Charting a New Course for Students

Academic Intervention Services Reading Teacher Karen Vieira is finishing her first full school year in the Granville Central School District this spring. While she mainly helps students in both Mary J. Tanner Elementary and Granville Elementary stay on course with their reading assignments, she’s helped build a program that challenges third grade students who are ready for more rigorous assignments.

Mrs. Vieira and Principal Paul Morcone worked together to create the Third Grade Enrichment Program. The program, which now serves more than two dozen students, provides opportunities for students who are reading ahead of their grade level to engage in projects designed to push them forward with their education.

“Based on the amount of time I would be spending at Mary J. Tanner, I worked with Principal Paul Morcone to create a program that would support students who are already strong readers and reading at least a grade level above their peers,” said Mrs. Vieira. “When Mr. Morcone and I initially spoke about an enrichment plan, we looked at the historic scoring of the district and, based on the data, determined that the understanding of instructional text as well as student written response was historically an area of struggle. We knew this should be my focus, especially when given the opportunity to work with such a bright group of students here in Granville.”

The enrichment group meets twice a week for 40 minutes each session, and it provides students with individualized instruction opportunities within smaller groups than their typical classroom setting. Mrs. Vieira builds lesson plans that put an emphasis on informational text and writing, such as books that are non-fiction, based on history, or scientific in nature. Students are then given prompts to connect what they’re reading to additional assignments. Mrs. Vieira says engaging with the reading material in different ways helps encourage curiosity.

“One of the books we completed was about castles, which talks about their construction, their purpose, as well as the people of the time,” said Mrs. Vieira. “The next thing we would do is write about what we learned. It wasn’t always about the content, but the structure of the response. The content came pretty easily for them. They learned how to restate a question, stay on point, and give supporting details from the text and close out their responses with another restating of the question.”

Mrs. Vieira says her vision goes beyond making sure her students have strong reading and writing abilities. The goal of the enrichment program is to make sure students are ready to move forward academically and be successful in the classroom; either doing traditional course work or while taking state tests.

“Third grade is the year to make sure our students have these abilities. It helps them build their confidence for future testing, rather than build fear and anxiety.”

With one year of the program now in the books, Mrs. Vieira says she’s seen substantial growth from her students. While this is merely a step forward during their academic careers, Mrs. Vieria believes students are picking up essential skills that will keep them ready for what comes next.

“I am lucky that I get to work with these bright, young ladies and gentlemen. I have seen them grow as readers and writers, as well as develop their thirst for knowledge and understanding through their questioning and thought process with each book that we read. My hope is that what they learn will stay with them and they will continue to develop their skills as learners. The ultimate goal is that they will always have that drive to grow as learners.”