Making the Most of Opportunities:

Close-Up Views of a SAGE Program

A Report of the Collaborative Action Research Project of the SAGE Program

at Webster Stanley Elementary School, Oshkosh, WI, 1999-2000

Lisa Bucholtz

First-grade teacher

Research Question

How can I promote literacy development in my students when they are not in direct instruction with me? (when they are at literacy centers or at home). Since becoming a first grade teacher, I have come to realize first graders need small group instruction at their own levels on a regular basis. I was able to provide this, but I needed other quality activities for the rest of the students to do. I felt the part of literacy development that was in my direct control was of high quality, but that which was not in my direct control left something to be desired. I aimed to fix that.

Research Methods

My primary source of data was my own personal journal, which I wrote in two to three times per week. A university professor came in to take observation notes and a research assistant came in to videotape the classroom monthly. This assistant also interviewed the children. Parents were given a survey regarding the literacy training night and were given the opportunity to comment on each take-home packet that went home.

Lisa Bucholtz has guided reading lessons with small groups of students during literacy centers.

Classroom Make-Up

The class consisted of eight boys and seven girls. Twelve children were European American and three children were Hmong. The Hmong children were all classified as Limited English Speaking and received ESL services one time per week. One child had apraxia and was not able to coordinate her muscle movements necessary to produce the sounds of speech consistently. Two students were involved in Reading Recovery and six students were in the title I program. An additional child required speech and language for part of the year, but was put on monitor due to great progress. Eight students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds as is calculated using the district's free and reduced lunch formula.

Main Findings

Several main findings were made during this project. Children had to be explicitly taught how to use a center system. This instruction was a slow process and took many weeks. This alone was not enough. I found procedures and routines had to be reviewed and revisited. In addition, when routine was disrupted it took its toll on the process. This project was constantly evolving and changing. I struggled with control and evaluation issues. I also found that a variety of centers were needed. It was very interesting to find most of the children knew what they were supposed to do at the centers, but they had a wide range of metacognition as to why they did the centers. There were many factors contributing to the children's success. I feel the biggest component was the daily, quality, small-group instruction. This could not have happened, however, if the children had not learned how to work independently at the literacy centers.

A student looks for words with a specific sound around the room to read during literacy centers.

SAGE Program