DavieLEADS ~ Guided Reading “Often Becomes Their Favorite Part of The Day”

Davie Elementary teachers attend “Guided Reading” workshops

By Jeanna Baxter White
It’s 7:45 a.m. on Monday, November 12th, and hundreds of Davie County Schools’ teachers and administrators are filing into Davie County High School for Davie Experience 6, a full day of workshops and collaborative sessions designed to provide professional development for all certified staff in the district.

A key workshop for elementary teachers focuses on guided reading, an instructional approach in which a teacher works with a small group of students who demonstrate similar reading behaviors and can all read similar levels of texts. The text is on the student’s instructional level and is easy enough to read with some fluency, but also offers challenges and opportunities for problem-solving.

Guided reading is a component of a balanced literacy framework for reading instruction, which also includes reading to students, having students read independently, and reading with students. The balanced literacy approach, as adopted by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction strikes a balance between phonics and comprehension and is a way to teach all elements of English language arts instruction. It is designed to meet the needs of all readers and to inspire an authentic love and appreciation for reading among students. The other components of this framework are read aloud, shared reading, independent reading, word study, and writing.

Davie  Elementary teachers attend “Guided Reading” workshops

This year, guided reading is the professional development focus of the DavieLEADS (Literacy Empowers All in Davie to Succeed) initiative, which was created through a $2.5 million grant from the Mebane Foundation to support a five-year early literacy initiative aimed at improving kindergarten readiness and increasing the percentage of students reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

The grant includes funding for professional development and specialized support staff, including two full-time literacy coaches, as well as two professional consultants to develop and build the professional capacity of the kindergarten through third-grade classroom teachers in Davie County Schools. The grant also provides funding for all elementary schools to develop a guided reading room filled with sets of leveled readers that will continue to be expanded throughout the initiative.

DavieLEADS Consultant Barbie Brown provides Guided Reading instruction

DavieLEADS Consultant Barbie Brown and Literacy Coach Amy Spade facilitated the guided reading workshop for teachers who have students in the Pre-A, Emergent, and Early lesson plans while Consultant Nancy Scoggin and Literacy Coach Renee Hennings-Gonzalez conducted a training session for teachers with students in the Early, Transitional, and Fluent lesson plans.

“Before the workshop, we emailed teachers a survey asking for feedback about what they had learned, training they still needed, what was going well, questions they had, and challenges they were experiencing so that we could really tailor the training to their needs,” said Spade.

During the workshop, facilitators addressed those concerns and also passed out a sample template and a guided reading plan to help with lesson preparation. They then presented a step-by-step demonstration for planning and implementing a lesson that focuses on the state-mandated standards and meets individual student needs.

“Guided reading is about what the child needs and filling in the holes for each individual reader,” Brown told attendees as she introduced the guided reading lesson plan template. “It’s about practicing word level strategies and comprehension strategies at the child’s instructional level. The whole purpose of guided reading is growing students who read, comprehend and develop a love for reading. Research shows that guided reading is an effective way to get them there.”

Davie Elementary teachers attend “Guided Reading” workshops

To further enhance their understanding of the concept, teachers who attended the session for Early, Transitional, and Fluent lesson planning had the opportunity to sort profiles of typical readers to determine the level of assistance students needed.

“That really spoke to teachers because they had to think through ‘if I had this student sitting in my classroom, what would I do for them and how would I meet their needs?’ said Hennings-Gonzalez. “They walked away feeling better about how to serve the students in their own classrooms, and that felt really good to me personally.”

“Often, as teachers, we think that if we give students a book and they are making mistakes it’s too hard, and that’s not true,” said Scoggin. “Students will make mistakes even on their instructional level, and those mistakes actually inform teachers what each child needs in order to progress as a reader. We are working with the teachers during guided reading lessons to help them determine strategies children need, based on their individual reading struggles.”

Last year, elementary school teachers across Davie County spent 30-45 minutes of their daily teaching time on teacher-directed reading (TDR). During TDR, a teacher guides students through standards-based, grade-level language arts instruction.

