Training Aims to Increase Teachers’ Skills in Literacy Instruction

In many ways, English is a complex and confusing language. Learning to read, write and spell it can be a struggle for many students. Case in point: there, their and they’re!

Teachers at LETRS training

Kristin Orton stands before Norwalk special education teachers as she presents information to them on literacy instruction.

In an effort to teach teachers learn new strategies to help students who struggle with literacy, Heartland has begun offering Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training. This training is designed so that participants will understand these major concepts:

  • How children learn to read and why some children have difficulty with this aspect of literacy.
  • What must be taught during reading and spelling lessons and how to teach most effectively.
  • Why all components of reading instruction are necessary and how they are related.
  • How to interpret individual differences in student achievement.
  • How to explain the form and structure of English.

Kristin Orton, Professional Learning & Leadership Consultant, and Sue Severson, Program Assistant for Special Education, attended 35 days of training to become official LETRS trainers.

Through conversations with the Norwalk school district and the relationship that Orton had developed with the district’s administrators and staff, the district decided to have all of its special education teachers attend training provided by Orton and Severson.

The training includes 12 modules of study, and Norwalk has delved into modules 1 through 3—“The Challenge of Learning to Read,” “The Speech Sounds of English: Phonetics, Phonology, and Phoneme Awareness and “Spellography for Teachers: How English Spelling Works.” The training began in January and will conclude in early May. Heartland AEA staff who work with the district have attended the training alongside their Norwalk colleagues as well.

“The LETRS training we are attending with special education teachers in Norwalk is pulling together the key research from the last almost 40 years on reading instruction and how children best learn to read,” Ambre Grund, School Psychologist, said. “We are learning about how children process the smallest units of language and how difficulties in that process can impact their reading. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the training with Norwalk teachers and to support them as they begin to implement the strategies they are learning.”

“It was a big commitment of time and resources, but the district understands the importance of literacy training and knew we can improve student outcomes with better-prepared teachers,” Severson said. “In addition, we know that our special education teachers work with the most difficult students and need to be well-trained in the area of literacy. Literacy issues continue to be an issue for our nation. We know that one out of four adults struggle in the area of reading, and the research also shows well-prepared teachers will improve student outcomes.”

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