One of our most important missions as educators is to ensure that all students become proficient, confident and engaged readers, writers, speakers and listeners. The New York State Next Generation English Language Arts Learning Standards can be found here and serve as the foundation of the development of the work we do in the areas of reading and writing.
The Big 5 Areas of Reading:
Simply put, reading is making meaning from print. And yet, this seemingly simple process of reading does not develop naturally in human beings. Rather, it requires the integration of various areas of the brain working together in new ways. A solid understanding of the concepts of print and strong oral language fluency combine to create a strong foundation upon which students can become successful readers. Upon this foundation, there are specific skills that must be developed to lead to proficient reading. These are known as The Big 5 Components of reading:
- Phonemic Awareness
Strong phonemic awareness, combined with phonics knowledge, allows students to develop the process of orthographic mapping, which is essential for readers to become fluent readers and comprehenders of print.
There is no one program that best meets the demands of effectively teaching all of the Big 5 areas in reading. Therefore, our district has selected a combination of curricular resources to ensure that when combined, students are receiving the best instruction within each critical component. At the Tier 1 universal core instructional level, these include:
Wilson Fundations provides research-based materials and strategies essential to a comprehensive reading, spelling and handwriting program. Fundations is a multisensory and systematic phonics program that benefits all K-3 students. The lessons include time for whole class direct instruction, as well as small group and independent practice.
Students in the Dual Language Bilingual Education program (DLBE) housed at MKES receive instruction in this multisensory program, in addition to their instruction in Fundations. Estrellita provides phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency instruction in Spanish to our DLBE emerging bilingual students.
Teachers College Reading Units of Study
Our District also implements the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project reading units of study to complement the reading skills acquired through Fundations and Estrellita. The reading units are taught through the structure of a workshop model, which includes a mini-lesson, independent reading, conferences, small group instruction, and a share session. The lessons within the units reinforce word solving strategies, fluency, vocabulary development, and comprehension skills that spiral throughout each grade level.
Strong core instruction for all students is the foundation of both our reading program and the RTI framework. To promote this strong foundation, all students K-5 are provided dedicated blocks of time for explicit reading instruction provided by their classroom teacher.
In writing, all teachers in grades K-5 provide explicit instruction in the writing process across the school year. Each writing unit focuses on one of three genres: narrative, informational, and opinion writing. Pre-assessments and post-assessments are conducted to inform instruction. District-created rubrics are used to guide instruction and assess students' writing skills. Students are provided with whole class, small group, and one-on-one instruction during the writing workshop.
An established assessment schedule provides valuable information to inform reading instruction as part of sound teaching practice within the RTI framework. Different assessments serve different purposes. Through a collaborative approach, teachers use established benchmarks and nationally-normed cut points to discuss data and develop plans to address students’ needs in the area of reading. Students who fall below grade-level expectations may qualify for interventions at increasingly intensive tiers of support.
Teachers receive ongoing training and support in implementing effective, research-based reading instruction with fidelity, as well as in understanding how to administer and utilize our assessment tools. Elementary Coordinators lead the work around curriculum, instruction, assessment, as well as professional development at the universal core level and work closely with the RTI Coordinator and Elementary Coordinator of Special Education to ensure alignment and fidelity of practice.