Grant Wood AEA Emergent Literacy Initiative supports early learning

AL-gKs_0090Grant Wood AEA is in the third year of providing support for emergent literacy instruction in early learning classrooms. Priscilla Polehna, Grant Wood AEA speech-language pathologist, explained that the Emergent Literacy Initiative uses a curriculum supplement called Read It Again authored by Dr. Laura Justice, director of Ohio State University’s Preschool Language and Literacy Lab and Anita McGuinty.

“The curriculum involves 30 weeks of systematic, explicit instruction in emergent literacy skills,” she explained. It focuses on precursory skills that provide a foundation for children before formal reading instruction occurs in kindergarten.”

“Read It Again incorporates lessons that develop print knowledge, phonemic awareness, narrative skills and vocabulary,” Polehna continued. “Teachers provide these lessons to their whole class twice weekly. In addition to these whole group lessons, Grant Wood AEA support staff help to provide focused small group instruction for special education students. The lessons are built around 15 different children’s storybooks, which provide a context for the program’s objectives and have the added benefit of providing students with a quality shared reading experience.”

Agency consultants with the Special Education Literacy Team and Grant Wood AEA speech-language pathologists help to provide small group instruction two times a week to special education students in some districts. In the Cedar Rapids School District, teachers and the Grant Wood AEA speech-language pathologists provide this support for students with IEPs.

The Emergent Literacy Initiative has expanded during its three years of existence, beginning during the 2010-2011 school year with two classrooms, adding the entire Cedar Rapids Community School District the following year, and then adding 13 more districts during the 2012-2013 school year. Districts that started during the current school year receive support from Emergent Literacy Special Education Literacy Team (SPEL) team members. These consultants assist teacher with collecting data, analyzing the data and making instructional decisions. The initiative will expand to include six new districts during the 2013-2014 school year.

Dr. Justice presented “Big Ideas in Emergent Literacy” to area educators and Grant Wood AEA staff on March 8. During her presentation, she commented, “Grant Wood AEA is cutting edge and very unique in its approach to and support of early literacy development.”

“As an agency, a major goal is closing the achievement gap between special education students and their general education peers,” Polehna explained. “The Emergent Literacy Initiative is our effort to prevent the achievement gap. Research supports that providing explicit, systematic instruction in emergent literacy skills at an early age can prevent reading issues in later years. We want to send these young children, who are at risk for reading difficulties, to kindergarten with a strong foundation.”

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