One of the things I feel I need to improve on is using our data to drive our goals and instruction at the school level. The more I work with data, the more I appreciate the information we are able to gather from it, and it’s usefulness when it comes to achieving our school goals.
As we approached the end of last school year we realized our early learning reading scores were not as high as we would like them to be, and some of our students had not made as much improvement with their reading as we would have liked to see. We decided as a staff that we needed to dedicate our efforts to the improvement of our young readers. After much research and discussion we decided front loading of phonological awareness skills was where we were going to start. Our student support teachers organized groupings according to our May benchmarking scores and set about planning and getting materials prepared to hit our students hard with small group phonological awareness and reading, on a daily basis, as soon as we returned to school in the fall.
We decided to call our groups ROAR, which stands for Really Outrageous at Reading. We started first thing Monday morning on the second week of school. We divided our grade ones and twos into small groups with each adult taking a group every day for 20 to 30 minutes. We are using the classroom teachers, principal, student support teachers, custodian, educational assistants, library technician, office administrator, counselor and speech language pathologist to run our groups. It is a real testament to the strength of our school team, when so many members are willing to help.
At the beginning of the week our little students seemed a bit reluctant and unsure about what was going on. The second morning when I asked my group members if they had read their books at home, not all of them replied yes, but as the week went by the excitement for the groups continued to grow. Pretty soon the students couldn’t wait to line up and get to our rooms so we could get started. Now when I ask them all if they have read their books at home and practiced their sight words, they usually reply with a rounding yes!
A typical group meeting would begin with a new book. As we are reading the book we are talking about letters, blends, syllables, rhymes and making predictions about what is coming next. We spend some time recalling events after we are finished reading, then move on to play a game involving sight words, letter sounds or something along those lines. Every few days the group leader will change-up the game and we rotate books and activities on a regular basis.
ROAR has been a lot of work for our student support teachers who spent endless hours in June getting all of our reading materials and activities ready. They have met with our staff and trained all of us, teaching us the routines we needed to follow on the daily basis. Our two student support teachers are the ones we go to if we are having any problems or issues along the way.
We plan to carry out ROAR for about 8 weeks, then screen all of our students to see if they have made any improvements in our reading scores from May data. My guess is we will see improvements. We hope to do ROAR again this year with our young students and hopefully move into our other age groups as well.
It has been such an honor for me to be involved with our reading groups. It is fun to be up close and personal with our early years students and I can’t help but be excited by their enthusiasm for learning. I can’t wait to see the data we gather from our screening in October and look forward to being involved with our next ROAR project.