New program challenges advanced readers of all ages
Students in Holy Trinity Lower School's new Reading and Writing Enrichment program work with academic coach Whitney Douglas to enhance their reading comprehension through discussions and a variety of projects.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
Holy Trinity third-grader Gracin Borboroglu has always loved to read because “some books are really interesting.”
Well, thanks to a new pilot Reading and Writing Enrichment program at Holy Trinity’s Lower School, students such as Borboroglu will get a chance to delve deeper into reading than they ever have before.
“We have offered similar experiences, but not something that’s been this organized and focused,” said Jessica Kelce, Holy Trinity’s Head of Lower School. “It’s for those students that are reading several grades above grade level with enrichment.
“... A lot of times, we think of enrichment as, ‘Oh, they need a bigger book. They need more words.’ But not, ‘We need to go more in depth.’”
The reading program, much like the school’s math lab, is designed to help students think creatively instead of just regurgitating the material.
Academic coach Whitney Douglas is working with 25 students ranging from kindergarten to third grade. Douglas majored in elementary education and natural science with a minor in comprehensive special education at Vanderbilt before attending Florida State to get her master’s degree in reading and language arts.
The program is being funded by an anonymous Lower School family.
“The teachers identify students that are working above grade level and thinking above grade level,” Douglas said. “It’s not that they’re not going be challenged and enriched in their own classroom. It’s that we think they could benefit from some additional pushing to see what they really can achieve.
“For instance, we have a kindergartner who’s reading chapter books well. It’s wonderful that he’s reading chapter books, but we want to make sure he’s getting as much reading comprehension out of that, delving deeper into the vocabulary and learning how to use that in other areas as well.”
Borboroglu and the other third graders in her group are reading “A Family Under the Bridge” which is rated a 4.7 level book designed for fourth graders in their seventh month.
“We’re going to have to talk about it and write down the characters we see in the book and we say stuff about them,” Borboroglu said.
There also will be a writing project once the book is completed. The work is done in addition to their regular classwork.
Because the work is advanced, some students who are used to having things come easy to them will face new challenges. Seeing them find solutions is part of the beauty of the program.
“It’s interesting to see the arc that a student can take in a month’s time to gain that confidence to do it themselves,” Douglas said. “A lot of the curriculum I’m using, it’s posing questions to students and letting them lead the discussion about the book.
“I’m not telling them the answers. I’m letting them synthesize it for themselves and decide amongst each other … is that really what the author is saying? What do we think is going to happen next? It’s not me lecturing.
“If I’m doing my job, I’m sitting back and affirming their thoughts.”