The Reading Readiness and Intensive Articulation programs were created and established in the summer of 2013 by Mary Lee Walls, Speech language pathologist and Clinical supervisor in the Department of Speech Language Hearing Sciences. The program has typically been held at St. Mark School in Catonsville, Maryland, serving the school and surrounding community. This summer Lisa Hill, Speech language pathologist and Clinical Supervisor joined in creating and launching the Reading Comprehension and Writing Program!
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person program was cancelled. However, the combination of Mary Lee and Lisa’s passion for this area of speech language pathology by, interest expressed by returning and new participants, and the desire to provide the graduate clinicians with a different clinical experience; the Reading Readiness and Reading Comprehension and Writing Programs were launched virtually on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 1.5 hours each day from July 7 to July 23.
One of the benefits of moving to the virtual platform is the geographical range we can reach. We have one student attending from Middletown, MD and at least one child that attended while on vacation!
The Reading Readiness program serves children entering kindergarten through 3rd grade. Speech-language pathology graduate students work with children in small groups.
The goal of the program is to teach the following pre-literacy and phonics skills: blending sounds, segmenting (isolating individual sounds within a word), sequencing/manipulating sounds, and sound/letter association. Explicit teaching of these skills is essential in the child’s awareness of words, syllables, onset-rime, and individual sounds which is a key component of emergent and proficient reading. The speech-language pathology graduate students’ understanding of the physiological features of sounds equip them to teach sound perception which positively impacts the acquisition of phonemic awareness skills that are essential in acquiring strong literacy skills!
Graduate clinicians work to engage students through virtual games, stories, songs, and use of manipulative materials provided. A packet of materials is sent to the home of each our participants and graduate clinicians prior to the program beginning. The packets include playdough, pipe cleaners with colored beads, letters on card stock, color squares, and some treats (stickers, a pencil, and a fruit snack). These materials enable our student participants to learn through direct instruction, multisensory learning experiences, and structured movement activities. The creativity of the graduate students carrying out instruction virtually is impressive and requires a tremendous amount of planning, yet the excitement of the students makes it all worth it!
Reading Comprehension and Writing
The Reading Comprehension and Writing program serves rising 4th through 6th graders.
A message from Lisa Hill, speech-language pathologist and clinical supervisor
Reading, reading comprehension, and written language is an area of speech-language pathology that I love. I frequently find that students in later elementary and middle school already have a strong dislike of writing. Too many think it is hard, boring, and that they don't write well. The primary goal of this program is to engage students with reading and writing activities that are fun, purposeful, and thought provoking. We can, and do, teach them specific strategies that help them comprehend what they read, as well as ways to generate and expand their ideas in writing—but first, they need to be engaged! A huge piece of that engagement depends on the environment we create; a place where we model excitement about reading/writing, where they know their ideas are important, and where they have the time and opportunities to share their ideas.
In preparation for this program, the graduate students choose 4 specific strategies to teach. They provide a mixture of fiction and non-fiction texts to read, as well as writing activities that tap into these same strategies. Writing activities are first completed as a whole group, with input from all of the students. This way, no one child is responsible for all of the content, every idea is valued and incorporated in some way, and when finished, they have a model of the whole. Then, students work on a similar piece of writing at home. When the group meets again, every student has the opportunity to share their work. I am so proud of how the grad students have learned to see and express worth in every piece of writing. And to see the smiles that light up the faces of the students when they receive comments from the grad students and their peers is priceless.
The Reading Comprehension and Writing program began with 90-minute sessions twice a week. After the first week it was clear that we needed more time. Students were literally saying, "What? We're out of time? But I didn't get to share!" We asked them if they wanted to extend our time together and received an overwhelming "YES!" So, we did! We received permission from Kara (Vincent) to extend the sessions to 2 hours. Who can deny children that want to read and write?!