By Justin Seward
Redcliff’s I.F. Cox School principal Linda Asham gave an update on where students are at with literacy progress to Prairie Rose Public Schools board of trustees on Jan. 11.
The newest program is Shifting the Balance PD, which is a book that gets students to think about guided reading to ensure kids have the awareness skills they need to read.
“When a student comes across a word that they don’t know, they’re taught to use other strategies to figure it out—like look at the picture, read further along and see if you can get the context of what you’re reading (and) look at other pages,” said Asham.
“And it really isn’t teaching the kids to read the word and actually decode it. So even if they figured it out what the word is, the next time they read it, they’re not going to remember.”
The school saw government interventions come through, which resulted in some funding and allowed teachers to create a wish list for things to add to the literacy classroom.
Decodable readers were purchased and are meant to decrease students’ chances of guessing words.
“It forces them to use the phonic and phonemic awareness skills to decode the words,” she said.
“And when we’re teaching the kids at the ages we have, we really want to make sure they have those skills and it’s also repetitive practice.”
It was in the last school year that then principal Catherine Usher established a reading committee, where staff members researched and looked at different resources and really determined what direction the school wanted to go in.
“We’ve been kind of a balanced literacy-type school for a number of years and the science of reading, of course, would bring some different thoughts into that pedagogy,” said Asham.
“Once they decided where they wanted to go, we used an EL (Expeditionary Learning)
education assessment to see where our students currently were performing. Now this assessment was quite similar to the intervention assessment that we would have done just for our Grade 2s and 3s.”
From the assessment, the reading committee created skills blocks.
“And within each skill block the reading committee created these little bins,” she said.
“So a teacher could decide what skill aided in their classroom or from that group or those few students and come and grab the bin— and now they had a centre that they can go ahead and use for that group.”
The literacy timeline also sees the school working on a Heggerty Phonemic Awareness daily lessons to allow the students to learn all the sounds and to determine the beginning, middle and end sounds of words.
Lastly, on the timeline of what was introduced by the reading committee was the “Secret Stories”
“It takes all the different types of learning and puts it together,” said Asham.
“So, we’ve got the visual aspect, we’ve got these posters up all over our classrooms—really cool images for kids to remember—it’s got the auditory, they’re hearing the sounds, they’re listening to the funny stories that accompany the posters … they’re doing motions—all the stories have a motion to it.”
Students are also being taught orthographic mapping for consonant vowel consonant words and digraphs.
Kids learn about Social Emotional Learning through reactions, decisions and feelings to name a few. Every 1 Counts initiative and Acts of Kindness are also being taught.