Written by Loyla Renfeld, the Reading Recovery teacher at Loess Hills Elementary in Sioux City.

Photo: Saron with all of her teachers at Loess Hills, including: Back row (left to right): Damon Clayborne (ELL teacher), Beth Hanna (speech pathologist), Veronica Arellano (first grade classroom teacher). Front row: Saron and Loyla Renfeld (Reading Recovery teacher).

In kindergarten, Saron struggled with verbal communication and literacy learning. It was difficult to understand her as she was speaking due to issues with articulation and her limited control of English. Her teacher discussed Saron’s needs with the school assistance team to create a plan of support for Saron.

When she entered first grade, she qualified for Reading Recovery. Reading Recovery is a literacy intervention that provides intensive one-on-one reading instruction for 20 weeks or less, dependent upon the individual student’s rate of progress. As her Reading Recovery teacher, I began planning and assessing to determine how to most effectively help Saron make accelerated growth in order to close the gap between her and her first grade peers. At the time of entry, Saron could write six words and read about 15 words, but it was very difficult to understand her spoken language. She started reading at a text Level 1, with a great deal of teacher support. She enjoyed reading books and talking about the stories. Saron needed help constructing sentences for writing because of her limited experience with English.

Soon after she entered Reading Recovery, she also began receiving speech and language services from Beth Hanna, Northwest AEA speech-language pathologist, twice per week. In speech, she struggled with saying many of the sounds and also struggled to articulate whole words correctly. In addition to these services, she was also receiving instruction daily from the ELL (English Language Learner) teacher.

After about 10 weeks with all four teachers working closely together to support Saron with articulation, language production, and literacy skills, she really started to show some huge improvements. She began writing more words independently, reading at higher text levels, and her expressive language was more easily understood. Her classroom teacher, Mrs. Arellano, noticed the changes in her performance as well. Her scores were improving and the changes were carrying over in the classroom.

Saron recently discontinued successfully from Reading Recovery, meaning she is now reading and writing within the average band in her classroom. She is independently reading a Level 16 text and writing over 60 words. Her district assessment scores improved measurably as well, exceeding the first-grade benchmark for winter. She will continue to need a lot of exposure to vocabulary and the English language, but what a change she has made so far. Her progress has been amazing due to the individualized instruction she received, and the efforts of a wonderful team all working together for Saron!