Third Grade Students Learn the Power of Words and Literacy

Reading Challenge: Maintaining consistency in serving a highly transient student population with a large number of English language learners.

At Red Rock Elementary School in Gallup, New Mexico, third grade teacher and MindPlay Administrator Grace Lueras is challenged with ensuring her large population of English Language Learners (ELL) and students from transient families receive the strong and consistent foundation in reading literacy that will lead them to success.

“We are within the top 20 poorest counties in the nation and have a disproportionate amount of ELL students from many countries,” says Lueras.

English is not the primary language spoken in the homes of many of Red Rock’s students. They struggle with the different English sounds compared to their native language sounds, says Lueras, and when students change schools in the middle of the year, that often halts gains in literacy they have made in the first semester.

Solution: When Lueras learned about MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach (MVRC), she was encouraged that the online program could come to the aid of students from nomadic families. “I got excited about MVRC because our students could now have consistency if they went to another school,” she says.

For a trial period from September through December, 2015, the school placed third grade students on MVRC. Currently, they are using MVRC with 63 Response to Intervention (RTI) learners who are having difficulty with phonemic awareness and phonemical understanding. They work on the program 30 minutes a day four days a week.

“This is difficult with 20 outdated computers,” says Lueras, “but we decided to work with what we had because we knew this was the best for our students.”

To motivate students, Lueras highlighted the power of words and the importance of speaking well. “I told them, ‘If you want to have people listen to you, you have to do it with words. It takes words to explain what you are thinking, what you expect, and what you need.’ I impress upon them that if they put in the time, reading will give them power they can carry through the rest of their lives.”

Impact: Between August 23, 2016 and January 18, 2017, Lueras’s third grade students made a .57 reading grade level gain through approximately 18.5 hours of usage.

MVRC also gave a great boost to a high proficiency ELL student who loved to read. The student stretched himself to read lengthy novels that were two levels above his grade level, but he had to use a dictionary. It took him four weeks to read a novel. After four months on MVRC, he finished a novel in two weeks because he no longer had to look up the words. His MVRC reports showed that he achieved over one year’s growth in four months. He worked at home on the program because he believed Lueras when she told him it would improve his reading.

A special education student struggled with five particular sounds for approximately three years. At the onset of the school year, Lueras was not aware of those sounds or how the student would respond to MVRC. Within the first week on MVRC, the program identified the sounds, and after three months, she had mastered them.

An ELL student with high fidelity on MVRC was on grade level but improving faster than expected. Her in-class spelling grades have gone from Cs and Bs to As consistently. Her ability to express herself in writing is now equal to her verbal expression. When Lueras tells her that she needs an article or a verb, she says, “Oh, I remember that from MindPlay; or we did this on MindPlay.”

”I can tell that she is getting a rich understanding of how the English language works,” says her teacher.

Lueras says she loves that a speech therapist is part of the MVRC program because it allows visual learners to see the lips moving and auditory learners to hear the sounds pronounced the same way each time. “In many classrooms, spoken sounds vary by the accents of the speakers, making it hard for students to pin down those sounds. MVRC pinpoints that sound for a student until they have it in their long-term memory. I have seen a huge improvement with my lowest to highest performing ELL students.

“I have been able to see the growth on a week to week and month to month basis, not just at a year-end evaluation. I am intrigued and excited by how quickly the algorithm pinpoints exactly what each child needs, has multiple ways of teaching, and collects data. I want all of my students to have every opportunity to know their capabilities, and I impress upon them that literacy is a huge part of preparing them to reach for their dreams.”