Reading Challenge: Making progress with first-to-fifth grade students who face a range of learning disabilities such as dyslexia, autism, and other challenges.
At Sherwood Elementary School in the Pulaski County Special School District in Sherwood, Arkansas, Special Education teacher Melody Morris is faced with the challenge of improving literacy outcomes for students at multiple grade levels with multiple types of learning disabilities.
“I have 16 first to fifth-grade students with specific learning disabilities, other health impaired challenges, and autism. All of them receive services for language arts and reading disabilities. A few have been identified as having dyslexia and others show dyslexic characteristics.”
The students in Morris’s class are understandably sensitive to evaluations and even small failures, so getting them to focus on exercises that drill down on concepts they need to master on the path to success can be difficult.
One fourth-grade boy, in particular, had presented a reading challenge to Morris. He was speech and language impaired and although she had been teaching him for three years, he had made very little progress and was doing poorly overall academically.
Solution: In the spring of 2016, Morris participated in a trial of MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach (MVRC) and saw some dramatic and unexpected gains with the struggling fourth grader. The boy went from a Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) level 4 to level 12 in just three months. He learned to decode and put sounds together in order to read. “His confidence soared, and he no longer avoided books because they were scary to him. He began opening books and trying to read them,” says Morris.
Now convinced of the power of MVRC to turn around high-risk students, Morris committed to using the program in the fall of 2016. Initially, getting students to work on MVRC was a challenge, she says, so she instituted the motivational practice of placing cars on a racetrack to represent the hours each learner had spent on the program every week. “The students love the race car track and the competition. However, over time, I see that their motivation is less about the track and more about the certificates they get from MVRC and the academic rewards within the program.”
Impact: The results of instituting MVRC from September through November of 2016 have been impressive. Morris’s fourth and fifth-grade students began the school year averaging 1.8–3.4 reading levels based on the STAR benchmarks, but by the end of November, they were averaging 2.1–4.8. And overall, six out of ten learning disabled students made more than a 0.5 reading grade level gain based on their STAR benchmarks.
“MVRC is able to give students exactly what they need, and they are making more growth than I could give them in a group. After I saw the success that is possible using MVRC, I firmly believe that it is worth the time and effort to have students engaged in this program.”