Reading Challenge: Teaching 19 Second Graders at a Range of Reading Levels
School Profile: Dennis Elementary School, Springboro, OH
Students: 843 students; Grades 2-5; 14% Free/Reduced lunch
After teaching fourth grade for 16 years, Jennifer Smith was assigned a second-grade class in the fall of 2017. She wanted to make sure she was delivering all the reading skills her students needed to be successful readers. Her class at Dennis Elementary School, in Springboro, OH, consisted of 19 learners, two IEP (inclusion for science and social studies only); five reading interventions; and 12 regular education students.
How She Chose MindPlay
In the fall of 2017, Smith says she invited herself to attend a presentation about MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach (MVRC) and loved what she heard. “The idea that children could receive an individualized curriculum based on their specific needs sold me on the program,” she says. “MindPlay sounded perfect for students with a variety of reading abilities.”
Smith began by implementing the MindPlay preview, which ran from November through December 2017. She and her students worked together to help each other understand the ins and outs of the program. One strategy she found highly beneficial was using a headset splitter to access the system with the students. By doing this, she could help the children when they were struggling to understand a concept or to execute the directions, she says. “This approach allowed me to quickly address concerns, reduce frustrations encountered by the children, and help students make the biggest gains.”
We learned when and how to log off: If students stopped halfway through a lesson, the program restarted them at the beginning of the lesson the next time they signed in. The children also determined that headphones and a mouse made the program easier to navigate.
At that time her students worked on MindPlay 30 minutes a day, four days a week. “Once I saw the preview results, I totally bought into MindPlay,” she says.
In January 2018, the school purchased MindPlay. Smith says they had initially struggled to reach 100 percent fidelity but made it a goal and priority to reach 100 percent in January. The students worked on the program five days a week until the end of the school year, with an average of 30 usage hours per learner.
Smith describes the end-of-year reading results as “amazing.” She says they made a big jump in grammar, phonics, and vocabulary, and this carried over into writing, reading, and word study.
Students also had remarkable increases in their national AIMSweb measurement scores.
Smith describes the class Maze Comprehension scores as “amazing,” as 13 of 17 students were over the 50 percent benchmark with at least a score of 15. Those students who did not meet benchmark had still made incredible growth based on their fall measurement data, with a large percentage of students achieving scores above average.
The students’ AIMSweb R-CBM fluency scores also increased greatly over benchmark: 13 of 17 students scored well above a benchmark score of 92 words per minute (WPM). Even those students who did not make benchmark had significant gains in fluency.
Reading levels for all students increased significantly, with many leaping from below grade level to above grade level after an average of 30 usage hours on MindPlay.
Outstanding Student Performances
A regular education student with ADHD went from 56 WPM in the fall, to 106 WPM on the spring-based AIMSweb RCBM assessment. On the Maze, this student also went from two correct in the fall to 15 correct in the spring.
One student went from 60 wpm to 115 wpm on the AIMSweb R-CBM and from six correct to 24 correct on the Maze Test.
Another student went from 44 wpm to 125 on the AIMSweb R-CBM, and from one correct to 16 correct on the Maze Test.
A student who had not attended school regularly in previous years came to second grade as an “A” reader, not knowing all of his letters and their sounds, and now is a “G” reader, based on the Jan Richardson Next Step Guided Reading Assessment. This student went from being a non-reader to reading at about the 1.5 grade reading level in 25 usage hours on MindPlay.
Motivation Made Easy
Smith says that they were learning to use MindPlay, and the children coached each other. “If a student did not understand a task and became frustrated, their peers were eager to offer support. We discussed the skills being taught and learned together.”
Snack time during MindPlay became a huge motivator. In the beginning, students were struggling to stay on task because they were hungry, and learning the program was sometimes challenging. Once they knew they would have their snack during MindPlay, they were more engaged and eager to begin.
Both Smith and the MindPlay program encouraged learners all along the way. “As my students earned certificates, I printed them out, and we celebrated their successes together as a group. On a daily basis, we viewed the data and celebrated our 100 percent fidelity.”
Praise for MindPlay in Smith’s Own Words
I like that students in my room have their own private tutor to work through the lessons and that everyone is being taught at their level. My higher-level reading students have a chance to reach for the stars. My struggling readers have someone to reteach and restate something in a different way so they can learn it.
The students know the skills that MindPlay teaches, and they discuss them with each other and with me in their small groups.
Every once in a while, you take a chance, and it pays off. I totally lucked out in being introduced to MindPlay. I gave something 100 percent and saw the rewards: My 2017-18 students demonstrated huge gains and made connections that I may not have been able to help them make. I feel as though I won the lottery!