DavieLEADS Consultant Barbie Brown provides Guided Reading instruction

This year, guided reading is taking language arts instruction to the next level by focusing on each student’s individual instructional needs. During small group reading, students quietly read out loud while the teacher walks from child to child listening to them read and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses in order to address any skill gaps.

“This progress monitoring will help teachers know when to move a student up in reading levels and whether their instructional practices are making a difference,” Hennings-Gonzalez said.

“Guided reading is considered best practice among small group reading structures. However, it’s new to a lot of teachers, and therefore sometimes intimidating,” said Kris Shepherd, a 5th-grade teacher at Mocksville Elementary. “Barbie, Nancy, Amy, and Renee have been instrumental in working alongside teachers to implement this new structure. This training was evidence of that.”

“As educators, our ultimate goal is to get our students to demonstrate grade-level proficiency,” said Madison Wyatt, a third-grade teacher at Mocksville Elementary School. “In order to do this, we must provide differentiated instruction to meet individual needs. Through the Mebane initiative, teachers in Davie County are being trained in a researched-based, guided reading framework that focuses on intentional and intensive small-group reading instruction. Through this progressive model, students are able to grow and advance in their reading proficiency, and I am excited to see the value of this program in my own classroom.”

“I love the new guided reading program,” said Sandy Hendrix, a first-grade teacher at Pinebrook Elementary, “It is very structured and intentional.  We work with children on their reading needs. The lessons focus on a variety of important reading skills every day. The skills include reading strategies, comprehension, sight word recognition and spelling, word work, as well as a writing component. The children love guided reading time, and I am seeing growing confidence in their abilities.  We have received excellent training. This is the most confident that I have ever felt teaching small group guided reading.”

According to Spade, as an added benefit, the guided reading plans will help teachers have “vertical conversations” between grade levels about where students are in a plan and the strategies that have been used so that subsequent teachers can continue to build upon those successes. “There will be a common language within the plan about the skills children are working on and where they are.”

In addition to the workshop, the consultants and literacy coaches will be providing one-on-one coaching through co-teaching support and confidential instructive observations in each teacher’s classroom.  

Hennings-Gonzalez said, “We realize that this process isn’t going to be perfect overnight. It is important to recognize teachers’ effort and to support their needs, but we also want to make sure that we are all learning from our mistakes.”

“We are using a co-teaching model to support teachers, and we want teachers to look at their lesson plan and be able to say, ‘You know what, I don’t really understand this part of the plan. Can you jump in and help me with this part?’ That’s our goal–to help teachers understand, as well as being reflective practitioners so that they can tailor their instruction to support their students’ needs.”

“Once teachers begin to see the growth in their kids, they will understand the ‘whys’ of guided reading,” Brown added. “And once they get it, guided reading often becomes their favorite part of the day.”

DavieLEADS – Building Momentum on Encouraging First Year Results

By Jeanna Baxter White
Davie County Schools is on a roll–an honor roll. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has released its statewide End-of-Grade (EOG) test data for 2017-18, and Davie County has moved from 45th to 17th out of 115 districts in 3rd-grade reading proficiency.  Based on last year’s test results, Cooleemee Elementary is now in the top 4 percent of North Carolina elementary schools for academic growth, with a ranking of 47th out of 1,218 schools statewide. In addition, kindergarten readiness in Davie County has improved from 71 percent to 80 percent based on the Dial-4 screening assessment.

Front row left to right: Representative Julia Howard, Joyah Abrams, Amy Zamora, Alex Rueda-Romero, Mary Jordan, Sam Sellers, Dayvee Smith. Back row left to right: Principal Cindy Stone, Superintendent Darrin Hartness, Lt.Governor Dan Forest, Xavier Parker, Town Clerk John Chandler, AJ Imes. Exuberant smiles standing under Top 4% Growth Banner

These are just three of the successes Davie County Schools officials shared while summarizing the first year of DavieLEADS (Literacy Empowers All in Davie to Succeed), a five-year early literacy initiative launched in April 2017 to improve kindergarten readiness and to increase the percentage of students reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

Supported by a $2.5 million grant from the Mebane Foundation, the specific goals of the initiative are to improve kindergarten readiness from 70 percent to 90 percent and to increase reading proficiency in third grade from 60 percent to 80 percent by 2022. This project will impact approximately 2,300 elementary students each year over the 5-year implementation period.

