Breaking Barriers and Exceeding Expectations: The Benefits of Student Centered Literacy Intervention
“We should be manipulating sounds, and we should be taking them apart and putting them back together and touching them and living them and maneuvering where if there’s a mistake, the student’s able to recognize the mistake in that student-centered environment.” – Amanda Nason
What sets Mrs. Myers’ Reading Room apart?
Mrs. Myers’ Reading Room specializes in fun, interactive classes for developing readers. Our programs are designed to meet the needs of each individual learner. Mrs. Myers’ Reading Room programs teach phonemic awareness to support learners for Kindergarten readiness all the way through elementary school.
By developing phonemic awareness, children can identify and manipulate speech sounds in words in order to break down complex words into smaller phonetic units. With phonemic awareness and phonics training, children can better understand the relationship between letters and sounds (Connelly et al., 2001; Hulme et al., 2012; Maddox & Feng, 2013; Carson et al., 2013; Shenoy et al., 2022).
Our founders, Tammy Myers and Amanda Mason, led the efforts to create and continually improve the Myers Method, which focuses on using instructional strategies that already work with dynamic methods that get kids fully involved in the learning process.
We didn’t try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to what works for teaching reading. What we did is make these activities more fun and engaging for kids. We focus on the same concepts and skills that are essential for reading development. What sets us apart from other programs is that learning is embedded in activities that are game-based and movement-based.
Activity-based, Hands-on Learning
Our method centers around activity-based, hands-on learning. Through this activity-based approach, students’ gain and practice their reading knowledge and skills in the context of interactive games and movement. We don’t just incorporate movement, but we make activities that fully engage the child. For instance, some reading programs use finger tapping to sound out phonemes; we also incorporate movement to sound out phonemes, but we have learners do jumping jacks to sound out the phonemes, one jump per sound. In this way, their whole body is engaged in the process of learning. Doing jumping jacks also slows down the timing of the phonemes, so students can really separate out and break down the different sounds in words, but without getting bored.
Our activities also allow for cooperative learning. For example, in our Bookworms program, rather than having students simply trace lines or color a circle, we created an activity where children collaboratively build a road and encounter shapes, colors, letters, and sounds along the way. Children work together to build the road by connecting cards that have different curved or jagged lines and colors, and then take cars through the road they built. As they ‘drive’ along the road, they run into shapes and letters on the road, and they have to identify the shapes, letters, or sounds to keep going along the road. In just one activity, children integrate skills like identifying colors, practicing fine motor skills, identifying shapes, and practicing letters and sounds, all while working collaboratively. Our activities allow for multiple skill-building lessons to take place within a single, small group experience.
Structured cooperative learning groups like this have been shown to increase student achievement and positive peer relationships (Puzio & Colby, 2013). Cooperative learning groups also provide teachers with more time per child to interact and build a positive, meaningful relationship built on kindness and trust. Learners are set up to grow their reading, communication, and problem-solving skills, all while building self-confidence.
Interchangeable, Flexible Components
Our programs are also highly interchangeable, to allow teachers choice and autonomy to adapt to what learners need. Other programs are highly scripted and don’t allow for much teacher autonomy. Teachers using Mrs. Myers’ Reading Room programs can choose from a variety of fun, developmentally diverse games and movement activities, which supports growth in reading skills and builds self-esteem and motivation (Anwer, 2019). The interchangeable components allow teachers to adjust and focus on different sub skills as they see fit, to allow for instruction that truly caters to the needs of the learners.
The interchangeable components of the activities also make them scalable, so teachers can use a given activity structure that their students really enjoy to teach foundational concepts as well as more complex concepts as learners progress. There are also multiple activities that work on the same skills, so there are a variety of opportunities for teachers and students to choose activities that match their interests.
For example, in the Novel program, children can practice phonemic awareness through games like Hot Potato or Sound Hoops, where students must identify written words and their phonemic sounds, or come up with a new word containing the same sounds, before tossing the bean bag along or earning a basketball shot. Both activities can be adjusted to focus on specific words or sounds that students need more practice with, as they progress along a given curriculum. Other games in our programs let students choose an activity (e.g., do a sit up, play hopscotch, toss a ball), after they identify given words and sounds. Rather than designing activities that leave children bored, we aim to promote sequential skill building in fun and flexible ways.
Scaffolding to Each Learner’s Needs
The interchangeable components allow each activity in Mrs. Myers’ Reading Room programs to be tailored to students’ unique developmental levels. For example, in an activity focusing on phoneme segmentation, students build word cars out of each phoneme in a given word. In one version of the activity, students see the written word, pronounce the word and say each phoneme, and then build their car by writing each phoneme on a separate building block. Once the car is complete, they get to race their cars. This and other activities in the Mrs. Myers’ Reading Room programs are leveled, allowing for differentiation where students could instead be asked to create a new word based on the same vowel sound as the original word, or asked to create a new word based on the same starting sound.
