Literacy is a huge topic in education. The federal No Child Left Behind Act highlighted the importance of literacy and elevated it to a high priority in schools across the nation. On the state level, the Vermont Department of Education also places particular emphasis on the importance of literacy programs in our schools, and so too does Colchester School District.
All of the schools in CSD have specific literacy programs in place, and these programs are constantly evolving and improving in order to accommodate our students and their changing educational environments. We offer this primer on CSD’s literacy initiatives to introduce you to some of our efforts in this area. Because all of our schools have literacy programs targeted toward their specific student populations, we’ll discuss each of them individually. Let’s start with Malletts Bay School.
First of all, let it be known that students at Malletts Bay School perform well on the NECAP, with 77.5 percent of its students scoring at or above proficiency levels on the 2010–2011 NECAP reading test (exceeding the state average of 72.6 percent).
Still, the goal is to ensure that all students become successful readers and writers. Malletts Bay School collaborated with the Vermont Reads Institute at the University of Vermont in an initiative called “The Bridging Project,” which works to enhance reading comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency in upper elementary grades. After participating in the Bridging Project, educators at MBS adopted a standard of practice that outlines a balanced literacy program. This standard of practice aligns their work and ensures ongoing professional development in order to support best practices in the teaching of reading and writing.
MBS students engage in small, guided reading groups with their teachers several times each week. Students also choose books for independent reading and engage in differentiated “anchor activities” that provide reading and writing opportunities. “Anchor activities” are ongoing tasks and projects that are generally self-directed and that apply to and reinforce the concepts the student is learning.
A grant supported the purchase of a guided reading library, the contents of which are published in conjunction with literacy experts Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas. This is important because these two experts are also the authors of our local assessments, the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System. In this way, MBS’s assessments and instruction will be closely aligned.
Malletts Bay School also uses a program called Writer’s Workshop as part of its balanced literacy program. In Writer’s Workshop, students receive mini-lessons and then work in small groups or independently to practice and refine their writing. Students also use an online writing platform through which they can offer feedback to one another.
MBS also participates in the Young Writers Project (YWP), an organization with the mission of aiding better student writing in Vermont and New Hampshire through a variety of services and through which students can submit work to be considered for outside publication.
In addition to YWP, MBS classes also use blogging as a writing platform, and beginning with the 2011–2012 school year, all K–5 classrooms will have access to the school’s Edublogs subscription.
So while this primer is meant to offer an introduction of the various programs in place, it is clear that Malletts Bay School engages a vast array of approaches to literacy development and mastery. For more information about MBS’s literacy programs, please contact Julie Benay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also wish to visit the Vermont Department of Education’s website for information about literacy initiatives.
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