The TOP Twelve Non-Negotiables in Meeting Literacy Demands in of the Coming Year

Authors: Lenicia Gordon and Janet Hester – ELAR Education Specialists, Judy Butler-Dyslexia/504 Education Specialist, Trish Flores-ESL/Bilingual Coordinator

Colleagues, what we know is that reading scores across the state and across our region have seen a significant drop. Naturally, we will all look at our campus and district data to formulate our best responses.  We know that there could be many factors to the origin of the decline in scores: the instructional challenges vary from kindergarten through 12th grade, administrative and budget priorities are a part of the problem, perhaps the loss of STAAR M is a factor, as well as administering needed accommodations. Each of you will create plans to address your individual students.  However, we would like to offer you a synthesis of the top twelve best practices we know will help based on the research we have studied, as well as our direct observations in the field:

1)  Focus on Strengthening Tier 1 Instruction to address achievement gaps, assessed curriculum explicitly and well, and to reduce need for excessive interventions. Evaluate K – 3 curriculums to insure that phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling and handwriting are comprehensive and integrated well with contextual reading practice and balanced within the ELA block.

2)  Structured Independent Reading is a critical practice.  Consistent, unhindered time for students to read books of their choice, within their ZPD, and for which they are held accountable.

3) Consistent and protected time for writing practice for sustained periods of time in ELAR classes.

4)  Required reading for meaning and writing to comprehend in ALL content areas; these can be quick routines but must be consistent.

5)  A system for consistent monitoring of and providing practice for:

Fluency for K-3, and those students reading below grade level in grades 5 and up

Reading progress using running records

Explicit vocabulary instruction and acquisition

6)  Daily study and close reading of mentor texts to harvest for author’s craft.

7)  Application of these craft elements applied and incorporated into revision of students’ working drafts.

8)  Daily practice (through a variety of routines, strategies and practices) of summarizing, determining author’s purpose and drawing inferences from texts across genres.

9)  Provide many opportunities built-in for students to talk (oral language development) and collaborate about what they are reading and writing for deeper cognitive processing and internalization of both content and a metacognitive approach to learning.

10)  Treat testing as a “genre” whose attributes are visited in the form of mini-lessons throughout the year in small but consistent doses. Certainly check on progress through deliberately scheduled district assessments, but, do not rob instructional time unnecessarily for excessive testing.

11)  Develop a system of classroom management that makes effective use of instructional time, student collaboration during practice, and independent work possible so that students develop skills to mastery.

12)  Prioritize cognizance of and best practices for ELL’s by doing all of the above, and;

Use of leveled libraries which include a ride range of genres and culturally relevant books

Awareness of differences in sound systems across languages and alphabetic and non-alphabetic systems

Use of “bridge techniques” to develop biliteracy

Awareness of district language programs and WHEN to introduce literacy in second language

Provide solid instruction in first language

If these practices are considered priorities (and not simply options or good ideas) which are put in motion, supported, and expected by instructional leadership on a consistent basis, overall reading and writing achievement would be anticipated to rise.

The Literacy Team at Region 13 is here to support you in all of these endeavors and have suggestions of resources and professional development which can assist you in putting these imperatives into place.

Happy School Year!


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