Teachers can also provide scaffolding for students as they need by adjusting instruction within the activities. Some kids might need more color support, and some kids might need more shape support, and the curriculum is wide enough to have multiple opportunities for learning. If during an activity, students really succeeded at separating the sounds in several words, but had a hard time with a particular phoneme or word, teachers could opt to narrow in the focus of the activity. If students are having trouble identifying the sound in a word, teachers could add scaffolds by providing students with a choice of words nearby that they could pick from to determine which sound is right. Teachers can also adjust the level of complexity in these interchangeable parts of the activity to meet the needs of their students.
What does it take for truly deep learning to happen?
When so much is at stake for young learners, how do we support the biggest impact on learning? When designing the Mrs. Myers’ Reading Room programs, we had the concept of Understanding by Design or Backwards Teaching in mind (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998). The Backwards Design approach starts by intentionally identifying what we want students to be able to do by the end of a lesson, then builds by asking, “how are we going to help them get there?” This model involves a cultural shift that moves away from a didactic, teacher-centered model and toward an interactive, student-centered model.
Mrs. Myers’ Reading Room incorporates professional development coaching because of its importance for successful implementation. For teachers, the time to meet and collaborate with instructional coaches for intentional instructional practice is essential to maximize student learning (Bean et al., 2010). Both prior to and throughout the 13-week implementation, we provide teachers with approximately 20 hours of instructional coaching. Coaches partner with teachers to help them transfer their reading program knowledge and skills into student-centered goals and implement research-driven instructional strategies. Fostering genuine partnerships between teacher and coach, having opportunities for job-embedded practice, and receiving adaptive support helps ensure sustained increases in both student learning and teacher performance outcomes (Knight, 2019).
We don’t want teachers to be left on their own to have to figure out how to implement each activity. This is why coaching is such a big part of our mission. To effectively help students reach learning goals, teachers need more than one-time trainings; providing integrated coaching that helps educators identify student-centered goals throughout the year can help move the needle. Mrs. Myers’ Reading Room provides support to teachers because intentional instructional practice is really where we make impactful change.
References (from MR DP Research and Design Template.xlsx)
- Connelly, V., Johnston, R., & Thompson, G. B. (2001). The effect of phonics instruction on the reading comprehension of beginning readers. Reading and Writing, 14, 423-457.
- Hulme, C., Bowyer-Crane, C., Carroll, J. M., Duff, F. J., & Snowling, M. J. (2012). The causal role of phoneme awareness and letter-sound knowledge in learning to read: Combining intervention studies with mediation analyses. Psychological Science, 23(6), 572-577.
- Maddox, K., & Feng, J. (2013). Whole Language Instruction vs. Phonics Instruction: Effect on Reading Fluency and Spelling Accuracy of First Grade Students. Online Submission.
- Carson, K., Gillon, G., & Boustead, T. (2013). Classroom phonological awareness instruction and literacy outcomes in the first year of school. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 44(2), 147-160.
- Shenoy, S., Iyer, A., & Zahedi, S. (2022). Phonics-Based Instruction and Improvement in Foundational Reading Skills of Kindergartners in the Indian Schooling Context. Early Childhood Education Journal, 1-13.
- Puzio, K., & Colby, G. T. (2013). Cooperative Learning and Literacy: A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 6(4), 339-360.
- Phiwpong, N., & Dennis, N. K. (2016). Using cooperative learning activities to enhance fifth grade students’ reading comprehension skill. International Journal of Research–Granthaalayah, 4(1), 146-152.
- Roseth, C. J., Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2008). Promoting Early Adolescents’ Achievement and Peer Relationships: The Effects of Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic Goal Structures. Psychological Bulletin, 134(2), 223-246.
- Anwer, F. (2019). Activity-Based Teaching, Student Motivation and Academic Achievement. Journal of Education and Educational Development, 6(1), 154-170.
- Valiandes, S. (2015). Evaluating the impact of differentiated instruction on literacy and reading in mixed ability classrooms: Quality and equity dimensions of education effectiveness. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 45, 17-26.
- Puzio, K., Colby, G. T., & Algeo-Nichols, D. (2020). Differentiated literacy instruction: Boondoggle or best practice?. Review of Educational Research, 90(4), 459-498.
Potential Additional References:
Wiggins, Grant, and McTighe, Jay. (1998). Backward Design. In Understanding by Design (pp. 13-34). ASCD.