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PUZZLE CHILD CASE STUDY

BY SARAH MOTIS
VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY-EDUC 6420
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Puzzle Child Case Study

Introduction

Frozen Elementary School is an urban school located on the outskirts of a southern city.

The three main primary languages at the school are English, Spanish, and Arabic. In total, the

school has 23 primary languages that are spoken. The school has a positive environment for the

students and the teachers. The teachers seem to work well together and collaborate during

Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings. The literacy coach at the school is very

knowledgeable about the school and has built productive relationships with the teachers. Frozen

Elementary uses a balanced literacy program, including time for read-aloud, shared reading,

interactive writing, shared writing, guided reading, writers workshop, and word study.

The fourth-grade classroom being observed is an English Language Learner (EL) support

class both in the morning and in the afternoon. The class is small and includes Arabic and

Spanish speaking students. Some of the students are brand new to the school and some of them

have been there for a year or two. All the students are ELDA (English Language Development

Assessment) levels 1 to 3. The students appear to like their teacher and are open to helping the

other children in the class who speak the same language. The classroom has individual desks for

the students, a large table for guided reading, a carpeted area, and computer work stations. There

is a word wall, student work, and anchor charts on the walls. Observations occurred during the

afternoon when language arts centers/guided reading and whole group instruction were taking

place. The centers included some children dot painting English words, some children working at

the computers, and some children doing guided reading with the teacher. The whole group

instruction was about writing exaggerated sentences. During these observations, most of the
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students seemed to be engaged in the lesson or center work. The focus student for this case study

was often sitting with other Spanish speakers acting as a support.

This case study focuses on a student named Elsa. She is 9 years old and in 4th grade. Her

family is from Honduras and she speaks both Spanish and English. This will be her second full

year at Frozen Elementary. Elsa explained that she only went to school from 8am to 11am in

Honduras, so she did not have as much instructional time. At Frozen Elementary, she is an ELDA

Level 2, which means her English language is emerging. She is in a regular classroom for part of

the time and is part of the above EL classroom for all of her language arts. Before beginning

assessments in the fall, the teacher in the EL classroom said that Elsa was reading on Fountas &

Pinnell Instructional Level G, but she has made a lot of progress throughout the year and is now

reading at Level L. Elsa is a resource for her EL peers. She speaks in Spanish to help her peers

understand directions in the classroom and speaks in English to engage in conversation with her

teacher. She enjoys reading and writing, playing ball, and playing with her baby cousin. Elsa

says she might want to be a teacher or an artist when she grows up.

Pre-test Data. Before beginning intervention, 7 pretests were administered: a Reading

Attitude Survey, Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI) word lists and passages, a writing

assessment, the Single Syllable Decoding Inventory, the Dolch sight word lists, the Phonemic

Awareness Screener Assessment, and a Running Record (Appendix items 1-8). Based on these

pretests, the following information was determined. Elsas was just barely instructional on QRI

First Grade according to her QRI assessments (Appendix items 2-3). She was independent on

primer level word lists and passages, but borderline instructional/frustration on first-grade level.

Based on her comprehension, it was determined that she was instructional on the first-grade

level. She was a Fountas and Pinnell Level I based on her running record in November
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(Appendix item 8). She knew 90% of first grade and 83% of second grade sight words

(Appendix item 6). She scored 80% or above on each section of phonemic awareness (Appendix

item 7).

Areas of Need. The intervention focus areas for Elsa were in decoding, especially r-

controlled vowels, vowel-consonant-e, and vowel teams (Appendix item 5). Another area of need

was her writing structure/handwriting (Appendix item 4). When looking at her writing, she had

one long run-on sentence and she had some backwards bs and ds (Appendix item 4). One other

area of need was fluency/prosody (based on the QRI-Appendix item 3) because she read very

slowly and mostly word by word, with a couple phrases here and there, without expression.

Many of her areas of need were a result of her status as an ELDA 2 (Emerging Language). When

looking at Elsas writing in Spanish, her spelling in Spanish was very good and her weakness in

English spelling may have been a result of the fact that English vowels are a lot more varied and

complex than vowels in Spanish. Most of the assessments took place outside of the classroom at

tables in the hallway or in the literacy coachs book room. Both locations were quiet locations,

which made it easy to work with this student away from distractions.

