Edgemont adds fundamentals to literacy curriculum

Seely Place Elementary School reading teacher Jessica Leonard works with students during the school day’s “What I Need” class period.

The teaching of reading fundamentals is the new focus for elementary classrooms in Edgemont Schools. ‘Word Study’ and ‘Intervention’ are front and center in the district’s new literacy program, which launched this year.

“Word study” is an “umbrella” term to describe the focus teachers will have on vocabulary, spelling and phonics, Edgemont’s Director of Curriculum Michael Curtin told the board of education Oct. 30.

In previous years, Curtin explained, the district had “higher level goals” for students, such as reading comprehension and making inferences from the text.

The new approach will give students foundations in actually understanding what certain words mean.

According to Curtin, kindergarten and first-grade teachers will be the first to use a program called Fundations that will help with the new word study focus.

After evaluating how effective the Fundations program is, the district will consider adding it in second-grade curriculum.

The second component, intervention, will provide extra help for students who need it and will reduce the stigma associated with that extra help.

The intervention method is facilitated by the Edgemont Elementary Schools’ new schedule this year, which allows as many students as possible to have time for physical education, eating lunch together and taking extracurricular classes such as art.

Embedded in the new schedule, Curtin said, is a time for students who attend special classes, such as band or speech pathology.

Previously, students might have had to leave regular instruction periods to attend a special class, and, if a student were to need extra help with reading, they would have to leave the classroom during English lessons to meet with the extra help teacher. This prevented them from being with their classmates during lessons and also placed a potentially unwanted spotlight on their reading level.

However, the new intervention portion of the school day — also known as the “What I Need” period — allows students who are not progressing as quickly as their peers to stay in class with their friends during the English lesson and then get what the district is calling a “double dose” of the lesson later on with their extra help teacher.

According to Seely Place interim Principal Eve Feuerstein, the “What I Need” period also includes time for students to attend classes such as ESL (English as a Second Language), speech and language help, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Meanwhile, students who don’t attend any of the special classes have the opportunity to receive additional support from teachers, practice their typing skills, work on S.T.E.M. projects, and more, said Feuerstein. “We have found a lot of success this year with this structured intervention time.”

The intervention method is in line with the reader’s workshop method Edgemont Schools has been using the past few years.

The goal of the reader’s workshop method, which is part of a larger Reading Roadmap program the district is using, is to encourage students to progress in their reading at their own pace.

Edgemont faculty has been working with teaching consultant Shelly Klein since the 2016-17 school year to learn how to properly implement the program.

Reading Roadmap focuses on improving reading comprehension, one of the district’s goals. As part of the program, teachers created classroom libraries and reading areas for their students.

The district aims for all teachers to complete professional development for the Reading Roadmap program by the end of the 2019-20 school year.

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