Developing successful personalized learning literacy programs

Literacy programs are important, as evidenced by these students reading on tablets in the school library.

As a former kindergarten and first grade teacher, who later taught struggling readers in grades three to five, I was acutely aware of the reading instruction gaps that we weren’t filling. I saw those gaps firsthand when my first-grade students became third graders and were clearly missing some very important reading skills.

Adopting the Simple View of Reading model, and understanding all of the components of it and teaching reading according to science, was one critical piece that I had missed with my early readers.

I entered the educational workforce during the time when adults all over the country were still focused on battling the whole language vs. phonics war. It became about the adults winning and the only thing that happened was that our kids lost. They lost in a big way too. An educator’s job is to provide whatever a child needs whenever they need it.

Related content: How we turned around our district’s literacy scores

My teacher training was not rooted in using effective diagnostic tools to identify specific weaknesses. If it had been, I don’t think I would have had as many struggling readers. This resonated with me in a real way because I could literally see the students who were impacted by those gaps. I could see that I wasn’t explicit enough, I wasn’t systematic enough, and I didn’t hone in specifically on those students’ weaknesses and deficits.

To address these gaps, school districts in Ohio are partnering with Educational Service Centers (ESCs) like ours to implement personalized learning that supports third grade reading mandates. As part of my role at the Trumbull County ESC, my first step was to design a consortium literacy plan involving six districts and apply for the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant through the state.

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