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Cool Schools: Leaving no young reader behind

Teachers at Patrick Hamilton Elementary School in Dowagiac want to make sure no student gets left behind and lost in the books.

The school has a Reading Recovery program that aims to help even the slowest reader.

First grade students in the program typically start with a reading level of zero or below. The program is 12-20 weeks and once completed, the goal is for the student to be reading at a level 16.

“In anything you teach, you want to go from total dependence to total independence and that’s what Reading Recovery does," said Jon Leazenby who teaches first grade.

Students in the program go through 30 minute sessions, five days a week. Sessions start out by reading a book familiar to the student. They then read a new book and the teacher will give feedback and take part in teaching moments if the student is struggling.

The student will sound out words, spell letters on the whiteboard, write sentences, and construct a story. Inside the Reading Recovery room is also a two-way mirror where teachers can watch the student read and see the progress the student is making without him or her knowing.

“We’re basically teaching them in the most intensive way how good readers read. We want kids to have multiple strategies when they come to an unknown word," Leazenby added.

Strategies include re-reading a sentence, sounding out words, looking at pictures, and using word recognition to help with an unknown word.

When students are equipped with the right tools, reading will become easier. “We want to get them those tools so they can help themselves,” said Literary Support Teacher Jayme Moore.

Although the program is intense, students typically enjoy it because of the one on one attention they receive.

“It’s a great transition when they have that boost of confidence and self-esteem that they get when they become better readers,” Moore added.

There are about 15 students currently involved in the program out of the entire student body. The goal is for at least 50% to move on from the program after 12 to 20 weeks.

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