Literacy is the core of education, and, to be honest, I think it’s the core of everything. If you look at the way the standards are being written and at what students need to be able to do in order to achieve higher depth of knowledge levels in all content areas, literacy is at the forefront of it all. In order for students to be able to analyze and explain their rationale and reasoning, they need to be able to put their thoughts into words, which all comes down to literacy. For these reasons, our school has really made literacy a focus this year, and we have incorporated some really strong new practices that I cannot wait to share with you.
We have gone through training with Dr. Mike McKenna and Dr. Sharon Walpole (authors of Cracking the Common Core and several other books) on many research-driven strategies and have created a Literacy Block that puts these practices into action. Every teacher in our school, whether he or she is math, science, social studies, ELA, band, PE, art, etc… are reading teachers for the first 35 minutes of every day. We have taken the strategies from Cracking the Common Core and incorporated them into a lesson format that every Literacy Block lesson plan in the school mimics.
PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Strategy) has been our focus reading strategy, and it has worked wonders. I will do a post on here soon that explains how it works and why we chose it. Our teachers have been well-trained in using PALS, and our students, for the most part, are well-rehearsed in using the strategy as well. We compliment PALS with the use of many different pre- and post-reading strategies that also follow McKenna and Walpole’s recommendations.
Our school is using two different progress monitoring platforms for seeing the results of our Literacy Block. We know that there is a direct correlation between student success and reading. Our Instructional Supervisor read where a student’s Lexile score is also an indicator for their math performance. If we are not monitoring the progress of our readers, then we are not doing them any justice, and if we are not allowing them to play a role in this monitoring, then they are missing out on taking ownership for their own growth.
Our main progress monitoring tool is the Reading Inventory Test by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The students take a test in the beginning of the school year as our base score then take two more throughout the year. We use this data to monitor student growth as well as keeping up with students who are on grade-level or need extra interventions. These Lexile Reading Charts (pictured about) are what teachers use as their conferencing tool when meeting with the students about their scores. It allows students to track their own scores, set goals, and has a section on the back for the teacher to complete with the student.
Our second progress monitoring tool is the use of MAZE Passages to help monitor growth within our Literacy Block. The students complete a MAZE passage every 6 weeks, and this data is monitored through the number correct. Although this strategy isn’t as precise as the Lexile data, it still helps us keep an ongoing record for student growth.
As our school continues to focus on literacy and making sure our students are growing, I will add more posts and strategies to this category. I cannot wait to share more about PALS and our writing constructed responses resources with you. I cannot tell you enough the importance of literacy and making it a priority with your teachers and students.
“Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman, and child can realize his or her full potential.” -Kofi Annan
HAPPY TEACHING LITERACY!