Lamar CISD program helps students “recover” their love of reading

Reading Recovery teacher Jessica Thibodeaux with Smith first-grader Lucki Covarrubio.

Reading Recovery is just what it sounds like – a program that helps students recover from a faulty start, catching them up with their classmates.

But it recovers something else: children who love to read.

“Students will hear their friends reading and realize they aren’t reading as well,” said Aimee Santos, the Dual Language Facilitator at Smith Elementary. “It hurts their self-esteem and leads to frustration. They have no motivation to improve.”
Reading Recovery – and its Spanish-language partner Descubriendo la Lectura – takes first-grade students and in 20 weeks or less, gets most of them back on “grade level.”

The program uses one-on-one, intensive study with personalized instruction. Even children who don’t reach the average level of their class within the allotted time frame, show great gains.

“Instructional time is maximized,” said Frost Elementary principal Dr. Shannon Hood. “There are no distractions or interruptions.”

Part of the lessons hinge on taking what words the student knows by sight and the words they know how to write. Then the lessons are structured so the writing can help the reading and the reading can help the writing.

Students also reconstruct the stories they have just written. The teacher recopies the child’s sentence on a paper strip and cuts it up for the student to visually search and reorganize, to re-create his or her original message.

“Manipulating the words helps build brain activity of … saying it, writing it, then locating in text,” explains Alicia Roberts, the Reading Recovery teacher at Frost.
Occasionally, a student and teacher will hold their session in a special room, with a one-way mirror that allows other Reading Recovery teachers to observe. Afterwards, the group shares notes, offering suggestions to the teacher.

“After the session, the colleagues give feedback on what was productive and give the feedback that the demonstrating teacher has specifically asked for,” said Kathryne Salinas, the Teacher Leader for Reading Recovery in Lamar CISD.

Over the two-year period since the program was initiated in Lamar CISD, Reading Recovery and Descubriendo la Lectura teachers have helped 258 students on 11 campuses bridge the reading gap. In 2013-2014, teachers estimate they will serve 192 additional first graders. The majority of these children will reach the same reading and writing proficiency as their peers. And, just as importantly, they will enjoy literacy learning.

By helping students to catch up in the first grade, the District is keeping students from falling behind in later years, when state assessment tests begin.
“Teachers and parents are very happy with the results,” Hood said. “Reading Recovery opens the gateway to learning.”

“Before he hated to read,” said Allison Myers, a parent at Frost Elementary, “but, now he is excited, because he can.”

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