Monitoring Literacy Learning

By Winn, Judith A.; Otis-Wilborn, Amy | Teaching Exceptional Children, September/October 1999 | Go to article overview

Monitoring Literacy Learning


Winn, Judith A., Otis-Wilborn, Amy, Teaching Exceptional Children


How Do I Know My Students

Are Becoming Better Readers and Writers?

Alice Jean has learned how to identify all upper-case letters of the alphabet, and is developing skills in matching spoken word to print.

Alvin is aware of print in the environment, and is just developing awareness of book parts.

Devon is working on his upper- and lower-case letters, and is just beginning to be aware of different purposes of print.

Wouldn't it be helpful to have a system to show the progress students are making toward their learning objectives? A monitoring system can help you make adjustments in your teaching throughout the year to meet students' learning needs. Additionally, the sytsem can help meet mandates for accountability?

With the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), special education teachers are becoming increasingly accountable for students' progress, especially in relation to the general education curriculum. At the same time that accountability demands are rising, teachers are learning about alternatives to standardized tests in assessing students' learning (Leslie & Jett-Simpson, 1997; LopezReyna & Bay, 1997; Neill, 1997; Pike & Salend, 1995).

In this article, we outline a process for developing a monitoring system for assessing students' learning. The system assumes that although you, the special education teacher, may not work directly with each student on your caseload, you still are responsible for monitoring all students' learning and development in areas targeted in each student's individualized education program (IEP) and within your purview. The monitoring system we outline here is for literacy learning, but the process can be applied to learning in all areas. We present the process for developing a monitoring system in three phases: establishing learning targets, developing procedures, and refining the system.

Phase I

Establishing Learning Targets--

The "What" in Your

Monitoring System

Learning targets in literacy are the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that you have determined are important for your students to develop. The learning targets are based on your understanding of literacy development, of curriculum, and of your particular students in relation to literacy learning.

We suggest you start with the general education literacy curriculum in identifying learning targets. Many of the newer basal series have extensive objectives to guide instruction. Other literacy programs besides basals also have clear, development-based objectives. Talk with the general education teacher about the objectives that are part of his or her instruction. If the teacher has designed a program based on trade books or children's literature, clarify the expected learning outcomes. From the objectives and outcomes you gather, identify as learning targets those objectives that are appropriate for your students, as follows:

Some of your students may receive all of their literacy instruction with their general education peers. For these students, many of the learning targets for their peers would be appropriate learning targets for them, also.

Other students may participate in some of the general education program but also receive intensive instruction from you, using different instructional programs, approaches, or materials.

Finally, some students may receive all of their literacy instruction in an intensive manner outside of the general education program.

Make sure the learning targets you have selected from the general education program and from intensive instruction reflect reading and writing development along established continuum and are not a haphazard collection of skills and knowledge. Use your district's literacy curriculum goals or published developmental frameworks to check the targets you have established for your monitoring system. …

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