Our teachers at FUMP do an amazing job of getting to know each child on an individual level. While in the classroom, they are carefully observing children’s growth and development. Those observations are the basis for two things: monitoring each child’s progression through their developmental milestones, and for selecting curriculum and activities that support their current development.
This year, as a benefit of our Texas Rising Star program participation, we received a grant to use the Teaching Strategies Gold Observation and Assessment Program. TS Gold is a comprehensive system for tracking children’s development from birth to third grade. It includes a full list of developmental milestones for children in each developmental domain: social-emotional, physical, language, and cognitive (which includes literacy and mathematics). Each of the domains is broken down into objectives with descriptors and examples of what the teachers observe in the classroom setting.
During our fall parent conferences, it is really a time for us to learn more about your child from you. It is a getting acquainted time together. Also, we will share some of our preliminary observations about your child, using some of the objectives and descriptors that we are onboarding with TS Gold.
PLEASE NOTE: The wording of the objectives may sound more “academic” – for lack of a better word. Some of the headings make it seem that we are holding high expectations for children. For example, Objective 19 states “Demonstrates writing skills.” If you read that, you may think that FUMP is starting to give handwriting instruction. Fear not! Let me show you how TS Gold looks from the teacher’s experience.
The colored squares to the left indicate the corresponding color for each age group. The chart below is the descriptor that illustrates what “demonstrating writing skills” looks like in the classroom.
For each objective there are age-appropriate descriptors for each age group, with overlapping items as children develop different domains at different rates. This means that a three year old may be in the stages of controlled scribbling, or using letter-like forms, or writing letter strings – and all are within typical developmental expectations. If your child is running ahead of schedule, we can track that as well. And through the school year, the teachers can take capture that progress in TS Gold.
While “Demonstrating Writing Skills” as a toddler objective sounds daunting when it stands alone, TS Gold has robust descriptions that quantify exactly what a young child should be doing. Please know that we are NOT changing our child-centered, developmental curriculum. This program just provides a framework for what the teachers are already observing in the classroom.
All of this being said, this is our onboarding year for TS Gold. The teachers and I are in agreement that their time in the classrooms is more about making connections and fostering discovery and creativity; that comes first. Alongside that, our teachers are collecting observations of children’s development. While they may do this with a pen and paper, we will begin to use classroom tablets to take photos or mark progress when able. Use of tablets will be limited during the school day, with the majority of the documentation to be done before and after school, as each teacher has 45-60 minutes of paid planning time each day. Also, the tablets will be restricted to three websites: TS Gold, Sandbox software, and the FUMP website.
It is going to be a change for us, and we are implementing this very slowly to find the right balance for this new system’s place within our walls. I am very open to feedback as it moves forward, so please let me know your thoughts. Change is all at once exciting and nerve-wracking. We will move forward and see if this tool is right fit for us.