Within a balanced and comprehensive view of reading and to meet or exceed Colorado Academic Standards, we believe that:
- Children, when reading, construct their own meaning.
- Effective reading instruction can develop engaged readers who are knowledgeable, strategic, motivated, and socially interactive.
- Phonemic awareness, a precursor to competency in identifying words, is one of the best predictors of later success in reading.
- Modeling is an important form of classroom support for literacy learning.
- Storybook reading, done in the context of sharing experiences, ideas, and opinions, is a highly demanding mental activity for children.
- Responding to literature helps students construct their own meaning which may not always be the same for all readers.
- Children who engage in daily discussions about what they read are more likely to become critical readers and learners.
- Expert readers have strategies that they will use to construct meaning before, during, and after reading.
- Reading and writing abilities develop together.
- The most valuable form of reading assessment reflects current understanding about the reading process and stimulates authentic reading tasks.
The staff at Willow Creek Elementary School utilizes a wide range of research-based instructional methods to teach reading, tailored to meet all students' needs. The methods are closely aligned with five essential reading components, including phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency, addressed by Colorado Academic Standards for teaching reading. Our reading program allows for continuity of instructional practices across all grade levels.
In the primary grades, our school utilizes multisensory instructional techniques focused on phonemic awareness and phonics. This is paired with guided reading instruction providing targeted academic challenge for each student. We use oral and beginning written retell formats at this level which focus on the essential components of story grammar and text structure. These practices are paired with a variety of genres of text.
At the primary levels, teachers utilize the Wilson Fundations program to assist students with an understanding of phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling. The Fundations program is a multi-sensory approach developed to enable students to acquire an understanding of letters and sounds in relation to reading words and spelling. The Guided Reading program is also used throughout the primary levels as a method to differentiate instruction for students as they progress as readers. Our reading specialist provides extended programming for primary students in need of additional service in small group settings, utilizing Fundations and patterned readers for direct instruction.
As students progress to the intermediate grade levels, the program is expanded and elaborated on by units of novel study and the use of selected spelling/vocabulary programs. More complex genres and written response formats are taught, such as essay, compare/contrast, and persuasion. The intermediate-level teachers provide supplemental instruction in the form of before- or after-school Proficiency Centers to assist students in need of additional support.
In the intermediate levels, teachers work to individualize and differentiate instruction through the use of written response in novel study format. Beginning in grade 3, Willow Creek uses the MCP Phonics, word study, and a spelling program as a means to increase student competency. The learning disability specialist provides small group instruction for intermediate level students utilizing the Phonics Boost program. This program is designed to assist students in developing vocabulary, comprehension, and decoding skills in reading. The Gifted and Talented specialist uses a word etymology-based spelling program for advanced level 5th grade students.
We believe in early identification and intervention for children who exhibit reading difficulties. Prior to students reaching school age, we identify and provide service to those who are in need of support as pre-school children preparing for entrance into school. Our Pupil Services Team provides an individual readiness assessment to each child upon entrance into Kindergarten. Our school's Problem Solving Team, a group of professionals including the principal, Special Education personnel, program specialists, and classroom teachers, meets each week to discuss student referrals and to develop assistance strategies in a Response to Intervention (R.T.I.) model. Our school has a speech pathologist, learning disabilities specialist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, and a reading specialist who work together to provide support services and interventions for students.
Our school's licensed librarian has assembled an extensive collection of books in our library, supplemented by Renaissance Learning's Accelerated Reader program. Parent involvement is considered to be an essential component of our reading program and the library coordinates schoolwide efforts to encourage active student reading on a daily basis.