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Toddler today, Tolstoy tomorrow?

Date: 11/15/2013



Alvernia education professor Kathleen Muzevich is helping chart a path for talented writers beginning in ... gulp, kindergarten.

When she first started working as a reading supervisor in a public school district in eastern Pennsylvania nearly two decades ago, Kathleen Muzevich, Ed.D., assistant professor of education at Alvernia, loved watching children’s language develop.

“Language acquisition of children, both oral and written, fascinates me — how writing emerges from scribbles to words, to phrases and then to sentences,” Muzevich says. “At the kindergarten and first-grade age, children are just so interested in language, and they grow by leaps and bounds as they work to acquire the conventions of the English language,” she says.

But despite her fascination, Muzevich, who now teaches reading and language arts methods courses at Alvernia, noticed a problem: In public school, students did not receive a formal writing assessment until fifth grade — years after they dotted their first I and crossed their first T.

“Fifth grade is just too late for a first writing assessment — children destined to become talented writers will show evidence of their gifts as young as kindergarten and first grade,” she says.

And so the wheels began to turn.

Muzevich, who has taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels, and held various administrative positions, including assistant principal and principal, believes strongly in the importance of assessing children to determine which teaching steps should be engaged in to maximize classroom instruction. An important part of this assessment is an evaluation of writing.

After all, says Muzevich, recognition of early writing aptitude is important because the sooner teachers can nurture this talent, the better. And the sooner problems are identified, the sooner they can be addressed.“Some early signs of writing talent will be quick understanding of the mechanics of writing, such as capitalization, punctuation and spelling,” says Muzevich. “On a higher level, these children will demonstrate their giftedness through advanced vocabularies and the way they form sentences — what we refer to as ‘voice’ and ‘tone.’”

Muzevich’s specific ideas for how to assess writing come from her practical experiences working with teachers and students as well as her in-depth research into emergent writing processes.

Through her experiences working with teachers and students, Muzevich started to shape a rubric that would become her research focus for years to come; a tool that fills the need for an effective assessment of children’s writing early in their educational careers.

The culmination of Muzevich’s experience in teaching, administration and research on the best ways to measure writing skill is a new book, “Evaluating Children’s Emergent Writing.” “Teachers can use the book to assess their K-1 children’s writing and guide their teaching, as well as to help them share information with parents in easily understood terms,” Muzevich says.

>> Read the full story in Alvernia Magazine

Dr. Muzevich photo

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