DavieLEADS Teacher Training

Hard Work of Dedicated Educators Leading to Outstanding Results
“Dr. Hartness [superintendent, Davie County Schools]  and Larry Colbourne [president, Mebane Foundation] challenged us to ‘move the needle’,” said Jennifer Lynde, director of curriculum and instruction for Davie County Schools. “In just one year, students and staff have made real progress.  For example, moving from 60 to 64 percent proficient in 3rd-grade reading may not sound like a huge difference, but the rise from 45th to 17th in the state shows just how significant the gains are. Sustaining this level of growth for the next four years of this initiative would make Davie #1 in the state.”

Letterland Training through DavieLEADS

“These results are attributed to the hard work and dedication of our teachers,” Lynde added. “They have been diligent in the use of a balanced literacy approach, as well as in strengthening their grade level professional learning communities (PLCs.)  We are also seeing the benefits of incorporating research-based programs that build foundational literacy skills, such as Letterland and HillRAP in all of our elementary schools.”

Cooleemee Elementary Attracting Attention of State Leaders
“Cooleemee attributes our growth to meeting every child, every day on their level,” said Cindy Stone, principal of Cooleemee Elementary School. “DavieLEADS has strengthened our balance between meeting a student’s specific need and holding to the rigor of North Carolina standards which led to a snowball effect of student growth.“

DavieLEADS Impacting Private Daycare Learners

Recognizing this tremendous growth, state officials Lt. Governor Dan Forest, Senator Dan Barrett, and Representative Julia Howard toured Cooleemee Elementary last week to see the process for themselves.

“It was empowering for my staff to have state officials tour our school because they wanted to understand exactly what we are doing to achieve such substantial growth, and it was priceless watching the students share about their learning.”

Through DavieLEADS, Peggy Nuckolls, director of preschools, appreciates the opportunity to work with other childcare providers across the district to ensure children are prepared for kindergarten. “DavieLEADS has enabled all NC Pre-Kindergarten sites to use the same curriculum and assessments.  Coupled with supportive professional development, this has brought a new alignment between public and private preschool classes. To better understand what ‘kindergarten ready’ means, preschool teachers are visiting kindergarten teachers and experiencing expectations in their classrooms. All of these efforts are building capacity and consistency in expectations and teaching practices in preschool programs across the county.”

Professional Learning Community

Early Results Confirm “None Better than Right Here in Davie County”
“To be honest, my board and I weren’t expecting these types of gains in the first year of implementation, so when Dr. Hartness and his staff presented the first year results to us in September, we couldn’t have been happier,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation. “We recognize the hard work, time, and effort that our educators have put into the additional training and professional development in Year 1, and they are to be commended and thanked, not only by the Mebane Foundation but by families who benefit directly from that extra work.  So, I personally want to say ‘thank you’ to all of them!”

Officials are pleased with these early results and optimistic about continued growth, as teachers receive ongoing professional development on Guided Reading, Letterland, HillRAP, and Reading Research to Classroom Practice (RRtCP) through DavieLEADS.

DavieLEADS is an investment in Davie County Schools. “We are so grateful for the partnership with the Mebane Foundation,” said Jinda Haynes, assistant superintendent. “This laser-focused literacy initiative is building teacher capacity and providing resources we wouldn’t otherwise have to support teaching and learning. The work isn’t easy; ask any teacher. However, we want the best for students and the community we serve, and the results are already reflecting teachers’ efforts. We hope seeing the results from the first year will be encouraging and help us build momentum.”

“We realize that this is a 5-year journey in our partnership with DCS and its teachers,” said Colbourne. “That being said, I know that right now our teachers are being asked to do much more than ever before, not only with our reading initiative in DavieLEADS but with new math standards introduced by the state this fall. However, I believe that even in light of these new standards and instructional changes, we can maintain our momentum. This community should be proud of the results that our teachers produced in Year 1 and should continue to support their continued efforts.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, over the last 10 years I’ve been in dozens of school systems and in hundreds of schools across this state, and none is better than what we have here in Davie County!”