Many students enter Kindergarten already knowing some letter names. Letter names are widely taught in homes and preschools, on educational television, and by educational toys and games. Knowing the letter names, however, is no guarantee that students have phonemic awareness (knowing the sounds the letters represent) that leads to accurate phoneme-to-grapheme mapping, a critical component of early reading instruction.
Letter Naming Fluency (LNF) is a standardized, individually administered test within mCLASS with DIBELS 8th edition used as an indicator of risk for reading difficulty rather than an instructional target. The ability to recognize and name letters in preschool and at the beginning of kindergarten is a strong predictor of later reading achievement (e.g., Badian, 1995; Walsh, Price, & Gillingham, 1988). Prior to formal education, some students have the benefit of being exposed to words, stories, and books. In those cases, caretakers often teach the alphabet and letter names, particularly those associated with the child’s name. Students who do not demonstrate this ability may be at risk for later reading difficulties; thus, performance on LNF is included within the DIBELS Composite Score in kindergarten and first grade.
However, studies have failed to show that teaching letter names to students enhances their reading ability (e.g., Ehri, 1983) and, in fact, have demonstrated that successful learning of letter-sound correspondences that lead to reading acquisition can occur without the knowledge of letter names (Bruck, Genesee, & Caravolas, 1997; Mann & Wimmer, 2002).
The LNF measure at the beginning of the year does not assume students have had previous letter-naming instruction, whether in Amplify Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) or any other program. If students' DIBELS LNF and Composite Scores indicate that they are at-risk for reading difficulty, teachers should use data on the priority skills assessed by DIBELS to plan instruction for students, and should not plan to emphasize letter naming for the purpose of raising LNF scores. This prioritization of skills is in direct alignment with CKLA, which, particularly in kindergarten, focuses on the use of letter sounds over letter names. The DIBELS 8th Edition Composite Score takes into account performance on each measure and places a substantial weighting on the Nonsense Fluency score.
If students respond to the activities in Kindergarten CKLA units by calling the letters by names, instead of sounds, please gently redirect them; for example say, “That’s the letter name. Can you tell me the sound we have been practicing?”
Note that while letter names are not utilized in the initial units of Kindergarten CKLA instruction, they are introduced in Unit 6. By that unit, students have learned many letter sounds, and since letter names are no longer likely to interfere with decoding, letter names are introduced.
Please note that this is not to say that teachers should discourage parents from instructing their children at home. But in the classroom, LNF does not yield a high return on investment when providing targeted remediation for students that are already at risk.
If you need additional clarification or support, feel free to reach out. We would love to help you feel more confident in your understanding and prepared in your response to staff and/or parents. You can reach the Educational Support Team Monday through Friday via the following options:
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