* One of the most successful "extra" reading programs I have ever seen used in school is Reading Recovery. It was taught several years ago by Title One teachers for first-grade students. It is a one-on-one program to help struggling readers. It was very successful. I think it was ended because one-on-one teaching is expensive. But if we are teaching children to read and be successful, isn't it worth it? I took a graduate class in Reading Recovery taught by Frank Mace. I was not a Title One teacher, but it helped me a great deal in my reading instruction.
* Math and science should be integrated into first grade classrooms. Math concepts and problem solving need to be intentionally taught throughout the day. Science is an excellent way to integrate reading, math and science content. Hands-on, kit-based science programs are wonderful tools in elementary classrooms. Marty Burke at the West Virginia Department of Education works tirelessly to encourage schools across our state to implement Kit Based Science. Children love science! Teaching science using an inquiry-based approach really engages children. When children study simple machines, sounds, rocks and minerals, the life cycle of seeds and plants, crayfish, best beetles, mealworms, silkworms and butterflies, they become active learners. Children feel they are real scientists when they have a Science Log in which to write observations, make charts and graphs and do real work with problem solving experiments. Children love to read about the real experiments they perform in class.
* Project based learning lessons are another great integration. In recent years our primary classrooms have participated in the "Trout in the Classroom Project." The wonderful people of Trout Unlimited help us set up an aquarium. Over the course of the year, children raise trout from eggs to alevin to fry to small fish. Children keep Trout Logs where they record observations, feedings, water temperature and Ph levels. They write stories, poems, read books and sing songs about the trout. The children understand they are helping increase West Virginia's trout population. In the spring, there is a great celebration as the children go on a field trip to release the trout.
* Encourage (and allow) teachers to attend conferences. Getting to hear Debbie Diller or Anita Archer, both dynamic speakers and authors in the teaching field, can truly change how you teach in your classroom.
Children learn to read in many different ways. They do need explicit reading instruction, and it should be taught in an integrated, interesting classroom. Making their experiences authentic, engaging and real world will motivate even the most reluctant reader. Having a small class size with an aide will help excellent teachers to devote more time to planning and creating an integrated classroom where all children get the excellent small group instruction they need to be successful readers by the end of first grade.
Shomo, a National Board Certified Teacher and a Kanawha County teacher for 33 years, has started a new job as a math interventionist, giving extra one-on-one help to students in second through fifth grades.