Rural school chalks up WIN for reading

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A rural school has taken a winning approach to getting students to read.

For 45 minutes every school day, all 140 Cayley School students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 participate in the WIN (What I Need) program.

“In 10 minutes, every child is getting a short lesson on reading strategies on how to be a better reader for about 15 minutes,” said Cayley School librarian Colleen Jantzen at 11:05 a.m. “Then for the rest of the 30 minutes, they are working on their reading.”

Although this is Literacy Week, every week is Literacy Week at the school 13km south of High River.

The WIN program has students reading books that aren’t necessarily at their grade level, but at their instructional level.

“It means they can read the book, but it’s got some challenges to it,” Jantzen explained. “So they have to work on things like vocabulary, comprehension, fluency.”

The instructional level is determined by the teacher, who assesses each student.

This is the third year for WIN at Cayley. The initiative has produced winning results for which the New England Patriots would be proud.

“Kids who like to read are always going to read,” Jantzen said. “But the kids who weren’t readers used to default to Ripley’s Believe it or Not or Guinness Book of World Records, which are fine but they don’t actually help them become better readers.

“Now most of those kids are on their third or fourth full-on novels this school year. They are finishing books from start to finish.”

She said prior to WIN, some students had difficulty completing a book.

At 11:15 a.m., approximately 30 students, led by teacher Jen Murphy, burst into the library for their WIN session. The third-year teacher holds a 15-minute session dealing with comprehension. Murphy enthralls the students with her facial expressions and the enthusiasm of a high school cheerleader after seven espressos.

“I love it,” she said. “So many of our kids from Grade 6 to Grade 8, they are reading books that they would never have imagined reading. They are reading books that they can handle and they can enjoy and they are using strategies they enjoy.”

Murphy picked up some of those strategies at the CAFE – Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency and Expansion of vocabulary.

“Each day of the week, I focus on what they need under those four strategies,” she said. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays we work on comprehension, we tackle things like the theme.”

WIN is something Grade 8 student Emily Panchiv looks forward to every day. She credits WIN for pushing her literary boundaries.

“Today I was working on character and motive – I had to describe a problem faced by the main character using specific evidence from the text,” Panchiv said, who is reading the book Specials. “The book is different than what I usually read, it is kind of futuristic.

“I am open more to reading different books and I understand a lot more words… It shows me how far I have come from Grade 6,” she said.

Down the hall, Karen Blake’s students aren’t discussing character motives – that’s a bit tough when you are in Grade 1 and reading Hop on Pop.

Her students are reading and then discussing it with their book buddies. However, there’s a catch.

“Don’t just read the book to your partner – tell them what happened in your own words,” she told the class.

Comprehension was the key to the WIN lesson.

“We were re-reading our books to learn more and they were using Post-its to put on the important information to be able to re-tell it in their own words, with the help of those pages,” Blake said. “That is to ensure the kids really comprehend what they are reading.”

Just like the older students, the Grade 1s are reading at their instructional level.

“All the books are leveled,” she said. “I had some kids in the end Grade 2 level in the room and a few that were at beginning Grade 1. They are all kind of all over the map.”

Different parts of the map, but all heading in the same direction of being better readers, according to principal Phil Irwin.

“There have always been kids in every school where some kids have struggled,” Irwin said. “We wanted to commit time each day to make all our students better readers… Nothing gets in the way of it, assemblies won’t get in a way of WIN for example.

“The key is if kids are feeling better how they read, it transfers in more confidence and higher levels of achievement.”

Literacy Week continues this week in Foothills, including celebrity readers at Big Rock School, similar to what was done at Dr. Morris Gibson School last week.

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