Reading and writing have always been core lessons in school, but you may have noticed an increased focus on literacy over the past few years. In fact, just this month, you probably saw signs advertising literacy related events at some Centerville schools.
“Early literacy has always been a high priority for our district,” said Cherie Colopy, Elementary Curriculum Coordinator for Centerville City Schools. “This year, we have been concentrating on enhancing our writing instruction from kindergarten through fifth grade. Teachers from our primary and elementary schools have been collaborating on the best practices in teaching literacy.”
In the fall of every school year, teachers measure where each student is developmentally in terms of comprehension, accuracy and fluency. The information is then used to tailor instruction as students work towards Ohio’s English Language Arts standards.
“One of the things we emphasize in our schools is meeting our students where they are academically,” Colopy said. “If you walk into one of our classrooms during literacy instruction, you will see students learning through whole-class lessons, small groups and individual conferences.”
Teachers keep track of each child’s progress and use that information, along with data points from state-mandated tests, to ensure students are improving throughout the year. They use a variety of strategies in the classroom to address student needs. If a student is performing below grade level, literacy support teachers are available in each of Centerville’s K-5 schools.
“At the beginning of every year I take time to get to know my students as learners. What strategies work best with them? How can I keep them engaged and passionate about learning?” explained Sabrina Wendling, a fourth grade teacher at Driscoll Elementary.
She added that focusing whole-group instruction on a class’s interests doesn’t always hit home with each individual student. Working with small groups allows her to pull together students with similar needs. Individual time with students allows her to make connections across lessons.
Getting an outside perspective also has helped teachers implement new ideas in their classrooms. This year, writing consultant and author Matt Glover has worked with all kindergarten through fifth grade teachers. The training has consisted of classroom visits and hands-on learning, specifically in the area of writing conferences with children.
Wendling said two of Glover’s ideas have already helped in her classroom.
“The first is that I should only focus on one teaching point per conference,” she said. “It’s so easy to find teaching points when reading a child’s writing, but students are bombarded with information all day. For what I say to really matter, I have to choose one point to focus on during a conference.”
Her other takeaway was the use of mentor texts so students have writing samples as models throughout the writing process, rather than just at the beginning.
“We use all three types of mentor texts – published, teacher and student – whenever we are learning a new skill or have a question about how to do something in writing,” Wendling said. “This has been an incredible tool in the classroom. Students are able to formulate a question, then grab a few mentor texts to see how other authors do it. Not only does this style put learning in the hands of students, it allows them to work independently while I’m engaging in conferences.”
Everything students are doing during their literacy lessons, or what Centerville calls “Writing Workshop,” is serving a purpose and lessons are building upon each other, from a kindergartner’s picture book to a fifth grader’s research project.
“During Writing Workshop, kids are writing, and the teacher is watching their progress and talking with them about how they can improve their writing,” Colopy said. “Each story your child reads or writes is bringing him or her along in the writing process.”
What can parents do to help their children develop good reading and writing habits at home? It’s pretty simple, according to Colopy. Have a conversation with your child about what they are reading and writing at school, and encourage your child to read and write as much as possible.
“Find something they’re interested in – sports, fashion, animals or anything else – because that will make them more motivated to learn more about that topic,” she suggested.
Centerville City Schools serve more than 8,100 students in Centerville and Washington Township in southwest Ohio, offering a variety of educational programs to a diverse student population. The district operates 13 school buildings, as well as two preschools and a bus facility accommodating and servicing more than 100 buses. Visit www.centerville.k12.oh.us for more information.
|Mrs. Jacobs talks discusses writing with one of her students at Primary Village North.|
|During Family Literacy Night at Primary Village South on Feb. 9, families participated in several reading and writing stations.|
|Writing consultant and author Matt Glover works with third grade teachers to demonstrate techniques to use during writing conferences with children.|