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12/6/2012 8:20:00 PM
CF elementary bears down on reading skills

by Ken Haggerty

The Cannon Falls Elementary School is making a concerted effort this year to improve reading skills by utilizing a program called RtI, for Response to Instruction/Interventions.

The program, called locally by some teachers and students as WIN (What I Need), has been used some in the past few years with success and was launched school-wide with more dedicated time and staff this year.

The program starts with a core curriculum in the regular classroom (Tier 1). Skills taught include phonemic awareness, phonics, decoding accuracy, fluency/reading naturally, and comprehension.

The RtI program involves testing of skills every two weeks to identify individual students' specific learning needs. After initial testing, about one third of students in the lower grades were identified for targeted, specific learning needs (Tier 2). This may involve small group work or classroom pull-out time. Every two weeks the size and make-up of that group may change. Unique needs of an individual student can be further addressed (Tier 3).

For grades K-5, 25 to 30 minutes each day has been dedicated to working on RtI skill development.

Two teachers, Jaime Winchell and Jaime Reich, funded through Literacy Grant money are dedicated to just working with students in this program.Title 1 teacher Linda Jokela is also involved in the instruction.

Classroom teachers and paraprofessionals also are involved with RtI skills in the normal classroom instruction, as are some specialists.

Veteran teacher Cheryl Sasse says it's one of the most logical programs she's seen come through the system in a long time.

First year Principal Derek Bell says it's education, "same as we've done for over a hundred years, just more targeted." Bell says it's not necessarily true that it's for struggling students. Individual students may need an extra boost in one little area, he says.

The staff is trying to engage parents to help with Reading skills as well. In November, the Elementary staff hosted a very well attended "Literacy Night" from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sloppy Joes and chips were served and stations were set up to inform parents and students on reading aloud, reading strategies, playing with words, "Just Right" reading levels and the "Study Island" concept.

The hope is for reading to be an everyday habit at home and that parents are monitoring and assisting with assignments, said Winchell.

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