sowing seeds of change
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literacy in chicago
Alisha* sat in a first-grade classroom at Joseph Kellman Corporate Community Elementary School in Chicago. Day after day, this sweet and quiet girl listened attentively as her classmates shared during check-in time, but she didn’t say much. Then one morning after all the children were done writing in their journals about a story from that day’s read-aloud, the children had the opportunity to use their new crayons and markers to illustrate their writing and share their drawings.
This little girl who was once reserved and hesitant to speak became excited and enthusiastically talked about her picture with the rest of her classmates. Alisha found her voice through sharing her illustration and reading her writing aloud. This experience led to her sharing more during check‐ins and participating in book discussions, especially when she could share her illustrations. Alisha grew and flourished as a reader over the following months, improving four reading levels from where she started at the beginning of the school year.
This story sheds light on many children’s experiences in the North Lawndale Reads program at Kellman this past school year. When teachers are given coaching and resources that support the creation of inclusive, respectful, and affirming classrooms, it promotes positive self-identity so that children feel comfortable sharing their whole selves, including their cultures, languages, gifts, talents, and oral traditions. This creates an environment where children can thrive and it yields powerful results.
In the 2021-2022 school year, CLI Interventionists coached teachers on classroom culture and environment, helping them physically arrange their classroom and libraries to create positive learning environments. Interventionists coached teachers how to analyze assessment data to improve instruction, and those improvements led to exercises and activities like the one that helped that little girl.
By the end of the school year the number of children reading below grade level at Kellman declined by nearly half, and the number of children reading at a first grade level more than doubled. This is what is possible when you coach teachers to deliver early literacy instruction in a way where every child is seen and celebrated.
*Name changed to protect the privacy of our students
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