I sometimes relate blogging to cleaning. I always seem to do it only when I feel inspired to do so. I don't know what that says for my house, but I do know that these cold months have made my inspiration low on the blogging end. Until now. I came back out to Boston from Wisconsin on Thursday to attend a focus group for the Fountas and Pinnell new Leveled Literacy Intervention Kit (LLI). They asked language arts teachers, literacy coaches, reading interventionists, and principals all from the middle school level located all throughout the United States and Canada to join them. There were about 25 of us total. Essentially, we served as a "think tank" for the middle school LLI Kit as far as how many students should they recommend the intervention to serve, logistics of how middle schools would fit the intervention into their schedules, etc. It was such a neat opportunity for me to meet all of the middle school people, the entire Heinemann team, and of course, Fountas and Pinnell. I've met and been part of classes with Irene before, but I've never seen the two of them work together. They truly are a dynamic duo who compliment each other and hold strong to their beliefs about how children learn best. I believe that it's people like this who advocate for educational best practices that give hope to making our school systems a better place.
As I was sitting and listening to Fountas and Pinnell speak during the focus group yesterday, I kept writing down what they were saying because pretty much everything that comes out of their mouths is quotable. I felt like I should be video taping, but of course I didn't want to look like a creepy stalker! :) Yesterday, Irene said, "If we're serious about closing gaps, we will intensify the instruction." This really hit me because currently at Rice Lake Middle School, we have a strong universal approach in place. Students get 90 minutes daily that is dedicated to Reading and Writing Workshop. During the independent reading time of Reading Workshop, teachers hold guided reading. For above grade level students, this happens once per week, but for student reading below grade level, they receive guided reading up to three times per week. In addition, our students who are furthest below grade level receive a reading intervention three to five times per week called LLI on top of what they are already receiving in language arts class. The intervention is conducted by language arts teachers during study hall time.
Currently, our school as the Red LLI Kit that covers Levels L-Q. In production are three more kits working their way up the continuum, the last one being the Teal LLI Kit which will be geared for middle school students needing a reading intervention. I can't WAIT to get my hands on these higher level kits for our middle school students needing an intensive reading intervention because I know they work. Students in our school who have received LLI for even a short amount of time have often caught back up to grade level peers, and/or surpassed students who were not in the intervention group. I am a believer. Schools who are serious about getting all students to be able to read at grade level or above will seriously consider this intervention system. After hearing Gay and Irene's plans for the middle school kit, which will include odd and even lessons that alternate between students' instructional and independent reading levels, four-day novel studies after 24 lessons, and an independent reading library with books made to compliment the intervention, I am sold.
Schools can continue to ignore the huge problem of middle school students who have reading deficiencies falling through the cracks, or they can step up and do something about it by ensuring that students have a strong universal teaching practice in place and can find time in their schedules to get them EXTRA time for a reading intervention. Of course there are going to be a million excuses for why this would never work in a middle school schedule: class period time, students missing other classes, no one to teach the intervention, etc. However, the bottom line is that schools who are serious about producing students who can read and comprehend at grade level WILL find the time.
A link to the LLI Red Kit is below:
Here is a picture of me with Fountas and Pinnell (this made me so excited to get this picture)
You know what else inspires me while I'm in Boston? SHOPPING!!! I'm off to explore! :) Have a great weekend, everyone!