By Callie Buys
Public schools increasingly struggle with giving students individual attention as class sizes grow larger and larger, but in some Provo schools, new reading strategies allow teachers to meet the needs of individual students.
Provo elementary schools are implementing a balanced literacy program to teach each child to be a better reader and writer, according to Dr. Marn? Isakson, a literacy curriculum specialist for the Provo School District.
As part of this program, which focuses on teaching to the individual student”s skill level, each elementary school has a guided reading library, with sets of books at levels from pre-school to high school.
Teachers divide their classes into groups of five or six children with similar reading skills, and then check out books from the library specific to the needs of the group, said Linda Hayes, a third-grade teacher at Franklin Elementary School.
In the younger grades, groups take turns meeting at a table in the classroom to read aloud as the teacher listens. Each student in a group reads the same book, but at his or her own speed so the teacher can provide individual assistance, Hayes said.
“The teacher”s job is very important. During guided reading, the teacher is a coach whose job is to prompt the child to use good strategies,” Isakson said.
Teachers choose books that will not be too difficult or too easy for each student, Hayes said.
Usually a teacher will record a different student”s progress at each session, targeting certain skills for that student, she said.
“We want them to struggle a little bit, but not too much – just the right amount. They learn to deal with those difficulties as they read so that the next time they can handle them on their own,” she said.
Franklin Elementary has been using their guided reading library for the past three years.
In the beginning, making the transition from the previous reading program to the current one created difficulties for teachers, Hayes said.
“It was really hard to switch over,” she said.
It was also expensive to purchase many sets of books for the library, Hayes said.
But Hayes feels the program is worth the effort.
“I wouldn”t teach any other way,” she said. “You can really individualize the program and help kids get what they need.”