Remote Learning and the Science of Reading
by Jessica Kent on August 6, 2020
It’s Friday and another successful week of teaching is in the books. I have all of my materials ready for the upcoming week. Everything is in its bin, copies are made, and teacher materials are prepared. We love the feeling of everything being organized, ready to go, and having all of our STUFF easy to access.
Then, it happens...a pandemic! Suddenly, I learn I will not be returning to my classroom or the school building for three weeks. Then, three weeks turns into the rest of the school year. I am notified I will be allowed to go back into my classroom to quickly retrieve student workbooks. All teaching will now be virtual. I have to act fast. I grab what I think is necessary to continue teaching. I must do this with the fear of contamination in the back of my mind. Then, I realize, it’s not possible to get all of my STUFF. How will I teach without my STUFF?
I begin thinking about LETRS® (Language Essentials for Students of Reading and Spelling) Units 1–8. My mind is eased a little. I know what I need to continue teaching virtually. I know the science of reading. This knowledge has allowed me to transition from a traditional classroom teacher to a virtual classroom teacher. The General Phonics Lesson Plan, Comprehension Planning Checklist, and the principles and procedures of instruction from LETRS has guided me in my lessons. Anyone can open a reading program and read the scripted text, but what happens when you do not have that reading program? LETRS provides you with the why (science) and the how (science) to teach reading, no program needed. I said it, NO PROGRAM NEEDED. LETRS is not a program or a curriculum. We have been told all of our careers to follow the reading program based on the pacing guide provided by our systems. LETRS teaches the science of reading which can be applied to any student, while being based on their individual level. No need for all the STUFF.
I am a third grade teacher. As third grade teachers, we generally believe we do not have to teach phonics. The school where I teach has a high ELL (English language learner) population. It is imperative these students know the rules of phonics for reading and spelling. LETRS also teaches the characteristics of English words according to the language of origin. This explains why some words do not follow the “rules” we think they should follow. All students need continued support in phonics, even in later grades. When a student understands the science of how the combination of certain letters spell a sound, they are able to become more efficient readers and spellers of words.
What about comprehension? LETRS provides teachers with the knowledge of how to pick quality text and the knowledge of how to use the text to its maximum potential. Since completing LETRS, I can successfully choose a book from my classroom library while using the LETRS Comprehension Planning Checklist to teach vocabulary and comprehension. I do not focus on skills or strategies. I teach comprehension.
I enjoy working with students in the classroom daily, and I have never aspired to be a virtual teacher. However, I have been able to confidently teach virtually with the knowledge that I have gained from LETRS.
I have never had the desire to homeschool my own children. This is a role several of us have been thrown into. Using the assessment resources provided by LETRS, I identified my children’s needs quickly, and we are now working to bridge the gaps. Having no experience in a classroom below second grade, I was apprehensive when it came time to work with my daughter. She is in prekindergarten. I was a little panic stricken. I took a deep breath, opened my LETRS books, completed some of the bridge-to-practice activities, and I was able to identify where we needed to begin. She is progressing in her abilities to form letters correctly, produce sounds correctly, and blend letters to make sounds.
Would I suggest LETRS to all of my constituents? Yes. Was LETRS worth the two years of time I invested? Yes.
Now is the best time to get started with LETRS. Most of us are stuck at home, and this provides a great opportunity to begin this journey. The blended online videos and reading for this course can be completed at home. The bridge-to-practice portions can be completed using your own children as case studies, or they can be completed virtually with your students. I am not a sales executive, nor do I have a background in promoting a product. I am a general education classroom teacher who has taught in many systems and states. Programs change from system to system and year to year. Standards change from grade to grade. However, the science of teaching reading does not change.
This is hands down the best professional development that will assist you in becoming a master teacher of reading. LETRS will help you become proficient in the science of reading and change the lives of the students you will academically impact for years to come.
Jessica Kent has taught for 10 years and currently teaches at Horizon Elementary School in Madison, AL. Kent graduated from Jacksonville State University with a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. She also is a National Board Certified teacher in Literacy and a LETRS local trainer. Prior to becoming a teacher, Kent worked for the state of Georgia as a senior parole officer. This allowed her to see the negative effects illiteracy has on people’s lives. Kent lives in Athens, AL, with her husband and two children.