ABC students are learning to read

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Southwest implements new program for elementary reading

The Southwest school district has made many steps over the years to improve reading skills in its students, and this year, a new program called Superkids has been implemented in the kindergarten through second-grade curriculum.

Jeff Payne, Southwest elementary principal, said Superkids is an English language arts (ELA) curriculum that is based on the science of reading and follows a group of Superkids who are relatable and have engaging adventures.

“We have noticed that as our students are getting older, too many are missing some key pieces of phonics and struggling to read,” he said. “Teachers were having to spend time filling these phonological gaps our students should have already mastered.

“Utilizing Superkids, our teachers will be able to provide the ELA instruction our students need in an engaging and thorough way.”

By using methods based in scientific research, Payne said the students will learn to read with a strong phonics foundation.

“The first year of implementation of any new curriculum is challenging, as the teachers are just learning it, and students who have not had the new curriculum in prior school years are usually missing some of the skills the new curriculum requires them to have at that age,” Payne said. “For example, Superkids curriculum for second grade is based on our second-graders having had it in kindergarten and first grade.

“Our kindergarten students are in the best position, as they will have always had Superkids as they get older.”

Payne said parents will hopefully begin seeing their students be able to sound out words and read words more easily and earlier than they have been, while also having more confidence in themselves.

Superkids follows a group of children and their dog throughout the same years of school the students are experiencing.

“The students can relate to the group of kids as they grow and experience things just like our students,” he said. “The Superkids characters have similar interests with our students, and it makes our students feel it is more real.”

Payne said along with song, Superkids uses movement, manipulatives and technology to engage students in the learning process.

“Being able to engage students using these different methods helps to keep students interested in learning and they assist meeting the needs of all different learning styles,” he said. “The feedback I’ve heard so far has been positive, but the teachers are challenged with trying to get the first and second grade students caught up since they did not have Superkids in prior years.

“From what I’ve heard and observed with the students is they really like the different Superkids characters. I do hear the kindergarteners sing their letter songs quite often.”

Payne said he hopes to see a growing comfort level with using this curriculum, as well as, continued success in its utilization daily.

“For the students I hope to see an improvement in their decoding and reading along with an increased excitement in reading due to them being more successful,” he said. “There will always be students who struggle with these tasks, but we believe they will greatly benefit and become more confident in their ability to sound out words and begin to read.”

Superkids was chosen by the Southwest school district out of a variety of other programs that were available.

“We were first made aware of Superkids by Missouri State University’s Agency for Teaching, Leading, and Learning,” he said. “They had been providing information regarding the science of reading and shared how much Superkids aligned with it.

“After doing my own research on Superkids, I was quite impressed. I shared it with my staff and they, too, noticed how much it met what we were looking for in a curriculum.”

Southwest teachers spent a full day in Springfield for training, prior to implementing the program, but the training is also ongoing.

“Zaner-Bloser, who puts out Superkids, is sending one of their staff coaches Monday through Wednesday [this week] to work one-on-one and in groups with our kindergarten though second grade teachers,” Payne said. “The coach will be spending 30-40 minutes in each teacher’s classroom while they are teaching

Superkids. He will then meet with each teacher to go over their lesson to provide feedback and answer questions.”

Payne said there are many aspects of the curriculum they have not accessed, but they are hoping the Superkids coach will walk them through how to utilize those aspects effectively.

“We want to make sure we are doing everything we can with Superkids to maximize its potential,” Payne said. “I consider the science of reading as proven reasoning and ideas as to how children learn to read. It gives us the exact ‘formula’ to teach reading most effectively.”

The total cost for five years of materials, professional development, online access and consumables, is about $81,000.

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