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Responsive Evaluation: Implementation of Saxon Phonics and Spelling - K

A REPORT TO: ABC Elementary School

March 27, 2013

Multi-sensory approach engaging visual,

auditory, and tactile senses

Responsive Evaluation: Implementation of Saxon Phonics and Spelling K

Elementary schools have the important role of laying the groundwork for creating successful students. Elementary school teachers must educate students on many competencies including social, behavioral, and instructional skills. Schools are responsible for teaching students fundamental skills in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten which will carry them throughout life. One of the most essential skills that young children need to develop is that of reading. How does a teacher know if the program they use to teach reading is effective? How can one gauge the successful implementation of a reading program? These questions are answered as an investigation is conducted at ABC Elementary School.

Various methods and programs are used to teach reading to students. One program that is used at ABC Elementary School is Saxon Phonics and Spelling K (Saxon Publishers, 2005). To gain insight into the implementation of Saxon Phonics and Spelling K (Saxon Phonics) at ABC Elementary School, focus group meetings were conducted with Kindergarten teachers who have been using this program since the 2009-2010 school year and with related instructional personnel who support the Kindergarten teachers classroom implementation of the program (C. Gravely, personal communication, October 5, 2012) . Information provided by focus groups indicated strengths and areas for probable improvement in the implementation of the program. This evaluation investigated the classroom practices in regard to program implementation. Also, student data was reviewed to determine the effectiveness of the program.

An evaluation was led at ABC Elementary School to determine the effectiveness of a supplemental phonics and reading program which teaches phonemic awarenessSaxon Phonics and Spelling K. In the pages which follow, a detailed program description of Saxon Phonics is detailed, which includes the background of the program implementation at ABC Elementary School. Then, a review of the literature on fundamental reading skills and approaches are outlined. These skills are organized into four themes: (a) pre-literacy skills, (b) phonics approach, (c) whole language approach, and (d) eclectic approach. Finally, the proposal for carrying out the evaluation is shared, as well as a report of the researchers findings.

ABC Elementary School

March 27, 2013

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The evaluand is the implementation of Saxon Phonics and Spelling K at ABC Elementary School. The primary goal of the [Saxon Phonics and Spelling K] program is for all kindergartners to be able to recognize and know the primary sounds of all the letters of the alphabet (Simmons, p. 7). The program is designed to be implemented early in the school year. All students are screened using the pre-assessments to identify each childs phonological and phonemic awareness. There are 140 lessons spread across 35 weeks. The instructional overview of the program states that students need to review all letters of the alphabet. Ensuring that students have time to practice these skills every day is crucial to the validity of the program. The Saxon Phonics program includes (a) the controlled vocabulary and practice, (b) the annotated bibliography, (c) coding, (d) spelling, (e) assessments, (f) pacing, (g) handwriting, and (h) reading fluency (Simmons, 2006).

The controlled vocabulary uses letters, letter clusters, and sounds that have been instructed throughout the program and reinforces concepts as they are taught. The annotated bibliography helps the teacher find appropriate literature resources to reinforce concepts taught in a lesson. Coding is used so readers can identify common vowel patterns and clusters. Spelling is a part of the Saxon Phonics program that teaches spelling rules as well as spirals throughout the duration of the lessons. The program also teaches simple sight words and words that do not follow the typical spelling rules. Assessments are used to determine how well students are learning concepts and should be used as diagnostic tools to guide remediation. Pacing can vary amongst classrooms based on the pre-assessments. Teachers can slow or accelerate the pace of the program as needed. Handwriting is a component of the program; however, the Saxon Phonics and Spelling K program accommodates varying handwriting styles. Reading fluency is necessary for students to develop reading comprehension skills. The program provides a separate fluency instruction booklet to guide how this should be taught (Simmons, 2006).

Saxon Phonics and Spelling K has several components to support its implementation. It includes the (a) teacher manual, (b) classroom materials, (c) student materials, and (d) optional components. The teacher manual is broken into three volumes and is housed in binders. Two of the binders include the scripts for the lessons as well as the resources to provide extra practice. The third binder is the teacher resource binder. The teachers manual also includes lesson booklets for each of the 140 lessons. The lessons have been designed in a sequential order so it is imperative that a lesson is not skipped or taught in a different order than stated. The classroom materials include decks of review cards that are available that are used for students to practice daily during teacher directed activities. The review decks include letter cards, picture cards, spelling cards, and sight word cards. Additional classroom materials include three kid card decks used for individualized practice and remediation, alphabet wall cards, syllable division wall cards, vowel rule wall cards, spelling rule wall cards, color and number posters, and classroom management posters. An audio cassette tape that allows the student to hear letter and letter cluster sounds is also available. Student materials include laminated alphabet handwriting strips that students can refer to as a reference. Letter tiles for students to use to practice spelling, letter recognition, and alphabetizing are available. Worksheets and homework are provided to introduce concepts and reinforce learned skills. Decodable readers are introduced once every other week to teach print awareness, vocabulary, and to check childrens understanding of taught skills. Initially they are used in small or whole group and then students use them to read independently (Simmons, 2006). There are several optional components available but not all are used by ABC Elementary School. The components used are the handwriting masters which provide practice in forming capital and lower case letters. Leveled fluency readers are used to engage students in fluency practice.

Systematically distributed instruction, practice, and assessment


Problem Statement/Current Issue or Situation

Research was conducted at ABC Elementary School to determine the effectiveness of a supplemental phonics and reading program which teaches phonemic awarenessSaxon Phonics. ABC Elementary School uses Saxon Phonics to assess, teach, and reinforce phonemic awareness and spelling. Teachers can adjust the pace of their curriculum based on the needs of the classroom as determined by pre-assessments. Optional components are not consistently used in the kindergarten classrooms at ABC Elementary School. However, the core instructional components of Saxon Phonics are implemented consistently across the grade level. Saxon Phonics is funded through textbook funds and the Title I grant. It is overseen by the school Principal, the Director of Instruction, and the Division Superintendent of ABC Public Schools. This program is supplemental to the basal reading program.

The target audience at ABC Elementary School is the entire kindergarten population. The stakeholders include (a) ABC County School Board, (b) division leaders, (c) principal, (d) teachers, (e) students, (f) parents, and (g) related instructional personnel. ABC County School Board and division leaders are involved by overseeing the results of the program. The school principal is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the program. The teachers implement the program at the classroom level with fidelity. The students receive the benefits of the program and parents are involved with the homework and reinforcement. Finally, the related instructional personnel provide instructional support to the classroom teachers during implementation (C. Gravely, Personal Communication, October 5, 2012). The research to be conducted will help determine the effectiveness of the implementation of the Saxon Phonics program at ABC Elementary School.

New skills introduced by building upon

previously taught concepts

Historical Considerations

Saxon Phonics was originally purchased and piloted in kindergarten during the 2008-2009 school year to remediate and teach target skills in the areas of phonemic awareness and phonics. Full implementation across the school division began during the 2009-2010 school year. Prior to that, it had been implemented in a special education classroom as well as a second grade classroom by teachers who were concerned about the low reading levels of their students. The gains noticed in student performance after using this program warranted pilot implementation at lower levels. There was training provided to all teachers in 2009 by the Houghton-Mifflin Company which owns the Saxon Phonics program. Follow up training was also provided during the year to ensure proper program