Summary of Instruction and Response to Intervention

The intervention consisted of 8 lessons (once a week) that were 30 minutes each. During

each lesson, the focus was word study, fluency practice, and writing practice because of the pre-

test assessment data found above. A summary of the materials used for intervention can be found

in Table 1.1 (Note: Only 2 graphic organizers were used during the intervention lessons).
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Table 1.1 Materials Used for Intervention

Books/Passages Used Graphic Organizers Used


Animal Antics (Level H) N/A
Hummingbirds (Level I) N/A For
A Scared Tiger (ReadWorks 1st Grade) Sequencing (First, Next, Last)
The Vacation Surprise (Level J) N/A
Case of the Missing Cheese (1st Grade) Problem/Solution
Green Sea Turtles (Level K) N/A

Poems N/A
word study, the lessons included sorting words, hunting for words in a passage, and practice with

writing words on a whiteboard. For fluency/prosody practice, activities used were repeated

readings and practice with reading with expression. Writing practice included writing

paragraphs, writing using graphic organizers, and writing on a whiteboard. A writing checklist

(Figure 1.1) was used to help the student to self-assess her own writing.

Figure 1.1

There is an example of one of the intervention lessons as Appendix item 9. Throughout the

intervention, repeated assessments were done with Elsa using running records and the writing

checklist above. Elsa did very well on the running records administered. She seemed to go up a

level every time she came for intervention. The writing checklist helped Elsa to remember to

check her writing for complete sentences that made sense, capital letters at the beginning of each

sentence, and punctuation at the end of each sentence. Her fluency (based on rate) on her first

read of a text and on a second read of the text are shown in Figure 1.2.
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Figure 1.2: Fluency Graph (words per minute)

Based on the graph above, Elsa had the fastest rate (words per minute) when reading poetry. She

also read an independent passage faster than instructional passages. Repeated readings definitely

helped her increase her rate as all of her second reads were faster than her first read. The graph

above does not measure prosody. From observation, however, Elsas prosody also improves after

doing repeated readings of a text.

After completing 8 intervention lessons, the following assessments were re-administered:

The Single Syllable Decoding Inventory, a Running Record, a writing assessment, the QRI word

lists and passages, and the Dolch word lists (Appendix items 10-14). It was not necessary to re-

do the Phonemic Awareness Screener Assessment because Elsa performed so well on this test at

the beginning of the year. Assessments were done before, during, and after the intervention in
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order to track Elsas progress. Here is a chart Table 1.2 comparing her performance in the fall to

her performance in the spring:

Table 1.2: Comparing Fall and Spring Assessment Data

Name of Assessment: Fall Performance Spring Performance


Single Syllable Decoding Needed Systematic Instruction of R- Has achieved Mastery for Short Vowels,
Controlled vowels, Vowel-Consonant-E, and Consonant Blends and Digraphs, and R-
Systematic Instruction= 0-10 Correct
Vowel Teams, Needed Review in Controlled Vowels, Needs Review in
Review= 11-15 Correct
Consonant Blends and Digraphs and Short Vowel-Consonant-E and Vowel teams
Mastery= 16-20 Correct
Vowels
Highest Score: 14/20 for Short Vowels Highest Score: 17/20 for Short Vowels
QRI Word Lists/Passages Instructional Level: First Grade Instructional Level: Second Grade
Fluency/Prosody: ORPS Level 1: Reads Fluency/Prosody: ORPS Level 2/3: Reads in
primarily word by word with little phrases with little expression
expression
Running Records Instructional Level: I Instructional Level: L

Dolch Sight Words 90% First Grade Words 100% Second Grade Words
83% Second Grade Words 93% Third Grade Words
Writing Had backwards bs and ds, had one long run No backwards bs and ds, uses complete
on sentence with very little punctuation, and sentences and punctuation (but no commas),
had a lot of spelling errors and spelling is improving

Based on the assessment data, Elsa has made much progress in reading and writing this year! Her

decoding ability is getting much better. She is more confident when reading words, and she

orally explained that she has learned new words from the intervention. Her sight word

knowledge is above her instructional reading level. Her comprehension of both fiction and

nonfiction instructional texts is high based on Appendix item 13 and discussions with the

student. All of her assessment scores have increased from the fall to the spring. The one area

where there was not as much progress was in fluency. Elsas rate is still below what would be

expected for her reading level (Figure 1.2). The expected rate for second grade is closer to 90 to

100 wpm. It is recommended that Elsa continue to get intervention services for fluency/prosody

practice and for continued word study. Even though her decoding ability is getting stronger, Elsa

still needs support in working with vowel-consonant-e words, vowel team words, and

multisyllabic words (Appendix item 10). Towards the end of intervention, the different sounds

that ed can make were a focus of the intervention, but it is recommended that Elsa continue to
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do word study with word endings. Also, Elsa can continue to practice writing, so that she is able

to write longer texts with complete sentences and proper punctuation.

Challenges and Successes

Elsa has responded well to the intervention, but it is not just the intervention that has

contributed to her progress. She is also in an EL language arts classroom every day with a

teacher who is knowledgeable about how to help EL students. She has been successful because

of the intervention paired with her EL class support. She was successful throughout the

intervention because she worked hard, she was able to focus on the activities, and she seemed to

enjoy working one-on-one. Some of the activities that worked the best for her were using graphic

organizers and checklists as a tool for organizing her writing, doing repeated readings, sorting

words, and writing words on a whiteboard.

