Dist. 44 Works Hard to Get Kids Reading
Politser-LoVetere, Pam, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Pam Politser-LoVetere Daily Herald Correspondent
Early in her career, JoAnn Detro remembers teaching reading to kindergartners mostly by requiring children to fill out workbooks - often drawing lines from letters to pictures. Writing was not taught, she said.
Now, visit one of Detro's classrooms, and you will find children engaged in a variety of reading and writing activities.
"I can't get over how things have changed," said Detro, a 20-year veteran who teaches kindergarten at Lombard's Hammerschmidt School.
For example, the class may be receiving a phonics lesson as they cheer the classmate designated special person for the day by focusing on the child's name, Detro said.
The children then answer questions such as how does Jimmy's name begin? Does anyone else's name begin that way? How many letters are in Jimmy's name?
Come on another day, and you will see kindergartners studying with their fourth- or fifth-grade "reading buddies" about penguins or how plants and trees grow.
That's a contrast to many adults' memories of boring textbooks, tiresome worksheets and endless drilling.
That's because teachers in Lombard Elementary District 44 have transformed teaching methods to adopt what language arts coordinator Roberta Berglund calls a more "balanced approach."
"There isn't any single approach to instruction that is effective for all students," Berglund said, explaining the advantages to dividing language arts education into four parts.
Those blocks are guided reading, where teachers select reading materials; self-selected reading; writing; and spelling and phonics. Each section is taught for about 40 minutes every school day.
"Some children are primarily visual learners, some auditory and some use multiple modes to learn. This balanced four-part approach taps into all of the learning modes, which offers the greatest opportunity for all children to succeed," Berglund said.
This approach also eliminates the need for reading groups, which divide classrooms into groups based on ability. At various times, teachers work with individuals, small groups, or the whole class, she said.
In the past, little emphasis was placed on the content of reading assignments, so many topics had little relevance to a child's world, Detro said.
Now, however, much of the reading that is done relates to topics studied in other classes or on television such as social science or the environment, Detro said.
"I have had students at the end of kindergarten who read up to the third-grade level," she added. …