Title I program gives FES students a jump on readingWith methods that include jumping on a trampoline while reading or reading books to stuffed animals, Farmington Elementary School's Title I program is helping students make progress.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
They were just having fun, bouncing on a mini-trampoline and reading words on a door. They knew they were learning, but they had no idea they were making a difference.
First graders Riley Eyken, Aden Jurisch and Jake Anderson are among the 32 students in the Title I reading program this winter at Farmington Elementary School. They were in reading specialist Lavonne Bertucci’s room Friday morning, they were bouncing around and they were learning.
Bertucci has been the Title I reading teacher at FES for the past three years. A former classroom teacher before moving to Minnesota, Bertucci came to School District 192 four years ago and was hired as Title I reading specialist at North Trail Elementary. When the new boundary lines were drawn and NTES lost its Title I distinction, she was brought to FES.
Now, Bertucci can’t imagine doing anything else.
“This is exactly as good as it gets for being able to make a difference,” she said.
Bertucci’s room is a fun place to be. Just inside the doorway, she’s got a mini-trampoline. She’s got strips of brightly-colored paper on the doors, each listing what she calls “sight words.” In a corner, there’s a rocking chair and a small rug. There is a small table in the room, and no fewer than 300 books peeking out all over the place.
It’s the trampoline and sight words that get used first when each of her 11 daily groups comes through the door. Sitting in her rocking chair, Bertucci has her students bounce on the trampoline and read the words on the door.
The words she teaches first are the 100 most-used words in books. “The” is first, followed by “of” and “and.” Bertucci calls out a color. As the students bounce, they read the words on that particular color. They read up, they read down. One hops off the trampoline, the next jumps on. The cycle repeats for about 10 minutes.
“Sight words are huge,” Bertucci said. “It helps so much when they know them... These are 50 percent of all words in print. Once they learn (the sight words) those are words they don’t have to worry about. Those are words they just know.”
They move over to the small table. Every day, Bertucci introduces a new book to the group. They take a practice read through — whispering the words so as to not disturb their neighbor. They’ll take the new book home that night. But there in her room, Bertucci has the kids pull out the book they read the previous night. That’s the one they’re going to work though first.
When she gives the kids new books, the stories are unfamiliar, the words are maybe ones they’re not used to seeing. Their homework is to take that book home and read it to four others — and that counts their dogs or stuffed animals — then bring back a note verifying they read through it four times.
“I tell them they’re getting better every day, because every day they’re better than the day before,” Bertucci said. “They’re so eager to learn. They’re so motivated.”
Back in her class, they’ll take out the books they got just the day before. Many books have the original story plus a play in the back, so kids can each take turns reading different parts aloud. Once they get through the previous day’s book, Bertucci introduces the one they’ll take home that night.
“And remember,” she told the first graders Friday, “no fingers. We’re going to try to read this whole book without using our fingers.”
Bertucci’s work is important not only at FES, but to School District 192 as a whole, according to ISD 192 director of teaching and learning Caleb Drexler Booth.
FES and Akin Road Elementary School are Title I schools, which means they receive federal funding. That funding is based on the number of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and other factors that indicate there are families who are living at or below poverty levels. The correlation, Drexler Booth said, is that schools with higher poverty levels require more resources to help students succeed academically.
There is a set of stringent rules on how Title I funds can be used. In Farmington, that funding goes toward increasing reading skills for students who struggle. Three times a year, students are tested in reading. Those who are not reading at grade level are recommended for Title I.
“When we look at those scores, I know the ones we have to target. I pick up students who aren’t at grade level and try to get them there as soon as possible,” Bertucci said.
That’s important, Drexler Booth said, because when students fall behind it affects a school’s adequate yearly progress toward meeting federal No Child Left Behind goals. If a school fails to meet AYP two years in a row, that school can lose its Title I funding.
So, Drexler Booth is all for kids bouncing on a trampoline. If that’s helping to get students to where they need to be academically — and in most cases, Bertucci’s class helps them accomplish those goals — he’s just fine with it.
“It’s a very big picture with a lot of nuances,” he said.