How do schools in disadvantaged communities manage to ensure the successful development of early writing skills during the transition from kindergarten to elementary school?
Five Québec school boards named schools that model ways to achieve this.
By examining data on teaching practices and organization and collaboration models, and on student spelling skills between the end of kindergarten and Grade 1, this study has provided some answers.
The students already demonstrate an understanding of the alphabetic principle by the end of kindergarten.
Kindergarten teachers conduct at least one writing activity every day. These may involve learning the letters and their sounds or reading and writing words and short texts, using stories, rhymes, writing projects and a variety of games. In Grade 1, these activities are continued and expanded revisited using the same approaches and the same material. Such continuity is no accident in these schools. Teacher meetings to align practices, instructional leadership of the school administration, monitoring of students by a resource teacher as soon as they enter school, high expectations towards students: all of these elements have proved to play an essential role.
The findings also show that the students already demonstrate an understanding of the alphabetic principle by the end of kindergarten. In Grade 1, they come close to standard spelling when writing very complex words (chapeau, cerise, épouvantail). Although the schools are all situated in highly disadvantaged areas, the knowledge and skills development of these young writers indicates that their early writing learning has been successful.
Catherine Turcotte, Université du Québec à Montréal
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Deposit of the research report: June 2016