RTR’s new literacy program reads well

RUSSELL — Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Title I Teacher Theresa Petersen shared the new literacy program being utilized in the RTR Schools with the school board at its recent meeting.

“One of the exciting things happening at the elementary school,” she said, “is that a team of educators, including Rebecca Gunnare, Kari Kidman, Patricia Lindeman and I attended a literacy workshop for two days in August, one day in October and another work day in November at the TIES Event Center in St. Paul.”

The group of RTR educators were there to begin the process of improving the literacy of RTR students at the earliest levels.

“Our team learned to collect data to look for ways to improve the reading abilities of our students in preschool through fifth grade,” Petersen said. “The data we collected is not to be used to evaluate nor to focus on practices of an individual teacher. The data we collected is to help our team find patterns that inform us of strengths and areas of need in our continuous goal to meet the literacy needs of all students.”

So far in the process, they have conducted two 3-5 minute classroom visits to see where their school is and what direction they would want to go to improve.

“We looked at things like what type of instruction was being given — whether whole group, small group or independent learning — was being used, did teachers have adequate libraries for students, were learning targets posted, did classrooms promote reading and were there examples of student work displayed,” she said. “Teachers were also given a survey to let our team know how staff felt or what areas staff saw as areas of growth.”

The team found that their staff has many strengths and a few areas to be considered for improvement.

“Our goal is to find areas of growth and decide if our staff needs training in that area,” she said, “Discussion about more effective or beneficial methods of improving literacy in our school or something as simple as more non-fiction books for students to read.”

Another goal is to include all members of the school to promote literacy from the cooks, music instructors, office staff, paraprofessionals and gym teacher to make literacy a priority.

“Cooks can label foods served to students, music teachers can display music vocabulary and help students learn them,” Petersen said. “The gym teacher can assist by helping students practice vocabulary words during warm-ups or spell words while dribbling a basketball.”

The culture of their school needs to promote “students that read succeed,” was their idea.

“Our hope is to have students immersed in literacy activities and reading for 90-120 minutes a day,” Peterson said. “Hopefully in time, we can reduce the achievement gap for students and encourage a lifelong love of literacy.”

This goal matches up with one of the pillars of RTR Schools’ commitment to lifelong learners.

The RTR School Board members expressed their appreciation for the effort the literacy team was making to improve learning at RTR Elementary School.