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SLP Corner: The Common Core–Informal Kindergarten Math Vocabulary Assessment

Editor’s Note:   This article excellently  reminds us that with great change can come even greater language and vocabulary challenges for some of our students.    Thank you Ruth for having your head up and going above and beyond as always!
by Ruth Morgan CCC-SLP
Service delivery for my kids has changed over the decades—now for my regular education kids, I try to go into the classroom as much as possible.  Often, there are strategies and a little coaching that needs done and the child is able to do reasonably well, or at least participate in the curriculum with his peers.  With the old familiar curriculum, the NC Standard Course of Study, I felt like the classroom was a comfortable place to go–I knew the expectations and I knew how to help.
Then things changed, rather abruptly, with the introduction of the Common Core.  I’m not anti-common core, but I’m finding that for the two curriculum areas–language arts and math, there are lofty language and verbal problem solving expectations, and my kids, with language deficits and vocabulary difficulties, struggle mightily.  Someone like the teachers and me needs to fill in the holes, but what are the holes to fill?  Teachers struggle with appropriate interventions, not knowing how to easily find the gaps in prior learning.
Often when I go into the classrooms now during math, the teachers are so intent on teaching the higher level thinking skills to the class, my children are left in the dark, since they lack the understanding of some of the basic concepts which are being used in classroom discussions.
Somewhere, in someone’s blog, I read about this resource, Vocabulary for the Common Core, and being in need such a book, I purchased it (with my own money, of course. Don’t get me started on the lack of instructional funding in NC!).  This is full of vocabulary lists arranged by topics both in language arts and math by grade level K-12. I can now begin to fill in gaps in my children’s learning!
A current student of mine is in the first grade and struggling in math, and so to assist the teacher in creating math interventions, I have started with kindergarten math vocabulary lists from this book and created an informal Common Core vocabulary assessment to determine if this child understands kindergarten language concepts (prerequisites to his current first grade placement).  Words in this assessment include ‘first’ ‘last’ ‘part’ ‘whole’ ‘addition’ ‘subtraction’ ‘rectangle’ and ‘number line’ (plus others).  Another skill was whether the student could verbally compare two different shapes. I did not include concepts introduced in first grade (since my child is in first grade, the teacher should be instructing him at that level), nor did I include items that solely seemed ‘math’ such as counting, computation, and identifying numbers. I also left off words pertaining to measurement. Prepositions were not included since I have another assessment for that.  These concepts here seemed to be the most commonly occurring concepts out of the kindergarten math list in Marzano’s book.

Screen shots from my assessment are shown here. I did try it out on my little guy in first grade, and glaring deficits became readily apparent.  How can he begin to comprehend ‘part-part-whole’ for addition, when he doesn’t understand ‘part’?   (e.g. When asked to color part of a square, he traced it.  When asked to color the whole square, he traced it again.)
Take a look at this for yourself.  I plan on posting a 1st grade math common core vocabulary assessment soon.
The teacher of this student in question was so excited about this because it gave her a starting place for interventions in the classroom and it gave me some easily identifiable concepts to work on.  That made me happy 🙂
Click here to download the informal common core math vocabulary kindergarten assessment.
About the Author:   Ruth Morgan is a speech-language pathologist who works for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools at Ephesus Elementary School.  She loves her job and enjoys writing about innovative ways to use the iPad in therapy, gluten-free cooking, and geocaching adventures.
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