The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 11, 2005


Innovative approaches help students with language arts

At the February 2 Carlisle School Committee meeting members were reminded that the language arts program at the Carlisle School is varied and extensive. Carlisle School reading specialist Donna Clapp and fellow reading specialist Susan Helenius-LaPorte, fresh from a three-day workshop on literature circles in Santa Fe, NM, were energetic as they explained the various programs used for reading, writing and spelling at the school. Clapp and Helenius-LaPorte cover grades kindergarten through eighth grade.

Reading and spelling

The team listed over eight programs used for teaching reading and comprehension at the Carlisle School. The SIPPS program teaches decoding and word recognition strategies. Comprehension is taught using the Making Meaning program, which includes oral reading sessions, and discussion groups or pairs. The Sitton Spelling program, which encourages mastery of high-usage words, will be used in reading, writing, and in spelling.

Writing programs

In November 2004 Clapp, Special Education teacher Tricia Comeau, speech and language specialist Leanne Christmas and eighth-grade language arts teacher Marcella Pixley attended an EmPOWER workshop. "EmPOWER uses the writing process in conjunction with an explicit routine and set of strategies to teach students how to analyze their assignments, and to plan and write well-structured, elaborated texts that clearly convey their ideas," Clapp explained. She continued, "I wanted to take further in-depth training because I felt strongly that the EmPOWER program could help all Carlisle students to manage the multiple demands of expository writing. Two weeks ago Susan LaPorte, Tricia Comeau, and I began taking the Level I Certification Course. It is a ten-month training program that will enable us to implement the EmPOWER program with our students."

Reading disabilities

Clapp and a group from the Carlisle School attended a workshop at Yale last fall that featured Dr. Sally Shaywitz, author of Overcoming Dyslexia and Dr. Bennett Shaywitz, both neuroscientists at Yale, Clapp explained later. After the workshop, she said, "We formed a teacher discussion group and have met several times to read, discuss and gain additional insight into the Shaywitz's important brain research." Six student support staff, including Clapp, LaPorte, Special Educator Ann James, speech and language specialist Liz Hamlet, school psychologist Sharon Grossman, and special educator Jennifer Johnson joined under an Odden Pool Grant to apply the information gained from the workshop to the Carlisle Public Schools. The group hopes to create a checklist of skills for "typically developing students." The list would help analyze whether a child is developing reading and writing skills as expected. The progress of a student who is not "on course" would "alert the faculty that there might be a phonologically-based deficit." The group plans to "develop a constellation of characteristics that would help teachers to identify children who may be at risk for dyslexia since recent brain research proves that there are clear indicators and interventions," explained Clapp.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito