Teachers receive training on literacy initiative

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The Amityville Union Free School District is expanding a literacy initiative this year at the elementary and middle school levels that takes a new approach to reading and writing instruction, and teachers recently spent four days learning about the program.

Three staff developers from the Columbia Teachers College hosted the Reading and Writing Project Institute in August. Nearly 100 teachers took part in the workshop at Edmund W. Miles Middle School. Implementation of the program followed a year of study by the English Language Arts subcommittee of the district’s Curriculum Advisory Council.

The mission of the Reading and Writing Project is to help students become avid and skilled readers, writers and inquirers. Teachers were trained to deliver instruction to meet the students at their reading level and put them on a path to greater achievement. The focus is on individual and small-group reading assignments, in which students choose appropriate books with guidance from their teachers. Each classroom will receive a leveled library.

“The only way to improve reading is to read more,” said Mary O’Meara, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “Students will have the opportunity to do more reading and more writing on current, relevant topics. We are excited to bring this new program to Amityville.”

The staff developers simulated Reading and Writing Project lessons with the teachers throughout the training. Teachers learned how to confer with individual and small groups of students over their reading selections.

The Reading and Writing Project outlines a yearly curriculum with six to eight units of study per grade. Second graders will focus much of the year on non-fiction books while fourth graders will tackle fiction, journalism and poetry. By eighth grade, students will be exploring multiple genres while analyzing their reading through position papers, essays and memoirs.

Kelly Ann Wilson, a seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher, said she is looking forward to implementing the new program in her classes and allowing students to have more input in their literacy development. “I’ve definitely gotten the opportunity to understand how to better teach our children how to love reading,” she said.

Over the summer, Amityville’s principals participated in a weeklong training program, and throughout the school year there will be monthly job-embedded coaching for the teachers. They will also be able to attend one-day workshops each month at Columbia Teacher’s College. Ms. O’Meara said this is part of the district’s “robust and comprehensive” implementation of the new program to support the teachers and, ultimately, the students.

“I am thrilled that so many teachers took part in this invaluable training program that will put our students on a path to success,” said Superintendent Dr. Mary T. Kelly.