Reaching All Readers combines books, technology

Ramona Hodge leads her kindergarten class through a book study on “Julius.”

Ramona Hodge leads her kindergarten class through a book study on “Julius.”

Reading is an interactive activity at Sam Houston Elementary School. Books, while still important, often play a supporting role in reading exercises at the school

Reaching All Readers is an initiative the school began about three years ago to push literacy and better reading skills throughout the whole school.

Sam Houston principal Scott Blevins said a lot of the need for the initiative began when the school got a new reading curriculum. The curriculum was broad based with a lot of bells and whistles, but “we found it was hard to navigate through,” Blevins said.

Deana Bishop, special programs coordinator and the school’s technology guru, set out to help solve the problem. The reading curriculum was broken down into its parts and Power Point presentations were created so that teachers would have everything they needed at their fingertips -- information from CDs, Internet resources, flip charts, etc.

Bishop said with state guidelines becoming more stringent, it became even more important to be able to reach all levels of readers. In order to do that, the students had to be tested.

“We use a multitude of assessments to determine where the students are reading and what kids needed more help,” Blevins said. “The differentiated instruction was implemented here.”

A big part of that implementation involved the Swoop team. The “Swoop” team -- so called because they “swoop in, test and swoop out” -- test the students three times a year. The team, led by Bishop, is made up of teaching assistants. Their job is to test, three times a year, the students in each grade level to gauge where everyone in the Pre-K to 4th grade is when it comes to their reading ability. The testing is crucial and has helped the school monitor the success of the program.

They like what they see, said Blevins.

Using technology like the Promethean Board and Power Point has made reaching all levels of readers easier, said Bishop. The technology was essential to allowing the teachers to do an overall lesson before splitting up the students into smaller groups. “The multi-media power points and Promethean board allows you to get all your instruction in better and quicker,” she said.

Other programs work with the curriculum, including Accelerated Readers and Response to Intervention. Accelerated readers sometimes do novel studies, which also helps with vocabulary and comprehension skills. Students needing intervention level assistance get Response to Intervention curriculum, meaning they get an addition 30 to 45 minutes of reading instruction.

“It takes a lot more help to do this approach,” said Blevins. “We’re fortunate to have extra help through volunteers and teacher assistants.”

The initiative appears to be paying off with better readers. “Of all the students who went through Response to Intervention, they’ve shown growth. The large majority showed improvement and we were able to move a lot of them out of RTI,” he said.

Bishop said teachers are happy with how the initiative is working. “A lot of work has gone into this, and we’re happy,” she said.

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