For teachers, the ringing in of the new year is the second time we have celebrated this wonderful event. You see we kick off each new school year in August, with a series of meetings, shopping trips to Target, and late nights spent writing student names on new boxes of crayons and nameplates. It’s a glorious time to be sure, and it is met with enthusiasm, anticipation, and thoughtfulness. THIS one, though, the actual changing from one numerical year to the next, is far different. Instead, it marks the halfway point in the school year and serves as a stark reminder that time presses forward. The days we have with our students this year are passing quickly. Our work is important and the goals we have set for our students are gaining urgency. We must have a plan for what’s next!
As elementary teachers, we get to see our students grow from precocious little kindergarteners to confident fifth graders. It is not hard to imagine that while watching our students grow, their achievement becomes our focus. I am in awe of all that our classroom teachers do for their students. We leap for joy when our students succeed, and we spend countless nights and weekends working to create a classroom environment that supports, embraces, and inspires all students. While teachers are guided by state standards, we all know that reading is an important early skill that supports learning in all other areas. Its foundational position is key and is well worth the time and effort it takes to provide quality, effective reading instruction.
For many children, learning to read can be a seamless transition from listening to stories as a toddler to voraciously consuming a favorite series in fourth and fifth grades. Yet, for some, that road is not so direct. Instead, those students need careful attention and high-quality instruction. We believe that this is a goal best shared by a community of educators, and Nokomis is working to build that system of support for both our students and teachers.
In 2018, Nokomis Elementary began piloting a reading intervention program, The 95 Percent Group, to support reading in both kindergarten and first grade. Classroom teachers work closely with support teachers to provide targeted instruction and to review progress monitoring data for additional instructional decisions. Not only does it include quality professional development, but also excellent assessment tools, well-designed lessons, and strategic materials. As we work to implement the new lessons and build proficiency with our new tools, we are encouraged by the short-term positive impact on our students.
For many children across our nation, their initial reading skills are very raw, leaving lots of opportunities for schools to intervene and provide quality support. One of the ways that we know to be effective is to provide highly effective instruction that is partnered with efficient assessment and flexible grouping. Additionally, we work as a school-wide team to provide both short-term immediate support and a long-term plan for students that indicate a need for additional support. Our goal is to identify our students that are in need of targeted support as quickly as possible and build a reliable firewall in the lowest grades so that fewer students will reach fourth-grade reading below the benchmark level.
The partnership between home and the school, as well as the partnership between the classroom and school-wide support systems become critical to helping children learn to read. We know that many factors can influence a child’s ability to read, and the teachers at Nokomis are working hard to create a solid system of success and improvement.
It’s up to all of us to do everything we can to prepare our students for a bright future. As we continue through this new year, I urge all parents to become active participants in our educational partnership by reading with and to your children, discussing books with them, and by visiting the library on a regular basis.