You’ve heard the expression, know better, do better? It is easier said than done. We know that all students require access to good literacy instruction, but there are real challenges that lay between this thought and the reality of any given school day.
In multi-graded classrooms full of students with unique and complex learning, medical and behavioral challenges, a struggle to find a balance between teaching students and caring for students exists. There are often multiple adults who work in these classrooms to provide programming and ensure that safety and personal care needs are met with some staff further along on the journey towards the foundational belief that all students can learn to read, write and communicate than others.
Given the complicated and often chaotic dynamics that exist in such classrooms, we all may struggle to figure out where to start regarding literacy instruction in general and to find age respectful learning materials for our older emergent literacy learners.
In November, Edmonton Catholic Schools began a three-year Literacy Project in our most complex classrooms using Reading Avenue as the foundation. Reading Avenue, a comprehensive, eye-gaze accessible literacy program developed by Tobii Dynavox, is flexible, age-respectful and grounded in current research and best practice. Given the complexity of our students, approaching literacy instruction in a traditional manner was not going to happen. We chose Reading Avenue as our solution because it provides:
The thematic units tied to science and social studies curriculum offer repeated, varied opportunities to read, write, think, and develop knowledge of foundational academic concepts and vocabulary. While we’ve only begun this undertaking this year, the most significant barrier – which is staff buy-in – is shifting.
Those well-intentioned individuals who firmly believed that literacy was too much of a reach and that their job was more to care for students than teach them are beginning to see students connect to the purpose and pleasure of reading and positive changes in attention and behavior.
The journey has only just begun, and as a district, we are over the moon!