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Program challenges, improves listening comprehension in Kindergarten through second-graders

Starting kindergarten is a big milestone in a child’s path to lifelong education, but too often, children in the United States are not adequately prepared.

Whether it is due to educational disparities or developmental issues, North Las Vegas’ Duncan Elementary School is hoping a new approach changes the way children read.

“Reading has changed a lot throughout the years. It has become more academically challenged,” said kindergarten teacher Jamie Landahl. “We’re trying to teach children to understand the text rather than simply talk about their experiences.”

The Read Aloud Project focuses on building student comprehension and vocabulary by enhancing read alouds with activities.

Students in the school’s kindergarten through second grades are read books that are two to three grade levels above their own.

“This is the first year we started the Read Aloud Project, which are teacher-written lessons that focus on rich and complex text for students,” Landahl said. “It hits a lot of the Common Core standards and challenges the students with their vocabulary and helps them analyze the illustration.”

The approach requires teachers to pose “text-dependent” questions that can be answered only by understanding the material.

The new method uses a book for roughly 30 minutes each day for a week.

Teachers start by reading the book for pleasure. The next day, teachers will read the book aloud and ask questions regarding new vocabulary words and sounds. Then, teachers add different learning activities each day, which include drawing, writing and talking.

“Students in these grades are at an important age to build on their listening comprehension,” said assistant principal Lindsay Tomlinson. “Sometimes it may seem that the reading material is too hard for them, but we have seen that children can do it if they are given a chance. We shouldn’t hold them back. This is about learning real-world experiences and connecting everything together.”

The new method is increasingly being used across the nation.

In the May edition of Education Week, a Maryland-based education magazine, a report examined the state of reading instruction in grades kindergarten through third.

Duncan is featured in the report as an example of a school using a new read-aloud strategy that is improving kindergartners’ literacy.

The 318,000-student Clark County School District has waded deep into the work, using the Read Project in all 218 of its elementary schools this year, according to the report.

“Kids used to read and were asked how they felt about something as opposed to saying what’s really going on in the text,” said Education Week associate editor Catherine Gewertz. “The school is one example of what’s going on in more than 40 states across the country. Teachers are learning to ask different questions.”

Landahl said she is seeing improvements in her students’ reading skills. She has seen them build on their vocabulary and use new words they learned from the story.

“We get children who come in not knowing how to hold a pencil and having no preschool experience,” Landahl said. “My kids started by answering questions, and by the end of the year, they were writing complete sentences.”

To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email slopez@viewnews.com or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.

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