To monitor 1st-graders’ progress in beginning writing, a new study in Exceptional Children says having students write sentences with picture-word prompts every week for 8-9 consecutive weeks is one of the best ways to make sure young students are on track. This curriculum-based measure (CBM) is a reliable indicator of students’ current performance and can show growth over a relatively short period, the researchers write.
“The picture-word task appeared most sensitive to growth in brief periods, yielding slopes that were significantly greater than 0 within 4 weeks,” the researchers write.
The study took place in 2 schools in a large Midwestern urban school district. Participants included 85 students in 5 1st-grade classrooms from the 2 schools. Participants completed several CBM tasks over a 12-week period: Every week, the students completed sentence-copying tasks and responded to picture-word prompts. Every 2 weeks, students responded to story prompts. Words and sentences were taken from the Houghton Mifflin curriculum used in the school district.
For the sentence-copying task, students were given packets of 8 pages with 3 sentences on each page. Each sentence had no more than 7 words and each word no more than 7 letters. Students were told to copy the sentences on the lines below and to stop after 3 minutes.
Picture-word prompts consisted of words with a picture above each word. The words and pictures were printed on the left of the page with 2 rows of lines printed beside them. For 3 minutes, students wrote sentences using the words provided.
For the story-prompt task, children were read the prompt, given 30 seconds to think about what they would write and then given 5 minutes to write as much as they could in response. Each prompt was printed at the top of a sheet of paper. Students were given 6 story prompts over the 12-week period, one for every other week.
“Curriculum-Based measures of Beginning Writing: Technical Features of the Slope,” by Kristen McMaster et al., Exceptional Children, Volume 77, Number 2, pp. 185-206.