Teachers, students benefit from reading lab

by JEN GRAY

Special to the daily press

The fourth annual Moffat County Secondary Summer Reading lab came to an end Thursday after working, pushing and pulling students into different reading realms.

The lab is intended to teach students and teachers alike. It began as an idea from former Moffat County School District Curriculum Director Janet Bohart.

It would be used to train teachers on how to improve their teaching skills for reading and work with certain students to do just that.

"Our ultimate goal is to show students ways they can help themselves," said lab director Katy Gray.

Gray has been involved in the lab since it started. Since the reading levels and expectations are so vastly different throughout the grades, the lab is split into two categories: elementary, consisting of students in first through sixth grade; and high school level with seventh through 12th graders. The high school lab was held at Moffat County High School and the middle school held the elementary reading lab. It lasted for four hours, four days a week for four weeks.

"It works better than the classroom because if the students need 10 more minutes in science, our schedule is so flexible we can give it to them," said Lori Dodge, Craig Middle School reading and social studies teacher. "We can also stop and look at the Latin and Greek linguistics (suffixes, prefixes, word roots and patterns) as we go along, which teachers usually cannot do with their one-hour class."

"Linguistics helped a lot because now I'll be able to break up a word and say what each part means," said Tim Knez, MCHS student, in a journal entry. "In a normal classroom, a teacher would give you a word and say 'look it up.'"

Twenty students participated in this lab this summer. At the high school level, they were taught how to help themselves in improving their reading skills, by being shown techniques that work across the different context areas. They used these techniques in role plays, journal entries and various other assignments designed to add a challenge to the students reading.

Before a writing assignment, students draw five boxes, with the main idea or question in the middle and the points surrounding it.

"It works because the student-teacher ratio is one to four. We don't tell the students, we show them, give them a chance to practice, and give them immediate feedback," said Gray.

"Students have the advantage because they are in a relaxed environment, there is no hurry, there are no bells or interruptions and we have a flexible schedule," Dodge said.

Teachers spent 20 hours training and building lessons in early spring.

To be in the program, students had to be recommended by a teacher. The committee would then talk to the students and their parents to see if they would like involvement. Students who did not miss a day and worked hard were eligible to receive a semester's English credit.

Using the same MAPS test used to check reading skills at the beginning and end of the school year, students were tested on the first and last day of the lab. They all showed some improvement.

Teachers for the 2003 high school lab include Gray, Dodge, David and Cindy Morris, Aaron Kessler and Joy Tegtman. Each of the teachers bring in a different lessons built from the content area they normally teach. Activities include pre-reading, during reading and post-reading strategies. They teach separate contents, but they use the same reading techniques to show students the link.

The lab was primarily created to help teachers use reading strategies.

"The teachers in the lab each year have the opportunity to try different strategies on these kids and see if they work or do not work," said Dodge.

After the teachers have found a strategy that works, they bring it back to their school and offer help to other teachers.

The elementary reading lab, directed by Janele Husband, is set up differently. The students attend one and a half-hour classes, divided into several grade levels.

Summer reading labs have been conducted all over the country. This started as an experiment to teach teachers to teach reading better. It is funded by the federal No Child Left Behind grant.

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