Based on our Fellows’ experiences, the phrase “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” applies to student literacy. We’ll refrain from using that idiom today, however, out of respect for The Cat in the Hat – feline foil of Dr. Seuss, whose March 2 birthday coincides with Read Across America Day. Rachel Rodriguez (Waterbury, CT) and Marnie Jones (Washington DC) have much more to celebrate — reaching a wide range of students with new approaches to reading instruction.
Rachel’s elementary school has the highest transiency rate in the district. Teaching literacy to students who attend every day is hard enough. Rachel’s students (reading two to three years below grade level and often speaking English as a second language) come in and out of school due to issues worsened by poverty, making fluency that much harder. To capitalize on the time she has, Rachel sought out non-traditional reading strategies at a local and international conference and returned from her fellowship trained in kinesthetic approaches that benefit students suffering from reading disorders and also increase their self-esteem and motivation.
“A large issue in our school is extreme behavior challenges and I believe the root of a large proportion of these problems comes from students’ lack of academic confidence,” said Rachel. “Through my new training, students students are making large strides academically, increasing that confidence and improving behavior. With time, school morale will also improve, as students and teachers find the environment a more positive place.”
Marnie teaches special education students within a traditional classroom setting, which brings its own set of challenges. She works to determine how each student learns best, then makes information or skills accessible. Along the way, she discovered the Lindamood-Bell approach to literacy that incorporates sound, sight and movement to further reading and comprehension. Marnie used her grant to attend two Lindamood-Bell workshops and now applies research-validated strategies tailored to each child.
“Learning how to read does not come easily for many of my students,” said Marnie. “I now realize there is more than one way to become a successful reader and my students are achieving fluency through movement and visualization of letters.”
Research shows that 20% of America’s students struggle with reading. In the past five years alone, 228 teachers have devoted fellowships to lowering that statistic. Literacy remains one of the most common subjects our Fellows pursue so today, especially, we offer them and their students this slight adaptation from Dr. Suess’ Happy Birthday to You:
Today you are you! That is truer than true!
There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
Shout loud, “I am lucky to be what I am!
Thank goodness I’m not just a clam or a ham
Or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!”
You are what you are! That’s a great thing to be!
So keep on reading! Love, your friends at FFT.