Primer Series: CSD’s Literacy Programs—Part V

Let’s round out our primer series about Colchester School District’s literacy programs with a conversation about Colchester Middle School’s work in that area. (Hint: It is a lot.)

First of all, while we’ve already talked a bit about the Young Writers Project (YWP) in other articles, it is definitely worth mentioning again here because Colchester Middle School is very much involved with it. The Young Writers Project, which is provided to CMS by FairPoint Communications, is an organization focused upon aiding better student writing in Vermont and New Hampshire. It is essentially a digital classroom, and using it, students can post their projects—including multimedia files—so that they can easily work collaboratively with others on them. Additionally, students can comment on their classmates’ work and respond to teacher prompts. As part of YWP, students can also submit work to be considered for outside publication. Students use YWP, as well as other formal writing assignments, to practice their writing process skills (including pre-writing, drafts, gathering feedback, revising, and publishing work) as well as to develop their district writing portfolios through creative writing and on-demand writing projects.

CMS also uses Renaissance Learning assessment programs and products in its instruction, one of which is STAR Reading Enterprise. CMS students take the STAR assessment four times a year, and CMS educators analyze the results gathered from these assessments in order to strategize improved teaching practices and increase the students’ literacy skills.

Another component of the Renaissance Learning program used at CMS involves Accelerated Reader Enterprise quizzes, which are used in conjunction with students’ independent reading work and through which they can take comprehension, vocabulary, and literacy skills quizzes for each book they read. The program provides immediate feedback, which many CMS students appreciate. And the Accelerated Reader quizzes also offer a feature called Home Connect, which allows parents and students to view the students’ virtual bookshelf and track progress toward meeting their quarterly reading goals—all from the comforts of home.

And did you know that there is a way to view the number of reading quizzes that the students are taking? There are widgets on CMS’s literary webpage that publicize this information. For example, just during the month of October, seventh graders read and took quizzes on 371 books, with 310 for eighth graders and 294 for sixth graders. That is a lot of reading in a month!

CMS’s library—a hub of literary activity—is always abuzz. In addition to coordinating book fairs and announcing the “book of the week” during daily announcements, librarian Angelika Mahoney also arranges visits from authors and storytellers as part of her mission to generate student interest in literacy. This year, for example, James Bruchac—an author, cultural educator, and wilderness expert—and author Mary Downing Hahn will visit CMS students. And Mrs. Mahoney also organizes an annual Dorothy Canfield Fisher contest. As part of the contest, a master list of thirty books is compiled and made available to students, and students who read at least five books from the list may vote on their favorite. (And then there is the DCF breakfast party to continue the celebration!)

CMS was particularly fortunate to work with a writer-in-residence this year. Former CMS teacher and published author Robert Hunton worked with students in Mrs. Roberge’s and Ms. Garrison’s classes in October on developing interesting hooks, and he will return in the spring to work with seventh- and eighth-grade students around developing creative conclusions to their writing pieces.

And in the interest of further promoting student voice and vision, CMS’s student council members will develop a student newsletter this year.

For more information about literacy initiatives at Colchester Middle School, please e-mail teachers Jennifer Roberge or Aubrey Garrison or call (802) 264-5800.

This has been a really extensive primer series. You can read Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, and Part IV here.

Thanks for your interest!

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