In reading, it’s where you finish that counts
Feelhaver students show great improvement in their reading skills
Many students at Feelhaver Elementary School showed dramatic improvements in their reading comprehension during the 2018-19 school year, according to Jen Cordle, kindergarten through fourth grade Title 1 reading instructor.
At the beginning of the year, only 3 percent of students were reading at grade level when they took a placement test. Fifty-three percent began the year below grade level.
But by the end of the year, 80 percent of students were working above grade level.
Those results were achieved using a computer reading program called Lexia. The program is used throughout the Fort Dodge Community School District.
Cordle has been working with the Lexia program at Feelhaver for the past five years.
To get students started in Lexia, each student takes a placement test.
Students are tested on phonological awareness, phonics, structural analysis, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
Those students are then placed into a level on the program based on their performance in the placement test.
The levels range from level 1 to level 18.
Students work in the Lexia program for 20 minutes a day, Monday through Thursday.
“Every time students complete a unit, the computer records that. And if they achieve seven units by Thursday, they can do free choice Friday, where they can go to other online reading programs,” Cordle said. “If they have not achieved the 7 units by the end of Thursday, they do it on Friday as well, regardless of what level.”
Cordle said when students use Lexia, they have five different choices of activities to work on.
“Each activity focuses on a different component,” Cordle said. “It’s up them to decide which one they want to do. We might have a student working in level 4 where they are working on adjectives — choosing the best adjective to match certain nouns. In phonics they might practice spelling words with short vowel sounds.”
Part of the reason Cordle said the program has been successful is that it keeps students’ attention.
“There’s a lot of game-type activities in the program that keep students excited and engaged,” she said.
The program allows for students to master each level at their own pace.
“We are recognizing students for the effort rather than their achievement,” she said. “Maybe instead of three options, they might have two, and then after they are successful, the computer moves them back up. They don’t move on until they have mastered that skill.”
When students complete a level, they earn a certificate that gets sent home with them.
“It shows exactly what skill they mastered,” Cordle said.
In all, 1,106 certificates were awarded schoolwide for passing levels.
Cordle said paraeducators monitor students as they work with Lexia.
“There is always someone available to help them,” Cordle said.
Anna Miller, a Lexia supervisor at Feelhaver, said she likes the program because students can work at their own pace.
“It helps them become better readers, writers, and spellers,” Miller said.
Throughout the year, teachers review student progress on a weekly basis and continue to work with them in improving their skills.
“As classroom teachers we can go in and look at reports for every single student to see if there is an area that they are struggling with, and then Lexia has additional resources we can use with them to improve those skills,” Cordle said.
If students continue to struggle with a skill, a teacher steps in to help give them a boost, Cordle said.
Cordle said all students are engaged in 20 minutes of small-group reading instruction, which focuses on developing the skills that match their reading level.
“At that time, they are reading books that are the just-right fit for them,” Cordle said. “Skills they need in order to be thriving readers.”
All students also spend time in whole-group reading instruction, where everyone is taught grade-level materials.
The progress in reading comprehension has been impressive, according to Cordle.
She said 216 students used the Lexia program during the 2018-19 school year.
By the end of the year, 172 students were working above grade level in the program. Thirty-one students completed the highest level Lexia has to offer.
“It’s getting very good results,” Cordle said. “I think our students are excited about using the program and the support we have from classroom teachers and literacy paras and the other teachers that help with this program. I am just really proud of the effort of our students and staff to make this program work.”
By the numbers
216 students used the Lexia program at Feelhaver Elementary School during the 2018-19 school year.
1,106 reading certificates were awarded for passing levels in the computer program Lexia.
80 percent of students were working above grade level in reading by the end of the year.