DIBELS on the Brain

When the Middle of the Year DIBELS benchmarks roll along, I will have been the DIBELS coordinator for my school for two years.  My word, have I learned a lot about these tests!

I always have known the skills tested were important for kids to be great readers, but I didn't really know more than that.  DIBELS tests are meant to look at the "Big Ideas In Early Literacy" (indicated by the National Reading Panel's report), which are phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, accuracy and fluency with text, vocabulary, and comprehension.  I always send this link to my parents so they can understand first of all, what is DIBELS, and second of all, why the skills the  DIBELS tests assess are important.  That was a tongue twister!
Since I started teaching, I have always had my students complete bellwork.  They have been trained from day one to follow the morning procedure, and then get started on their bellwork.  During this time, I take attendance, hear random stories from my students, and pull students for RTI.  Before I begin a new type of bellwork, I always walk them through the process so they can feel comfortable doing the work independently.
I start my kindergartners with first sound bellwork, because I want to give them practice hearing the first sounds in words and they also get some extra phonics practice because they have to write the letter as well.

The kids cut and glue (which is an important skill on its own) the picture in the correct column.  Before they get started, I go over all of the pictures at the bottom.  I ask if there are any questions.  After the questions have been answered, if a student needs to know what a picture is, they have to ask their neighbor.


The back side was formatted so the paper could be double sided.  There is a space at the bottom because the kids cut it off on the other side.  I'm weird about saving paper.  Again, before I get started, I explain all of the pictures, and if the kids have any questions after my explanation, they need to ask a neighbor.
We then transition into the vowel challenge bellwork.  We use this bellwork through the rest of first quarter and the first few weeks of second quarter.

 It steps it up a bit, because it moves from just writing the first sound to writing the vowel sound to full phonemic segmentation.

The front side of the paper looks exactly the same as the first set, so the kids already feel very comfortable with the format.

I also have them sort by short and long vowel sounds, which is a common core standard.

The move from writing the medial sound...

to full phonemic segmentation.  Again, the pages are formatted so they can be copied double sided.
 It has the kids use their letter sound knowledge and the spelling rules we have studied.  We start with simple CVC words, and then move into CVCE words and then even tougher words.  We always check our work before we start our day, and I love how I can see the light bulb illuminate, and then hear, "Mrs. McCleary, I see a phonogram!"  If I had a quarter for every time I heard that, I wouldn't need to work; however, it is SO incredibly rewarding when the kids make those connections.
When we begin entering words into our spelling notebook (which will happen in two weeks), I change the bellwork again.  We start working on DIBELS skills for the middle of the year tests (nonsense words, letter naming, phonemic segmentation, first sound fluency).  In my opinion, the kids need to understand that nonsense words won't make sense when they sound them.  This is kind of an odd thought when we always ask them, "Does that sound right?"  So, I want them to understand the words don't make sense.  I have seen my scores increase and my students' reading skills improve since I've started using them.
So, I combined DIBELS skill practice with the kids practicing their spelling words.  I teach at a Spalding school, so the lists are aligned with the kindergarten spelling lists.  Even if you don't teach at a Spalding school, the words come from the Ayres list of high frequency words, and the extra practice will be beneficial for your students.


This is the front side of the page.  The format does not change through the end of the year.  The sentence at the bottom of the page becomes more difficult as the year progresses.

This page format is used on days one through three.  The kids "rainbow write" their spelling words twice.  They add the missing letter, and they copy the sentence.  For the higher kids, I am going to have them write their own sentence using the words at the top of the page.  As the year progresses (the third set of bellwork), all kids have to write their own sentence.

Day four is a word scramble.  I let them work with a neighbor to unscramble the words.  The kids have a blast and really learn to work together well.

Day five is a word search.  I was hesitant to use it at first; however, once I teach the kids how to complete a word search, they really do a great job.  I let them work with a friend on this as well.  They love it, and they LOVE to find hidden words that are not on the list.

Start with this set.

This is really the second set (now).  I went back and created the file with lists 1-5.


This is really part three now.
My students grow so much throughout the year because of this extra practice.  Their spelling improves.  Their writing improves.  I am so thankful for this (and the few extra minutes it gives me in the morning to get my clerical duties done).
Thanks for stopping by! 










2 comments :

  1. What a great way to have your littles practicing these important skills without really impacting instructional time, since it's bell work! And I love that you send parents a link to explain things - all of these assessments can be such a mystery!
    xo Pam
    Hedgehog Reader

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  2. These are great activities! I love the simple pictures and directions.

    Debbie

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