Our instructional model features a unique combination of literacy building blocks.
Rather than focus exclusively on the mechanics of reading, our multidimensional approach tackles all the individual, social, and environmental obstacles to literacy proficiency and academic achievement.
The Reading Team instructional model comprises a structure of mutually reinforcing activities, critical to our effectiveness.
Our model is concentrated on literacy, attentive to the whole child, and responsive to each child’s unique learning styles. It is also portable so that children, parents, and teachers can apply what they learn here in other environments.
See below for more about the nine literacy building blocks of our programs.
Minduflness meditation gives our after-school children a way to calm themselves when unsettled, so that they can conquer behavioral blocks to success in school and in life.
Some children in our After-School Program exhibit behavior problems in school and at home. The difficulty they have in controlling their behavior hampers their ability to learn. To enable them to calm themselves when they are unsettled and to improve their focus and attention, we have initiated a program of Mindfulness exercises.
Available to all our after-school children, Mindfulness exercises have been remarkably effective at the Reading Team. Cognitive abilities alone are not as powerful as a group of cognitive and social skills — attentiveness, impulse control, perseverance — for supporting educational and life success. The Reading Team’s Mindfulness exercises address these essential factors of character and personality that too often are overlooked in the learning process.
Recently, a young child asked a Reading Team staff member if her reading group could do more Mindfulness exercises. When asked why she wanted this, she replied, "Because my family is crazy, and the only peace and quiet I get is through Mindfulness." This demonstrates the effectiveness of the Reading Team’s Mindfulness exercises delivered in our uncommon educational setting where all staff exude a particular calmness, empathy, and patience, and model self-awareness, self-respect, and acceptable social behavior.
One-on-one instruction with a reading specialist builds academic strength, interpersonal skills, trust, and self-confidence for children who need expert instruction.
Book Distribution Program
Sadly, many of the children we serve are growing up without books at home or easy access to their local library. Our Book Distribution Program supplies books and instructional materials for all our children so that they can build a personal library at home.
During the school year, Reading Team children, their parents, and their teachers can borrow any of the several thousand titles in our library of great children’s literature and informational texts. Twenty times a year, we invite all our children to choose a special book to keep for their home library.
In addition, we give our younger children books of poetry, magnetic letters, children's picture dictionaries, illustrated encyclopedias, and writing journals. We give the older children a student dictionary/thesaurus, an atlas and a globe, and a world almanac.
Multisensory experiences are key to the development of new skills in children. Our enrichment activities, particularly our popular Creative Dramatics Activities, engage each child’s imagination and sense of fun.
Small Reading Groups
Small Reading Group Activities with our Literacy Mentors nurture each child’s literacy capabilities, along with key social skills and behaviors.
Instructional groups are intentionally small so that our Literacy Mentors can attend to each child’s aspirations, learning style, and pace of development. Reading Team Literacy Mentors are experienced teachers and graduate students in education whom we hire and train to engage the children in a wide range of literacy-nurturing activities.
As role models of commitment and achievement, our Literacy Mentors inspire students to go beyond their perceived limits and to internalize the connections between good work habits and success. Instruction is rigorous.
Our pre-kindergartners through first graders focus on storybook reading and letter and word games that enable them to develop and strengthen important skills:
- Oral language
- Listening skills
- Reading readiness
- Background knowledge
- Alphabet awareness
- Understanding of the purposes and organization of print
- Phonological and phonemic awareness
- Written language development
- General attitudes toward literacy
Our 2nd through 5th grade program is built on a staircase of literacy complexity in reading, reading comprehension, spelling, vocabulary, writing, punctuation, and oral expression.
Advanced skills include reading informational texts, creative and expository writing, critical analysis, abstract thinking, research, argumentation, note taking, outlining, editing, and learning independence. Instruction integrates materials and use primary sources from social studies, history, and science to help children deepen their understanding of concepts and expand learning processes.
At all levels, students are challenged to listen carefully, analyze ideas and issues from a variety of perspectives, and solve problems using multiple approaches, particularly the application of textural evidence.
The Waterford Early Reading Program
The Waterford Early Reading Program is a computer-based early literacy curriculum for children from ages four to seven. The program helps them to surmount many of the barriers to successful literacy development.
The technology-based program utilizes interactive research-based strategies and techniques to accelerate learning so that children will be school-ready by the end of pre-kindergarten, reading-ready by the end of kindergarten, a competent beginning reader by the end of first grade, and a fluent and expressive reader by the end of second grade.
The program consists of three levels: for emergent, beginning and fluent readers.
The Level 1 program is a year-long sequenced curriculum on the basic skills of reading readiness. Children engage in activities, animations and play and practice opportunities as they experience oral and written language through children’s songs and literature from around the world. Level 1 focuses on enabling children to master the key emergent reading skills and concepts of automatic letter recognition, print and other concepts, phonological awareness, and vocabulary expansion.
The Level 2 program enables children to progress from emergent to beginning reading. Children solidify phonemic awareness, learn to blend letter sounds to make words, decode pattern words, and recognize sight words. Songs are used to teach useful principles of grammar, spelling and pronunciation. Children read and listen to a variety of literature and other texts and practice comprehension strategies that are taught explicitly. Children read aloud and record their reading for their Literacy Mentors to listen to. In Level 2, children are accelerated through lessons they have already mastered or, if they need additional support, they receive more detailed instructions with a lot of repetition and reinforcement.
The Level 3 program is where children continue to develop grammar and usage skills and learn to analyze word structure and patterns. Students focus on the content and meaning of text and learn to utilize comprehension strategies. Level 3 extends student reading to other content areas as students learn to read with expression and fluency through frequent oral readings. In Level 3, children learn the strategies that authors employ to be successful and apply those strategies to their own writing.
All three levels of the program address students’ needs by adapting to each child’s learning level and pace. Children are encouraged to sing along with songs, to repeat letters, and to sound out words. Students may print out the product of their work and can take home rhyming and alliterative books they have created, lists of new vocabulary words, certificates of achievement, and letter puzzles.
Parent Support Programs
Our Parent Support Programs include an Elementary School Advisory Program to advise parents as they make important decisions about their children’s school, as well as a series of Parent Conversations that arm parents with strategies to help their children succeed.
Preschool Teacher Training
Our Preschool Teacher Training enables the teachers of the children in our Preschool Program—day care and Head Start teachers—to develop the skills to support the children’s emergent literacy. It ensures that they have the resources necessary for a strong classroom instructional program.
Staff Professional Development
Our rigorous training program ensures all Reading Team instructors are versed in the best literacy teaching methods and apply optimal learning strategies for the children they serve.
Our Literacy Mentors are trained in the multisensory Orton-Gillingham-based approach to teaching reading, handwriting, spelling, and comprehension. The Reading Team uses the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction for all our pre-kindergarten through second grade children and, to a lesser degree, for our older children.
Language-based and success-oriented, the method employs phonetics and emphasizes visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles. Instruction focuses initially on language structure and shifts gradually into reading, handwriting, and spelling. Students move step by step through a predictable sequence that integrates reading, writing, and spelling, and they receive immediate feedback.