on the Putnam Valley Schools
October 16, 2023
a periodic newsletter of the Putnam Valley Central School District
Phone: 914-528-8143 Fax: 914-528-0274 email: [email protected]


Reading Is Fundamental

Superintendent's Corner

Health Survey

Elementary Reading Programs

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Reading Is Fundamental

We have all heard this phrase before and I would venture to say we all believe in its premise. This year's Board of Education feels so strongly about it that we have made it first among our Board Goals for the year. Our direction to the Administrative Team was to "Develop the K-8 language arts curriculum, with the goal of having all children reading on or above grade level." To achieve this goal the District has implemented programs like those highlighted in this newsletter. I would like to talk about a reading initiative that we as part of the learning community can participate in.

Parents as Reading Partners (PARP) started in the Elementary School with the idea that reading with your children can instill a love of reading, reinforce good reading habits and promote quality time spent with our children. Its premise is very simple.

Children and a parent (or grandparent) read together for fifteen minutes a night and keep track of this on a calendar. They then turn this in at school where classes compete against other classes for rewards and recognition based on participation. There are also monthly individual rewards and recognitions. This endeavor, sponsored by our PTA, is this year headed up by Mrs. Sylvia Kenny. The previous chairperson for this activity was Mrs. Rosemarie Walters and I would like to thank them both for their wonderful efforts.

As you can see, this is an easy (and productive) way to be involved in your child's education and helps to promote the concept that we are all "a community of learners". I would like to share a quote from Katherine Mansfield, "The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books."

Pat D. Bellino, President - Board of Education

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The Superintendent's Corner

The Board of Education of the Putnam Valley Central School District recognized a number of years ago the widely divergent reading level and language experiences of our youngest students. To meet the challenge of teaching this student population, the Board of Education introduced a number of early intervention programs.

One of the programs is Reading Recovery. This program works with at-risk first grade students. These students are seen individually, by one of our three Reading Recovery teachers, for approximately thirty minutes daily.The other first grade program is called Early Intervention.

The at-risk students are seen daily for approximately thirty minutes in small groups. Our three Reading Recovery teachers are JoAnn Gair-Wilson, Mary Ellen Hetsko, and Debra Sperling. Mrs. Gair-Wilson started this program in our district in September 1989.

A program that is in its third year is a program for at-risk kindergarten students. Called LEAP (Literature Experience and Practice), it was developed by Leesa Hernandez. Mrs. Hernandez sees small groups of kindergarten students regularly and provides them with literacy lessons.

Included in this newsletter is a more in-depth discussion of these important programs from the practitioners directly involved.

John Kleinegris, Superintendent of Schools

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Health Survey

The Health Advisory Committee and the PTA are sponsoring a substance use awareness evening on November 6 in the Middle School cafeteria at 8 PM. Attendees will hear a brief summary of the substance abuse "Pride Survey" taken last

year by our sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. We also will share and learn prevention strategies that can help us keep our children safe from substance abuse. It's more than just saying no! In order to succeed in decreasing drug use, faculty, students, and parents must work together toward a drug-free lifestyle.

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Elementary Reading Programs

The Putnam Valley School district is committed to providing every child with the opportunity to become a lifelong reader. In our district, we are fortunate to have several programs that support children who are finding it difficult to learn to read at the rate of their peers. Beginning at the Kindergarten level, we have the LEAP program.

LEAP is an early literacy program designed to safety net those kindergarten children whose readiness skills need developing. Small groups of five children become LEAP frogs and meet within the classroom 5 days a week for 30 minutes. The children begin with name recognition and progress to first/last letter identification, matching sounds with their letters, and then to labeling other LEAP frogs names/letters. During a session there are a lot of short and sequential experiences that children accomplish. Sometimes, we create drawings and do writing activities in LEAP frog journals. In each session, one child chooses a book to share with his/her family at home. They have even been told they could read the book to their pet! Every Friday a LEAP frog will have the opportunity to choose a story bag which has books and activities to be shared with their family.

At the first grade level, we have two programs available to students who need support in learning how to read: Reading Recovery and Early Intervention.

Reading Recovery is designed as a one-on-one approach for children most in need of additional support. Originally developed by New Zealand child psychologist and educator Marie Clay, this research based program is intended as a short-term intervention program that provides children with daily individual lessons from a specially trained teacher.

The program supplements classroom reading instruction. Lessons are carefully tailored to meet the needs of individual children and to accelerate their learning to enable them to catch up to their peers. The daily 30 minute lesson consists of many reading and writing experiences which focus on the child's strengths. The focus of instruction is on teaching the child to use the strategies that good readers use, and to use these strategies flexibly and independently. The teacher selects materials and adjusts lessons to enable each child to take advantage of and build on what they know. Each child's progress is carefully observed and documented, and a great deal of communication exists between the child's classroom teacher and Reading Recovery teacher, as well as between home and school.

The Early Intervention program involves specially trained teachers working with 20 children. Teachers meet with groups of three to four students for 30-45 minutes daily. Children can be in the program for the whole school year or for part of it, depending on their needs. During the lessons, the students do such activities as write high frequency words on the board, reread familiar books, and use magnetic letters to make words and to pull them apart again to become aware of the parts of the words.

The school district has a remedial reading program for second and third grader students who have fallen below grade level in overall reading ability primarily due to academic reasons. Second graders attend class for forty five minutes daily. Third graders are grouped by ability and attend class twice weekly before school for a total of one hundred twenty minutes.

Research has indicated that these students need to be practicing "reading" in order to become better readers. Therefore a great percentage of the period is spent reading. This reading is accompanied by detailed discussion followed by a comprehension check. The reading materials include both fiction and nonfiction. While reading, students discuss new vocabulary and are guided to use word analysis strategies when they get "stuck." Part of each lesson includes direct instruction in phonics following the sequence of the Orton Gillingham systematic phonics program.

Leesa Hernandez (LEAP), Mary Ellen Hetsko (Reading Recovery), Debra Sperling (Reading Recovery), and JoAnn Gair-Wilson (Remedial Reading)

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