As published in the Record Journal, Tuesday November 22, 2011
By Russell Blair
WALLINGFORD — The Board of Education on Monday got a glimpse into the classroom to see how teachers and students in the town’s elementary schools are using the district’s new Treasures reading and language arts program and Companion Touch netbook computers.
The school board’s meeting was held at the Cook Hill School library/media center, and began with a short video of a second-grade classroom at the elementary school demonstrating how the reading materials assigned by ability level work.
Principal Jan Murphy said the Treasures program allows teachers to assign reading that is at the level of each student. The books are brought together by a common theme and consistency in vocabulary and spelling patterns. In the example shown to board members Monday, all of them dealt with the theme of heroes.
Ellen Cohn, assistant superintendent for instruction, said the Treasures program focuses on consistency for all classes across a grade level.
“Before we left it to teachers, what to teach when,” she said. “There was a wide variability. Most people did a fine job; they just did it at different times and places.”
Roxane McKay, a school board Republican, said she had heard concerns about the amount of new material being introduced at once. Cohn said administrators were continuously accepting feedback from staff.
“When we revise curriculum, those changes will be reflected in our curriculum,” she said. “But we can’t do that until we float it.”
Murphy said that many teachers were overwhelmed because “there are so many materials, and they want to use them all.” But as the year continues, Murphy said that teachers have begun to better understand the curriculum.
“The units are structured the same,” she said. “They are seeing patterns as they go on.” Cohn said that changes to the elementary school schedule that allowed for 45 minutes of common planning time every six days have been a help to teachers as they learn the new materials.
Jay Cei, a Democrat and chairman of the Instructional Committee, said he was pleased to see the new materials in action.
“We talked about it a lot, but a picture is worth 1,000 words,” he said. “It was very good to see it.”
Cei said he was impressed by the integration of technology with the new reading materials and traditional methods of teaching.
Murphy said that the school uses the netbooks for “literacy stations,” and that the school’s bilingual students benefit from audio and interactive components that can’t be learned solely from a book.
Leveled reading is not new to the district, but Murphy said having books that come together in a set makes it easier on teachers, who don’t have to find their own materials.
“These books are created for the purpose of leveled reading,” she said.