Approaches to Training.
- We train a cadre of excellent local teachers and teacher educators to pilot new methods in their own classrooms, and work with them to adapt and build on those methods to fit local circumstances.
- We develop locally-relevant guides for both teachers and trainers, and work with local partners to create performance standards and rubrics.
- We organize communities of practice to enable teachers to support each other as they try new methods, and to collaborate with local leaders and us to adapt the program as needed to keep it on track.
- We work with local educators to create programs of research to identify local instructional challenges and prepare responses to them.
- Language instruction. Students cannot read and learn in a language they do not speak, so when students do not use the language of instruction at home we place heavy emphasis on teaching that language and teaching in it, while honoring students’ home languages. Where students already speak the language of their lessons, we help them meet the special demands of written language.
- Basic reading. We use a whole-part-whole model of teaching emergent and beginning reading. The model begins with reading in context, then calls attention to target skills, and finally practices those skills in a meaningful context. Teachers are prepared to teach students at all stages of learning to read, using informal assessments and differentiating instruction.
- Comprehension, critical thinking, and problem-solving. We emphasize comprehension from the earliest grades, using a three-part “menu” of instructional strategies to build students’ skills in listening and reading comprehension, critical thinking, problem-solving, and writing, with choices of approaches teachers can use before, during, and after a lesson. Comprehension and higher order thinking need not wait for students to learn to read words. When students’ word-reading abilities are limited, teachers can use special methods to build students’ vocabulary, comprehension, and thinking skills by reading aloud interactively and engaging students in thoughtful discussions. These methods can work in most subject areas to help students learn and apply the contents of the curriculum. Reading comprehension, after all, is not only a set of skills; developing students’ background knowledge is an important part of teaching them to read with understanding.
Strategies for developing teaching materials.
- Supplemental reading books. We help local authors and illustrators develop many kinds of supplemental reading books for students at all levels of learning, including leveled “easy reading books,” picture books, informational books, “decodable books” (books that emphasize certain spelling patterns), readers’ theater texts, transitional books (short chapter books for late second grade and early third grade), and chapter books (for students in late third grade and up).
- Textbooks. We work with publishers to develop engaging and effective textbooks based on the local curriculum, using focus groups of teachers and students to make the books teacher and learner friendly.