South Dakota’s instructional literacy coaching program began in 2014-15 focusing on providing supports to school districts with struggling readers. A component of the program is to provide training on foundational reading skills to K-3 teachers each school year.
In the past, summer trainings have been directed to new teachers hired to the instructional coaching districts. This summer, the in-person foundational reading training was expanded and opened up to all school districts, not just the instructional coaching districts.
A total of 10 districts were represented with 26 participants attending the training over three days in Pierre. Attendees included teachers who are new to instructional coaching districts, in special education, or those teachers seeking a refresher on strategies for teaching foundational reading skills.
“I found this training valuable as a special education teacher because it helped me find strategies to further break down the reading process to help bridge any gaps we are seeing,” said Julia Brixey with the Bison School District.
The coaching program focuses on five foundational reading skills:
- Phonemic awareness
"The foundational reading training gave our staff the ability to review the National Reading Panel's 5 Big Ideas in reading as well as dig deeper into effective research and practices," said Shanna Sandal with the Douglas School District. "We took the time to discuss assessments that help identify specific needs, and we were given resources that support the next steps for intervention. We appreciated the ability to review and renew our literacy understandings while collaborating and learning with educators from across the state."
Participants created hands-on activities they could implement with their students for building phonemic awareness and phonics skills.
“Some attendees had participated in previous reading trainings over the past couple of years and reported that they were still learning new strategies and gaining considerable value from the training,” said Teresa Berndt, reading specialist for the South Dakota Department of Education.
As instructional coaching districts evaluated the benefits of the instructional literacy coaching program in 2015-16, decisions were made to broaden the program to include additional staff members. A total of 64 additional teachers participated from upper elementary grades 4-6, special education, Title, reading specialists and interventionists and other content area teachers at the middle and high school levels.
Teachers beyond the K-3 focus were offered only the professional development options and were not provided coaching sessions unless negotiated and contracted with the instructional coach directly. Graduate credit was offered to all K-3 teachers, and continuing education contact hours were offered to all who participated in the professional development sessions.
“It is exciting to see this program continue to evolve and impact more and more students and educators,” said Berndt.
Districts interested in attending the summer foundational reading sessions in the future are encouraged to contact Teresa Berndt for more information.