How Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School District is using literacy to set kids up for success
Clarkdale, AZ | Submitted by Andrea Clark
In a community that embraces a diverse student group where some families face “at home” challenges”, the third grade team is making learning fun by bringing books to life. They understand that reading skills are fundamentally important to a child’s long-term success no matter where they come from.
In addition, they are using more than just library books to accomplish their goals. Educators have created a rewards program to keep students excited and enthusiastic about reading. Reading can earn them points, which are then redeemed for prizes and other rewards. Classes can even earn a party to mark the middle of the quarter if they have achieved their goal.
Of course, classroom learning cannot be neglected, as every student receives 90 minutes of reading instruction a day. They cover narratives, opinion pieces, expository texts, and more. This well-rounded approach ensures that youth learn about a variety of ways to write, and how to read and understand different styles.
Teachers even read to the students, to help with cadence, understanding and engagement. Once they have completed a book – “Charlotte’s Web,” for instance – the class will explore the text through other disciplines. They may watch the movie, do reading and writing activities, STEM activities, cooking, and more. They’ve even used literature as a gateway to math and engineering, by constructing a pigpen. They know that activity-based learning is a great way to keep kids engaged. This experiential approach allows students to really “feel” the contents of the book and apply things within other contexts.
Teachers at Clarkdale-Jerome extend learning with their after-school writing program, where students are introduced to other authors’ works, and have activities aligned with the book. They have done everything from making pancakes to art projects. It really brings literacy to life. Students are given the challenge of writing and publishing their own book, which they can then read to their parents.
To help cement the reading skills learning in the classroom, teachers also hold literacy centers, which gives students time to work on individual skills with hands-on activities. Using technological tools such as tablets, board games, and the smartboard, this time makes learning fun and interesting.
Unfortunately, fewer than half of Arizona third graders are reading at grade level. We do see, however, programs like this all over the state are helping move students toward the Arizona Education Progress Meter goal of 72 percent proficiency.
This solid foundation in reading and writing is critical to a student’s future. The way that Clarkdale-Jerome is able to connect their learning to real-life is eye opening and enriching. They have found that students are more self-confident, are not afraid to speak up, and show good learning growth throughout the year. “Although we are not satisfied with our student results on the State assessment, the work that our teachers are doing in the area of reading is making an impact on student success. We are proud to have the teachers we have in this district who make a difference,” stated Mr. Brown, District Superintendent.