At Jane Addams Elementary School in Moline, third-grade teacher Laurie Capan is working with her students on fluency and reading phrases in different texts.
“Studies show that when a kid is a fluent reader, it affects their comprehension,” she said. “We’re working on their rate — we don’t want them to be too fast, we don’t want them to be too slow. Then, we work on having them use their voice, the intonation of things.”
Capan asked the children to take out a small book of nursery rhymes. Reading slowly and focusing on phrasing, she reads aloud “Little Jack Horner.”
“Where did you hear a slight pause?” Capan asks the students.
“After Horner?” one student asks.
“Corner,” answers another student.
Capan said nursery rhymes are a good teaching exercise.
“For third-grade, it may seem really immature, but you would be surprised how many of these kids are not familiar with them, and even the ones that are, they enjoy the sounds and the rhymes and all of that,” she said.
Across the hall, teacher Chris Lavin is going over vocabulary words with her third-graders before reading a new story.
As she reads, Lavin asks the students to give their predictions of what will happen in the story, which is connected to a lesson in social studies about the continents.
“The other kids like to hear each other, and then it gives them an idea of their own,” she said. “I feel like the more they do that, they more success they feel and the more comfortable they feel.”
Lavin said she teaches her students that reading isn’t just restricted to the classroom.
“If I’m positive at school and parents are positive at home and the more they read, I have kids that would much prefer to pull out a book and read or draw a picture,” she said. “It wasn’t like that at the beginning of the year.”
Lavin said she gives her students points for good behavior. Once they reach a certain number of points, they get a special reward. This year, the kids wanted to have a silent reading day and were able to bring in snacks and blankets.
“One of the little girls said, ‘This is the best reward we’ve ever had,’” Lavin said. “It was just a really quiet, enjoyable time where they just get to read. Some kids are so busy with sports and activities at home that they might not get a chance to sit down and read for a whole hour at a time.”
The Moline-Coal Valley School District has made literacy a high priority for all students, and Jane Addams students are among the highest performers in the district, with 81.8 percent of third-graders reading at a proficient level.
A big factor in the school's and district's success is early intervention, said Julie Reed, one of the district’s three literacy coaches.
“The younger they are, the easier it is to overcome that difficulty that they may be having, not only academically but within the family,” Reed said. “It’s easier to fix, it’s easier to help.”
Intervention services are available for students from pre-kindergarten through high school and each building has a certified-interventionist. Literacy coaches also provide support to the teachers, whether it’s through follow-ups, modeling or observation, Reed said.
District teachers also meet once a week to look at student data to determine which students are thriving and need new challenges and which students need extra support, Reed said.
Tammy Ruthey, another literacy coach, said the school relies heavily on MAP — Measure of Academic Progress — testing, which is a computerized test that helps teachers and staff gauge where a student is at academically and identify where the student needs additional support.
The test is taken three times a year and results are available immediately, unlike the scores from the Illinois Standard Achievement Tests.
The MAP results also help drive daily instruction, while ISAT scores help with long-term planning, she said.
“We’re collecting data over time, as opposed to the ISAT, where it’s a snapshot of one moment in time,” she said. “We have these other measures so we can look at other growth and see what the trajectory is.”
The extra support for both students and teachers has made a big difference, Jane Addams principal Teresa Landon said.
“I just feel like we’re getting better all the time at constantly assessing and looking for ways to jump in earlier and be more proactive,” she said.
Landon said staff also recognizes the importance of parental involvement when it comes to literacy.
Over the past two years, the school has encouraged students to collectively read a million minutes a year outside of the classroom.
To make it fun, students this year are “reading around the world,” and teachers track minutes and convert them into miles. So far, the students have read their way to Antarctica, South America and Africa.
Children are encouraged to read to a sibling, read on their ow, or have a parent read to them. Landon said “anything goes,” whether it’s a newspaper, magazine or book, when the kids read.
“It all counts as long as they’re excited about it and fired up about it,” Landon said. “That’s important, too.”