Burton Elementary School SD#10 Arrow Lakes

I. General Information

School Name: Burton Elementary School

School District: SD#10 Arrow Lakes

Inquiry Team Members: Michele Jackson: michele.jackson@sd10.bc.ca
Karlee Cook: karlee.cook@sd10.bc.ca
Kirsti Mortell-Leblanc: kirsti.mortell-leblanc@sd10.bc.ca
Dorraine Gustafson: dorraine.gustafson@sd10.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: michele.jackson@sd10.bc.ca

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Language Arts – Reading

Focus Addressed: Differentiated instruction, Formative assessment

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To help Intermediate students reach grade level accuracy in reading through “explicit and systematic” instruction.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: Following our fall reading assessments we identified a group of students between grades 3 and 7 who were reading 2-5 levels below their grade. When asked during individual conferences, each student could identify reading as a goal and expressed a desire to improve their reading accuracy. We noticed a lack of confidence in these intermediate readers as they realized they could not keep up with the grade level learning expectations. As we differentiated instruction, we found their lack of self-esteem affected learning/motivation and students would often give up or demonstrate behavioural issues. When reading, students had no word solving strategies and were “stuck” when they encountered unknown words.

Focus: We selected this area knowing that the longer intermediate students struggle with reading, the more difficult it is for them to catch up to their peers. Also, we wanted to help these students experience success, gain confidence and hopefully minimize behavioural issues. While in elementary school there are more opportunities for struggling readers to access help so we wanted to create an intentional learning environment to help prepare our students for high school. Our goal was to bring our learners to grade level in reading.

Hunch: Many of those on our team are familiar with and have taught early literacy. It is definitely more of a challenge to teach students in the intermediate grades when reading intervention is necessary. Intermediate intervention looks very different from primary intervention and often the resources are scarce. Also, intermediate students are reading to learn not learning to read, so often there is no explicit reading instruction available and what IS available is focused toward younger students.

New Professional Learning: Originally we explored the book, “Comprehension Reading Intervention in Grade 3-8: Fostering Word Learning, Comprehension and Motivation” by Lynn M. Gelzheiser, Donna M. Scanlon, Laura Hallgren-Flynn and Peggy Connors. We were looking for an approach that was easily accessible and simple to implement, and these authors provided direction and ideas on the intervention necessary. Since we needed something that could be prepped and organized for our Learning Support Teachers and EA’s, we purchased the SMARTER Intervention program which provided phonics instruction to enable students to sound out unknown words. The approach was systematic and was useful for intermediate students.

Taking Action: We initially assessed our students using a “Word Knowledge Inventory” to identify gaps in their learning. Using this information we used SMARTER Intervention for phonics instruction. We would start with a phonics drill, sound out words using the focus vowel team for the week, choose words to spell and write on white boards, and finally read a passage. Following these activities, students would read a leveled reader in a group setting so they could experience success with interesting continuous text. We used the Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention books as even the lower leveled books are interesting for Intermediate students.

Checking: We were quite surprised by the differences we experienced with our students. Many were able to increase 2-5 levels when assessed with the Diagnostic Reading Assessment (DRA) and they improved their Word Knowledge Inventory scores. We were more than satisfied with the results and decided to continue with this intervention next year. When students were asked the four questions they could identify their growth in reading. Also, they named their Intervention Teacher as 1 of the 2 people that believed in them, which demonstrated their appreciation for the efforts made in helping them to read. These students wanted to become better readers, but didn’t know how to achieve their goals. As they were given opportunities to work on becoming better readers they embraced these activities without hesitation.

Reflections/Advice: We felt that this inquiry motivated us to explore different methods to help all intermediate readers. During this time we also had the other class members doing word study through leveled phonics/spelling activities. This was beneficial for their growth, but we also recognized that our struggling readers had the greatest gains with more explicit practice through the Smarter Intervention activities. Please note many of the Smarter Intervention activities are on TPT for a minimal cost. They have multiple activities and are scaffolded to meet the needs of all learners. Most importantly, they are easy for anyone to use and we were impressed with the results. We also conferenced with students so they could take ownership of their learning. We discussed where they were at with their reading and helped them to set reasonable goals for themselves throughout the year. When they met these goals through THEIR hard work and determination, they achieved self-efficacy – not only did their reading improve, but they were motivated to continue to gain greater results.