sensory approach would help Ben and

prove to be great tool for this purpose. While this style of instruction may have been

useful and have worked, I do not think it was a realistic approach with the consistency of

which I was able to spend time and work with Ben. I believe for this to have been

effectively employed, I would have needed to be in the classroom with more regularity

and instructed its use daily, vice the 1 to 2 times a week I was available for instruction. A

teacher of record could adopt hand motion training with literacy concepts. In the future,

as a student-teacher, I need to adopt strategies for instruction that do not require routine

and consistent emphasis to achieve the learning objectives if such a strategy is not

adopted by the CT.

I identified that Ben had an extreme deficiency in a very important domain, Sight

Word Awareness. I chose to not focus my teaching strategy in this area because I

discovered that many of the students in this class had the same deficiencies and that my

efforts to improve Ben’s sight word proficiency would have been futile considering it is

not practiced in the classroom or at home. Ironically, for the same reason I chose not to

employ the hand motion training, is also the reason I chose to not initially focus on sight

word development. Now, noting that I would go back and include sight word proficiency

in my strategy, is a contradiction. However, any level of improvement to Ben’s sight

word proficiency would have been a gain, and I should have attempted a strategy towards

that goal no matter the level of external support I received.

As previously mentioned, I mistakenly diagnosed that Ben had a lack of literacy

proficiency in the Phoneme Awareness domain when, in fact, a large part of the deficit

should have been assigned to his literacy attitude and interests domains. For example, I

would sometimes observe Ben with his head on the desk during phonics exercises and

have to motivate him to complete the work. In those instances, he would often say that he

didn’t know the correct responses wanting me to provide the answers, or give answers far

from the correct response in an effort to find the most expeditious manner to finish the

assignment and move on. Recently, during a sentence scramble exercise, I noticed that

Ben had arranged the words to form a correct sentence. When I asked him to read the

sentence to me, he stated that he couldn’t because “he can’t read.” I asked him how did

he correctly assembled the sentence if he “couldn’t read” and then asked him to read the

sentence to me again. He then read the sentence to me correctly and with ease. I asked

him why he told me that he can’t read, and he shrugged his shoulders. Examples such as

these indicate that Ben knows how to correctly perform many literacy tasks, but some

barrier exists that prevent him from performing to his full potential. Had I discovered this

information more fully in the assessment phase, I could have targeted strategies towards

breaking those barriers rather than focusing on the phoneme instruction piece. In the

future, I will attempt to complete more in depth assessments to ensure my training

strategy is aligned with the the actual areas of concerns and realize that the initial

diagnosis is not always the correct one.

Student Samples:



Fig. 7


Wren, S., Watts, J. (2002) The Abecedarian Reading Assessment

Retrieved from:

Major, S. K. (February 4, 2016) How to Teach Vowel Sounds so Kids Remember

Child 1st Publications, Retrieved from:

Letter and Sound Identification (2001) MLLP Second Edition

Retrieved from: