Literacy initiative levels playing field for students
By TRAVIS M. WHITEHEAD
HARLINGEN — “As the day got closer, they hunted for vegetables to add to their soup.”
The child got stuck on one word. There was no need to be embarrassed, because he was reading with other students at the same level.
“OK,” said the teacher. “Let’s take a look at the word ‘vegetable.’”
That could be one of many scenarios in kindergarten through second grade classrooms across the Harlingen school district.
A new program called “Leveled Literacy Libraries” will focus on giving children books at their reading level and then empowering them to read more challenging books.
“Those leveled literacy libraries are really libraries that address a student’s individual needs,” said Alicia Noyola, chief academic officer for the Harlingen school district.
“In essence, what these leveled literacy libraries do is that they identify the level at which a student is reading,” she said. “You start to target where that student is and so now this student is able to read at his grade level. When a student is able to read they start to perfect that skill and then they’re able to move on to that next level.”
Carmen Alvarez, early childhood specialist for the district, said the goal is for students to read at their grade level by the time they reach third grade. This is the most recent step in an initiative outlined by the school district’s Strategic Plan to build literacy among elementary students.
“I think teachers are very excited,” she said. “We have put into practice our literacy plan which was started four years ago.”
Teachers last week took a workshop in which representatives of Scholastic Education taught them about the “Leveled Literacy Libraries.”
“Today, we’re training teachers on guided reading, which is small group differentiated instruction for students,” said Jessica Manning-Acebo, regional director of professional learning for Scholastic Education.
“The teachers are learning how to form small groups based on student instructional reading levels and then how to bring a lesson to meet the differentiated need for each group,” she said.
The program begins the day with “whole group” in which the whole class reads. The teacher introduces a concept such as the main idea. Children are divided into small groups according to their reading level. They take turns reading a selection and the teachers incorporate the concept into the reading.
Meanwhile, children are building their literacy levels.
Teachers themselves said they were delighted by the program.
“I really like it,” said Prissy Castillo, who teaches kindergarten bilingual education at Dr. Rodriguez Elementary School.
“There’s a lot of information that we can use with our students,” she said. “We have been adding to the curriculum. These new opportunities for kids will make it an even better year.”