Some of the challenges while implementing this intervention program were finding

leveled texts that would be appealing to the student, deciding on what to focus the intervention

on, and deciding which activities to include in the lessons. The literacy coach at Frozen

Elementary has a large book room with a variety of leveled texts, but a lot of time was spent

going through the books to find the ones that would most interest the student. I found that the

student enjoyed reading informational texts more than she liked reading stories. Also, it was hard

to figure out what to focus the intervention on each week. I wanted to have a balance between

word study, fluency practice, and writing. It was not always possible to cover all three

successfully. Sometimes the lessons had to be adjusted to fit within the 30-minute block by just

focusing on two of the areas of need. To account for this, I would often try to cover whichever

one was missed in the next lesson. Lastly, it was challenging to figure out which activities would

be most engaging and educational for the student. Class readings and research were consulted to
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decide on what activities might be considered best practices. For the most part, the activities

chosen worked well for the student.

Conclusion and Critical Self-Reflection

I have learned so much from working with Elsa this year! One of the most important

elements of my intervention was assessment. Throughout this project, I have had the opportunity

to use many different kinds of assessments. I liked the Reading Conversation Survey because it

gave a general overview of student attitudes about reading. The Qualitative Reading Inventory

word lists and passages were very helpful for determining my students reading level. I could

also use the QRI in the future as a screening tool to learn about other students use of background

knowledge, miscues while reading, oral prosody, and comprehension. The Single Syllable

Decoding Inventory and the Phonemic Awareness Screener Assessment are both useful screening

tools to see if a child is struggling with decoding or phonemic awareness. Running Records are a

great progress monitoring tool because they can be done informally and can be done often. A

teacher can do a Running Record over the shoulder of a child without it being an actual test.

Running Records help teachers to see which kinds of books a student is reading independently

and allows teachers to see which types of strategies students are using as they read, such as

visual, meaning, and syntactic cues. I think writing assessments are also a valuable tool to see a

childs spelling and to see what they already know about writing. Writing assessments can also

be done informally and can help monitor a childs progress.

Also, I was able to practice writing one-on-one lessons for a student during this project. It

was a different experience than writing whole class lessons because I had to carefully tailor the

instruction to fit my students abilities and interests. In the process of writing and conducting

these lessons, I was able to put some of the activities that I had learned about in class into action.
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I now have a list of various ideas for teaching different facets of reading. I will include this

master list that I have created at the end. It has been helpful for me for planning out my lessons.

In the future, I plan to use what I have learned about assessment and instruction to help

other individual children who struggle with reading and writing. I now have the tools to pinpoint

some of the areas where a student struggles, to provide intervention to address those areas of

growth, and to evaluate whether the intervention works for that student.

Master List of Reading Activities and Ideas

Decoding/Emergent Literacy Strategies:


1. Phonological (chunks of sound)/Phonemic (individual sounds) Awareness
2. Phoneme identity/isolation/blending/segmentation/substitution/deletion
3. Sorting
4. Elkonin boxes
5. Repetitive/Familiar Texts
6. Text Sets (Scaffolding for text complexity)
7. Concepts of Print
8. Create a print rich environment/alphabet scrapbook
9. Read Alouds/Songs/Poems
10. Start with childrens names

Fluency Strategies
1. Decoding and Comprehending Simultaneously
2. Accuracy, Rate, Prosody/Expression, Comprehension
3. Repeated practice
4. Choral Reading
5. Readers Theater
6. Echo Reading
7. Increased time for independent reading
8. Self-regulation/monitoring

Comprehension Strategies
1. Close Reading
2. Looking for Text Features/Text Structure
3. Predicting
4. Finding the Main Idea/Big Idea
5. Using Background Knowledge
6. Visualizing
7. Retelling/Summarizing
8. Making Connections
9. Asking Questions
10. Inferences
11. Using Graphic Organizers
12. Character Analysis/Point of View
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Vocabulary Strategies
1. Vocabulary Games
2. Repeated exposure/practice
3. Semantic Mapping
4. Intentional instruction
5. Teach about Morphology- roots and affixes
6. Cognate Instruction for EL students
7. Careful Selection of Vocabulary
8. Integrated Across Subjects
9. Different types of Academic Language
10. Vocabulary skits or cartoons

Culturally Relevant/ELL Strategies


1. Culturally Relevant Books/Books in L1 (www.uniteforliteracy.com)
2. Label items in the classroom in multiple languages
3. TRANSLATE activity
4. Grouping students by L1 or L1/English grouping
5. Visuals/Gestures
6. Survey students
7. Involve families in learning about other cultures
8. Display objectives
9. Give sentence starters and graphic organizers
10. WIDA supports
11. Role-Play