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Elementary Teachers Getting Insight On How Children Learn To Read

January 24, 2023 -- Columbus City Schools teachers are continuing to improve their teaching methods with new research-driven professional development sessions.

On Tuesday, January 17, elementary school teachers participated in Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, or LETRS, training. LETRS uses current data to help teachers understand how a child’s brain works as they learn how to read. 

“We’ve had a shift in how we teach children how to read, and so this professional development series is to help teachers understand that. It teaches us how the brain works when we’re trying to teach students how to read and how we have to activate all areas of the brain,” said Elementary Curriculum Programming Supervisor Ebone Johnson. 

Johnson is working closely with LETRS District LETRS Success Manager Renee Foster to help bring the philosophy to teachers in the District. Foster describes LETRS as the science of reading.  

“We get into phonemic awareness, phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension, all the things that teachers should be applying to the instruction in the classroom,” Foster said. 

Johnson explained the training stems from the school board’s goal to improve literacy scores across the District, especially in third graders. 

“This development is going to help us get there. Because what we know from data is that our students are struggling with decoding, so that means students are struggling with sounding out words when they’re trying to read,” Johnson said. 

That’s why all elementary teachers are taking part in the training. Some educators like Instruction Coach Myra Cintula and Teacher Clarity Specialist Amy Brown began the courses for this professional development in 2021.

“Years ago in my teacher training, we learned some of this and the theories behind it,” started Cintula. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t necessarily connect the two when first teaching, so doing this now I can see where the holes in my instruction were and now I can guide my teachers to fill those gaps.”

Cintula and Brown both expressed excitement for the training as teachers in the sessions caught on to the concepts and practical ways they can implement LETRS ideas into their classrooms. 

“Our kindergarten teachers have been saying for years that we need to get phonics back in schools. Now, everything Columbus has in the works is aligned to this LETRS work, it’s aligned to the science of reading and the teachers are excited about that,” Brown said. 

The training is part of a series of sessions elementary teachers will participate in for the next few years. Foster said the professional development training was the largest training LETRS has conducted in person on the same day.

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