LLINWOOD — Ellinwood Grade School are teaching phonics to the students in a way that is not their parent’s or grandparent’s phonics, and teachers and students are experiencing outstanding success.
Both teachers and students are increasing their abilities, and enjoying it while it is happening.
Beginning this year, both students and teachers have begun using the Pathways to Reading approach to learning phonics, reading and spelling in grades kindergarten-second, and it has been an adventure for both. The teachers have had to study the intensive requirements to teach the program, but the overall results have been positive.
“It takes three years to understand the whole concept,” for the teachers, said Eric Sjogren, principal. “It very comprehensive.”
The teachers are thrilled with the program because they feel it fills holes in the learning process across the board. Even though learning the program has been challenging, they all thought it was well worth it.
“It jump starts your enthusiasm for teaching,” said Annette Cain, second grade teacher.
“We have known by our stats we needed a strong phonics program,” said Cain. The teachers asked around for ideas, and then asked if they could see the Pathways program in action.
They were immediately drawn to PTR. “We were intrigued by it,” said Cain. With PTR, words are broken into small segments of sounds called phonemes. As students use their knowledge of phonemes, they are able to build up words.
The teachers have noted tremendous progress with the students in their ability to learn to read, write and spell. One first grade teacher said her student was able to spell shelter using the sounds learned in PTR.
Cain said that many students confuse v and b or f and s, but in PTR, not only do the students hear the sounds, they look at the structure of the mouth and tongue to say the words.
Although this is the first year for PTR, the teachers are confident that, with each year, the learning of the sounds will begin to flow from grade to grade.
One thing the teacher area really glad about is that they no longer have to grade worksheets. All of the work in PTR is in small groups or interactive with the teacher.
“It is so much comprehensive,” than what they used before, said Cain.
PTR has improved the students’ ability to read, spell and write, which has resulted in success for the students.
“Kids love it,” said Sjogren. “They eat it up.”
The needs came to light through the Multi-Tiered System of Support which was implemented last year from kindergarten through sixth grade. With MTSS, the students get a phonics screener test that shows where learning stopped in the process.
Sjogren gave an example of a student getting stuck on the silent e. With MTSS, the student will continue to work in a small group until they master the silent e.
PTR is for kindergarten through second grade, while MTSS is for kindergarten through sixth grade. The teachers spend a substantial part of the day on reading, spelling and phonics.
Teacher’s aides, now called interventionists, teach the small groups as well.
The teachers all like the one-on-one teaching work with the students. It is more individualized, and the teacher knows exactly how the kids are doing, which they can pass on to parents. They also said the kids like the smaller groups and feel more comfortable asking questions. Each student goes to a group so there is no stigma.
“The Board has been very supportive as well as Mr. Jacobs,” said one teacher.
Another teacher said that at the end of the day, she feels like a good teacher.
“It’s fun,” she said.