Reading In Motion provides at-risk children from Kindergarten through first grade with the tools and skills required to achieve grade-level reading. The Chicago Public Schools’ Reading Instruction Framework identifies four key reading skills: word knowledge, fluency, comprehension, and writing. At Reading In Motion we teach three of these four skills through music and drama.
Reading In Motion lesson plans allow children to get out from behind their desks and use their entire bodies and minds to master reading skills. These engaging activities are carefully tailored to the grade and developmental level of the students. A Reading In Motion teaching artist (or a Reading In Motion trained teacher) implements the curriculum during the regular school day or during special after school sessions.
In a typical week, students in a Benchmarks classroom receive daily arts-based reading instruction from their Reading In Motion-trained teacher lasting 40 minutes to an hour. Four sessions per week involve the students in rotations through independent work areas, including reading practice, listening, and spelling areas, or teacher-led small-group reading instruction, while the culminating Friday session brings students together as a whole group. Small groups are an important component because they provide each child with many practice and feedback opportunities and enable teachers to respond to individual students’ skill deficiencies. During small group work, the teacher can be giving three students the exact skills they need right now, and in 20 minutes those three students can get a week’s worth of practice on those skills, due to the close attention of the teacher.
The key to Benchmarks being a truly sustainable solution in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is teacher training and coaching by Reading In Motion staff. Reading In Motion’s training for each teacher is a full two-year experience. The two-year experience begins with a three-day intensive institute during the summer of the first year. This initial training is followed by a year of bi-weekly, in-classroom support, consisting of face-to-face coaching, which provides assistance from Reading In Motion Coaches in implementation, evaluation of student progress, and teaching strategies. Teacher support also includes assessment by Reading In Motion staff of the fidelity with which the CPS teacher is delivering the curriculum. During the second year, our Coaches provide teachers with semimonthly, in-classroom support along with assessment.
Launched in 2006-2007, the Spanish version of our Benchmarks program is generating impressive results: In 2008-2009, 83 percent of kindergarten students met the grade-level benchmark, while 78 percent of first grade students reached the grade-level benchmark. An adaptation of our reading program for at-risk children, it is used in bilingual kindergarten and first grade classrooms in which Spanish-dominant students are taught to read in their native language before transitioning their reading skills into English. The program uses music and movement-based activities to address key reading and pre-reading skills. The Spanish adaptation accounts for the particulars of the Spanish language and its orthography, such as an emphasis on syllables and an earlier push for encoding and decoding skills.
Struggling first-grade students are provided with twice as much reading instruction time in small groups by putting another Reading In Motion-trained adult in the classroom during small-group time and having that adult lead additional small group work. While being fun for kids, Extra Dosage is essential in fostering literacy achievement. The Extra Dosage program focuses on students who are fully capable of reading at grade level if given additional practice on key skills—giving them the confidence and self-empowerment they need to be successful students. Reading In Motion piloted the Extra Dosage program in 2007-2008 in just two schools. By the end of the school year, 85 percent of the pilot students were reading at grade level, a 35 percentage-point increase over similar students the year before.