Interactive literacy helps students build language

HARRISON – “We found some moths at recess.”

That’s not a very noteworthy sentence to many, but to a class of first graders at the Harrison Elementary School it is very important.

Working with Literacy Collaborative teacher Mary Reed, the first-grade class constructed the sentence early in the year. Reed said students are proud of the work they did in forming it.

It was part of the introduction to reading and writing in an interactive fashion.

A student wrote a “W” to start the word “we.” She filled in the “e.” Then students contributed the “f” and the “d” in the word “found.”

“We’re making the learning process more interactive, so children get involved in the parts that they can do,” Reed said. “A child might not be able to spell the whole word, but they can contribute a letter. You want to make them feel that they are a part; make sure they are successful.”

Reed just completed her Literacy Collaborative training. She spends half her day teaching students and the other half instructing teachers on the newest methods of teaching reading and writing.

The Literacy Collaborative course is a trademark course taught at Ohio State University in Columbus.

Reed spent one week every two months for a year taking classes at the University of Maine. She said the training was for eight hours per day, five days a week.

“I had homework most nights and homework in between class sessions,” Reed said.

She shares what she has learned with the staff and together they work as a team to improve the reading and writing skills for the children.

She said the teachers, as a team, can quickly catch a child’s learning deficiencies.

“We can then give children the support needed and they won’t get way behind,” she said.

Reed said along with improving the children’s skills, the Literacy Collaborative provides for schoolwide professional development.

She said she observes a class being taught and then discusses with the teacher what can be done to improve literacy.

“My job is to go in and support teachers; try out new things,” Reed said. “The idea is to help teachers challenge themselves.”

She said a benefit of using the Literacy Collaborative system is that eventually all teachers are employing the method, resulting in more consistency from grade to grade.

Reed was hired specifically a year ago for the Literacy Collaborative. She taught for 29 years on Mount Desert Island and worked part of that time as a literary specialist and spent her last two years there as literary coordinator for the district.

She has a master’s degree in literacy.

Reed said the whole job of reading became different with the computer age. She said people have to be able to scan information quickly and still be a critical reader.

“We’re teaching kids to read more fluently and we see that increasing the speed of reading actually increases their comprehension,” Reed said.

She said she wants children to recognize words and phrases quickly enough so they don’t have to sound out the word. Then, their attention will be focused on the meaning of the story and not getting hung up on words.

“If children have to write a story and think about sounding out the words, then they will lose the focus of the story,” she said.

Reed said the children will help each other reading and writing and that is important scholastically as well as socially.

The school is also getting parents involved. There will be a Family Night on Sept. 30 for parents and students to join teachers in discussing how they can create an environment at home conducive to learning literacy.


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