Early intervention producing gains for kindergarteners

Using iPads to collect and track data in real time has helped educators in western Sydney develop an early intervention program for youngsters entering Kindergarten.

Holy Family Primary School, Granville East, is home to students representing more than 30 nationalities. Assistant Principal Ben Munday says four years of Smarter Schools National Partnerships [SSNP] funding has seen the school make 'great gains' in the areas of community engagement, EAL pedagogy and use of ICT.

In 2013 (the final year of SSNP funding) staff worked with a speech pathologist to better understand language and learning delays in students. When enrolment interviews for 2014 again raised concerns that many children entering Kindergarten may be ‘at risk’, Munday started to think about an action research project to break the cycle.

He teamed up with K-2 Coordinator Natalie Bratby to plan and lead a project drawing on data collected by class teachers and learning support teachers during three Kindergarten orientation sessions in mid-Term 4, 2013.

With around 60 children attending each session and six staff carrying out observations, a system was developed whereby data could be recorded, updated and viewed simultaneously.

'It was a simple job for me to set up a spreadsheet with conditional formatting that colour coded the cells when a numerical value was entered: 1 is green, all ok; 4 is red, red alert, and so on,' Munday explains. 'It allowed us to track in real time, during sessions, which students had been observed and who still needed to be seen.

'Most importantly, it enabled us to debrief and discuss immediately after each session with everyone’s data already populating the spreadsheet and the qualitative observations fresh in mind. It also enabled us to see which students we needed to target in the next session.’

Educators accessed one spreadsheet on iPads using Google Drive. 'Through SSNP funding, all teachers had been supplied with an iPad for instructional and assessment use, and the school had recently begun using Google Apps for Education – all CEO Parramatta schools had,' Munday says.

Using iPads to collect data in real time is producing gains.

Image © Shutterstock/Tom Wang

'During the [data] analysis we found that applying simple filters to the spreadsheet enabled us to identify trends and prioritise needs.'

Students needing further support were invited to three 'Jump Up' orientation sessions featuring reading response and pre-school English and maths activities. Lead Teacher ICT Tim Butt also worked with the Assistant Principal to create a 'Get Your Child Ready for School' fridge poster summarising information from the Royal Children's' Hospital, Melbourne on evidence-based approaches.

The project has had several benefits – including no tears on the first day of Kindergarten. 'The children who were socially and emotionally vulnerable at orientation had already developed a relationship with at least one of their teachers and me,' Munday says.

Teachers have also reported that their knowledge of students is better than ever before, enabling them to plan appropriate Term 1 activities. Munday adds educators also gained valuable insights into the family lives of students during the additional ‘Jump Up’ sessions.

Data from Early Years Assessment (EYA) in the first weeks of Kindergarten validated observations from the orientation and ‘Jump Up’ sessions. In Term 2, Record of Oral Language assessments will be carried out - starting with those identified as being 'at risk' in the EYA to enable fast tracking of full language assessments for those in need.

Munday and colleagues shared details of their action research project with delegates at EPPC (Excellence in Professional Practice Conference) earlier this month. Visit www.acerinstitute.edu.au/conferences/eppc for more information.

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