New literacy curriculum comes to PSD elementary schools

Alice Kinerk As part of her regular class, Minter Creek Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Dawn Barnes teaches Reading Wonders. Here, she is spotted tutoring Chloe Downey. Photo by Ed Johnson, KP News Kindergarten through fifth-grade students in Peninsula School District began the school year with a new reading and writing curriculum called Reading Wonders, and the response has been positive. Reading Wonders, published by McGraw-Hill, uses an integrated approach to improving students’reading and writing skills. Each week begins with an essential question. The question forms the basis for learning that week.

For example, a recent essential question for third grade was,“Why do people immigrate to new places?”To explore this idea, students read informational texts about Ellis Island. They read historical fiction about immigrants who came to America from different countries. Then they wrote stories about why people move to new places.

The program includes literature anthology textbooks with bright and colorful illustrations.  Opportunities to practice reading skills and strategies occur on a daily basis. Each week also includes a set of books written at different reading levels so teachers can assign students to reading groups where they read books that are neither too easy nor too hard for them. Hundreds of additional titles can also be accessed online. Games to practice what is learned in class are online, too, teachers say.

The program also includes lessons on vocabulary, grammar, phonics and spelling.

Dawn Barnes is a fourth-grade teacher at Minter Creek Elementary. who also supports the district in leading professional development opportunities for teachers with the Reading Wonders program.Barnes likes Reading Wonders for the variety it offers and the built-in opportunities to practice new skills.

“Reading Wonders gives students the exposure to a variety of genres, includingboth literature and informational text. Each week, students are introduced to differentcomprehension skills, comprehensionstrategies andvocabulary strategies.Based on these skill lessons, students are able to apply their new knowledge to new text. This provides them with the needed skill application practice,”Barnes said.

Ashley Edmonds, a third-grade student at Minter Creek Elementary, also enjoys the variety in Reading Wonders.“Things I like about Reading Wonders are more books and great stories. They highlight key words and have lots of details. I feel like I can imagine it in my head,”Edmonds said.

Chloe Sherwood, another elementary student in PSD, says “Reading Wonders is the best, because they make different topics and they include lots of details. My class loves the stories. I love how they make fiction and nonfiction stories.”

Prior to implementing Reading Wonders, teachers used one curriculum for reading and a separate curriculum for writing. That made integrating subjects difficult, they said. In addition, compared to the previous curriculum, Reading Wonders offers significantly more support and materials to teach students who are reading and writing either above or below grade level.

Teacher training on the new program continues throughout the school year.

Because the components of the program are vast and can, at first, be overwhelming to teachers, a variety of workshops allow teachers to select what they would like to focus on in training.

“There will be ongoing professional development opportunities for teachers in the Peninsula School District through the Monday Matters meetings. The first meeting, held Nov. 16, provided teachers a menu of options to choose from, based on their current needs,”Barnes said.

Reading Wonders is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Elementary students in PSD take the Smarter Balance Assessment from Common Core each spring.