Rebecca DuFour was recently contacted by an interventionist at an elementary school just beginning the PLC process. A new master schedule has been created that includes (1) weekly time for team collaboration and (2) daily intervention and extension time for all students. The Reading Recovery specialist is currently scheduled to work with first-grade Reading Recovery students one-on-one each morning, which is required to maintain Reading Recovery certification. During the afternoon each day, the Reading Recovery specialist will work with flexible groups of students identified for targeted support based on data from team-developed common formative assessments.
The interventionist asked for information from PLC elementary schools that have intervention plans that successfully incorporate Reading Recovery. Rebecca reached out to Jacquie Heller, a reading specialist at Mason Crest Elementary School. The following is Jacquie’s response:
[This is a guest post by Jacquie Heller, reading specialist, Mason Crest Elementary School, Virginia]
I was a Reading Recovery teacher for six years at a school that transformed into a nationally recognized professional learning community during that time, so your question to Rebecca hit on one of my favorite subjects! It requires your Reading Recovery teacher to change her mindset from defining her job as teaching those four Reading Recovery students to read to ensuring that every teacher in your school has the advantage of the specialized knowledge and skills she has developed in the intensive Reading Recovery training in order for all your students to benefit from high-quality core reading instruction. That means lots of communication with classroom teachers and resisting the urge to fill her day entirely with support groups (which I know is hard when there are so many kids who need extra support—that’s my kryptonite too). This is to ensure she has time to co-teach in reading and writing and plan and collaborate with teachers.
I’d say two nonnegotiables are that she is part of first-grade language arts planning and that she send an update (about every two weeks) to every adult who interacts with the students in Reading Recovery (all first-grade teachers, PE/music/art/library, counselor, speech, administrators, and mentors). The updates set the tone that they are all our kids and it’s our collective responsibility to meet their needs. Our classroom teachers were able to see the goals and strategies I was working on with one student and realize there were others in their class who needed the same thing, so their guided reading became more targeted. Even those who never admitted they read the updates started using the common language in their teaching.
Now on to your actual question: How can she support students outside Reading Recovery the rest of the day?
- Be in the first-grade classrooms to support writing. If she is currently with Reading Recovery students during that time, consider a rotating schedule where a different student misses social studies or science each day in order to free up a 30-minute slot to co-teach during the first-grade language arts block. Students do not typically transfer skills well from a pull-out situation back into the classroom. Being there to explicitly reinforce what she has worked on in Reading Recovery will help the reading/writing reciprocity, and those first-graders who need support but didn’t get a Reading Recovery slot will benefit as will the classroom teachers.
- Leveled Literacy Intervention developed by Fountas and Pinnell is closely aligned to Reading Recovery but is designed for small groups in all grade levels. It is expensive, but so worth it. If you start with one kit I’d recommend the green or blue, which goes up to DRA level 28.
- Support last year’s Reading Recovery “graduates” in second-grade booster groups (as well as other students identified by the data) or do individual conferences in the classroom during their language arts block. She knows what they learned and what they are ready for. That means possibly being part of the second-grade planning meetings as well. This will allow her to provide vertical articulation between the grades.
- Support kindergarten, which will help her know the needs of the students coming into first grade and Reading Recovery next year. We do a lot of letter/sound instruction. In addition to all the great Reading Recovery strategies she could share with classroom teachers, we had huge success in intervention groups with the letter-tracing instructions in Jan Richardson’s The Next Step in Guided Reading.
- Fill in holes. At different points I did Reading Recovery–like lessons with a fifth-grader who had never been in school before and a third-grader who did not qualify for special education but had a severe decoding issue. As you said, your data will show you the needs. Whoever she works with, just be sure to send updates to every adult who could interact with them in order to build that common language and common expectations (and build time into her day to do that).
Good luck, and enjoy the journey!