My professional inquiry project addressed the literacy needs of students within the classroom. The focus was to provide literacy intervention strategies that can be implemented both in the classroom and with additional support where available.
I participated in collaborative team meetings which focused on assisting struggling students in grades two through four by providing literacy supports. As a team, we determined specific supports and interventions already in place, organized differentiated strategies, as well as discussed appropriate and intensive intervention for the highest need students. Working with students one-on-one, I assessed students' independent reading levels using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System. Based on these assessments, we as a team were able to determine which students to focus on for more intense literacy support.
In addition to participating in the larger collaborative response team, I also worked to apply this model of literacy intervention in my own classroom. Meeting with my teacher mentor (the assistant principal and grade five teacher), we experimented with the model used in the collaborative team to tailor it to best fit our group. In our meetings we went through our class list, one student at a time, determining what supports might support that individual student. In the next meeting, we would look over our last action plan and address what had and had not worked. Based on these reflections we would then create a new action plan and begin the process again. Through practice in this smaller setting, we were able to refine the process and bring suggestions and feedback to the collaborative team.
Some of the areas of focus for students in the Grade 5 classroom included legibility and vocabulary. For example, one student struggled significantly with writing. His writing was consistently illegible and when using a computer, his writing was still often difficult to understand due to spelling and syntactical errors. To support this student, I provided him with tactile tools including a pencil group and a weighted pencil. I also started having him use the computer more frequently and read his writing aloud. When the student completed a writing piece legibly, this piece was then used as a model to which he could compare future work. Other students in the class, particularly English Language Learners, were supported through practical vocabulary development.
The opportunity to extend my experience from the collaborative team meeting into my own classroom allowed me to experiment with literacy intervention techniques. It has been a reminder that literacy intervention is not always a complicated process, but may be as simple as having students listen to their own writing or use a different writing utensil to improve legibility. This experience has also reminded me of the incredible power of collaboration. Through collaboration with a team of other teachers and support staff, I was able to improve my own teaching as well as provide meaningful opportunities for my students. Regardless of whether the school I end up teaching in has a formal collaborative literacy team, our approach is one that I would love to implement in my own classroom. I believe that this method would highly benefit students in any class at every grade and ability level.
Kayla is a general humanities major with practicum experience in grades 3, 5, and 6. She graduated in May 2015. Originally from Calgary, she began her education at Mount Royal University then transferred to the University of Lethbridge to complete her degree.