Literacy grant gets Kennedy Elementary excited about reading
WILLMAR -- Just imagine, a student so excited about reading that he chose to leave his class Valentine party for a session with a reading coach. It's just one of the remarkable sights teachers at Kennedy Elementary in Willmar have reported since ...
WILLMAR -- Just imagine, a student so excited about reading that he chose to leave his class Valentine party for a session with a reading coach.
It's just one of the remarkable sights teachers at Kennedy Elementary in Willmar have reported since literacy coach Patti Hoaglund started working with them in January.
The teachers gathered Thursday afternoon to report on the impact of the training they received under the $58,000 grant.
The faculty has seen fourth-graders learn the Greek and Latin roots of words. Third-graders have become reading buddies for first-graders. Kindergarteners are now budding writers.
A group of 25 volunteers read books with kindergarteners twice a week for 13 weeks. Most of the volunteers were from the community, but others were employees in Kennedy who volunteered to read.
Kennedy Story Boost volunteers went beyond reading the books. They spent time talking with the children about the stories they had just read in an effort to boost their comprehension.
The children who participated in the program were chosen because their teachers thought they would benefit from the added attention.
Teachers participated in different programs funded by the grant. Teachers met in study groups either before or after school to learn about teaching methods that had worked with young readers and writers in other places. They were paid for the time they spent in meetings, but all of their reading and studying was done on their own time, Hoaglund said.
The teachers tried out the techniques they learned in their classrooms and reported on their successes Thursday.
Some students have been part of literature circles. Others have written in journals or learned to read poetry with the proper intonation. Students are better at identifying vowels and consonants and in understanding how letter sounds go together to make words.
As one teacher reported, her students are learning "with laughter and joy."
Hoaglund said she will continue working with the Kennedy teachers through the summer. She designed the program so that it would be self-sustaining once the grant funding ended, she said.
The plan is for the teachers who took part in the study groups to share their new knowledge with others, to let them know how the new ideas work in the classroom. The books the study groups used will also be part of Kennedy's library, and they can be used in the future.
She and the teachers learned some important things during the study groups, Hoaglund said.
"We learned we needed to give kids choice," she said. Several teachers said their students have become good at choosing books that are appropriate for their reading abilities.
Some of the work involved adopting a new philosophy into the district's existing elementary curriculum, Hoaglund said.
Kennedy Dean of Students Tim Johnson said the new techniques ignited a spark in students, and it spread around the school. "I am so proud of the teachers we have that are going through this kind of thing," he said.
Principal Scott Hisken said 60 teachers and 25 volunteers participated in the program. "Hats off to you for your willingness to give up a lot of time," he said. Hisken said he believed the school can keep the literacy effort going once Hoaglund has left the district.
The grant was originally targeted to struggling readers, but the teachers said that students at all levels enjoyed the benefits.
"When you do good things for struggling readers, hands-on things, it helps all readers, not just the struggling readers," Hoaglund said.