First and Second Graders Develop Skills and a Love of Reading

By Jeannie Kionka

Reading Challenge: To ensure all first and second grade students are on grade level in reading, and to boost skills and enthusiasm for reading and writing in students across the board.

Initiative: At the K-8 St. Paul Lutheran School in Ixonia, WI., the school board chose to implement MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach in the primary grades during the 2016-17 school year. Jeannie Kionka, who teaches first and second grade, says MindPlay was selected because the program supports the school’s reading curriculum in grades K-4, which has a heavy emphasis on phonics and literacy.

Kionka used the program this past school year with 12 general education second grade students who worked on it 30 minutes a day, five days a week, averaging 74 usage hours. Two of the students were half a grade level behind in reading.

Broad Benefits to Students: Kionka says all St. Paul teachers like that MindPlay is an individualized program and that students are mastering the skills they will use in reading, writing and math and eventually in the content areas.

With the school’s math program problem based, students must read the problems before they do computations and Kionka has noticed a big improvement in their math scores compared to previous second graders who did not use MindPlay. She also says the grammar component of MindPlay has helped improve students’ writing, and that they have begun using adjectives, adverbs and prepositional phrases, which is advanced for many second graders.

Another area she particularly notes are the non-fiction and fiction fluency stories, which are a good mix and deliver excellent, motivating content. She says often a subject would come up in social studies or science class, and they would say, “I learned that in my MindPlay story.”

Students have also benefitted greatly from an overall increase in fluency. MindPlay requires students to read at a faster and faster rate, an activity which Kionka would not have time to manage and monitor on an individual basis without the use of a computer.

Best of all, students are motivated by the program: “If we were unable to work on MindPlay at our scheduled time on a certain day, the students would ask, ‘OK, where are we fitting MindPlay into this day?’ They enjoyed the competition and loved filling in the puzzles,” says Kionka.

Teacher Support: Kionka also appreciates the Report feature that helps her individualize lessons and save time. “The reports allow me to monitor each student and their needs. For example, I can group students to work on a specific sound, or I can pre-teach sounds that I know might give the students trouble. The fluency reports help me target skills for extra practice to improve comprehension.”

Results: Based on MindPlay and Benchmark assessments at the end of the 2016-17 school year, the two students who were one-half year below second grade reading level had improved two and a half years in one year and the other students made two grade level gains in reading.

Says Kionka, “In addition to impressive year end results, board members whose children attend our school could not believe how much their own children loved reading compared to when they started the year. Their children were picking up books to read, and they had become more fluent readers. They know that MindPlay contributed to this success.

“Everyone at our school is convinced that MindPlay greatly contributes to the overall academic gains of our students, and it will remain a part of our curriculum.”