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West Jordan Journal

Families excited about literacy night; teachers excited about literacy program

May 02, 2022 09:10PM ● By Jet Burnham

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Riverside Elementary was transformed into Hogwarts School of Magic for Literacy Night March 31.

Families entered through Platform 9 ¾ and then headed to four house common rooms for literacy activities such as code-breaking and word games. They ate a hot-dog dinner in the Great Hall and entered a drawing to win “Harry Potter” books.

The purpose of all the hocus pocus was to get kids excited about reading.

“Our ultimate goal is for kids to want to read and to enjoy reading and to read to learn,” fourth grade teacher Alisa Belliston said.

Families were invited to peruse tables full of new and used books and find titles they were interested in reading. Boxes were provided for families who chose many books, such as one family who collected stacks of chapter books to replace the easy reader books in their home library, now that their youngest child is in sixth grade.

Copper Canyon Elementary also held a Literacy Night. On April 12, school administrators and teachers invited students to bring gently used books from home to exchange for new reading material.

The evening’s activities and handouts were centered on the five pillars of literacy—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension—which are the foundations of Walk to Read, the research-based literacy program implemented in Jordan district schools this year.

“Phonemic awareness is a foundation for phonics,” Copper Canyon Literacy Specialist Jennifer Knowles said. “We really can't have fluent reading until we have a solid foundation with phonics that will lead to fluency. And then once we have fluency, we can continue to build with developing our vocabulary, which eventually leads to comprehension, which is our ultimate goal in reading.”

With Walk to Read, teachers identify specific gaps in students' skills in these areas. For 30 minutes, four days a week, students work in small groups with teachers and literacy aides to receive targeted intervention.

“We find where the specific need is, and that’s how the different groups are formed, so during that time, each kid gets what he or she needs,” Riverside third grade teacher Olena Bradford said.

Riverside literacy coach Emily Doll said the whole Riverside staff has embraced the new literacy program and works together as a team to make it successful.

“They’re really taking the time to analyze the data to be responsive to what students need to succeed, no matter where they're at,” she said.

When students master the skill, they are reassigned to another group to work on another skill deficit. Or they may be grouped with other on-level students to work on advanced skills.

Angela Richards said her children, who are in kindergarten, third and sixth grades at Riverside, are motivated to pass off skills so they can move to a new group.

“When they move levels, it encourages them to do better,” Richards said.

Jordan District teachers are already seeing measurable successes in the Walk to Read program’s first year.

Michelle Lovell, an elementary language arts consultant for Jordan District, said every school is seeing student growth in literacy skills. Typically, K-2 Acadience testing data, which is collected three times during the school year, shows a dip in reading proficiency between the beginning of the year and middle of the year testing.    

“This year, we did not see that,” Lovell said. “We saw an increase in the middle of the year, which makes us really hopeful that what we will see at the end of the year continues on that trajectory.”

Riverside Principal Dr. Mike Trimmell said this year’s mid-year Acadience testing results were already as high as year-end data from previous years.

“We are on track to beat all previous years based on this data,” Trimmell said. “We are encouraged by these scores.”