The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 1, 2008


Literary Specialists assist students and teachers at the Carlisle School

At the January 16 Carlisle School Committee meeting, Literary Specialists Steve Bober and Sue Helenius-LaPorte gave an overview of their role at the school. "We both work with kids and teachers at multiple grade levels and many classrooms everyday," said LaPorte. "Sue's work as Literacy Specialist involves a great deal of 1:1 direct instruction (early intervention) in reading. My work is more with whole classes and teams," explained Bober in a later e-mail. LaPorte said early intervention is used to "head off" reading difficulties.

Student assessment

LaPorte and Bober are helping the kindergarten team explore a number of early reading assessment techniques. LaPorte has trained the first-grade teachers in the use of the "Diagnostic Inventory of Basic Early Literacy Skills," which is a method for assessing reading readiness, which was implemented in kindergarten last year.

A new reading assessment has been implemented in grade 2, which has a "timed component," explained LaPorte, allowing the teachers to evaluate reading fluency. She has been supporting the second-grade teaching team with fluency strategies.

Curriculum coordinators

Bober and LaPorte are also the ELA (English Language Arts) curriculum coordinators. One important job, they report, is to "ensure all teachers get what they need." LaPorte is the curriculum coordinator of grades K to 2, and Bober grades 3 to 8.

Curriculum development

LaPorte and Bober have assisted teachers in grades 3 and 4 to add "open response" writing to their core literature program, explained Bober. Open response questions, which are also called "on demand writing," appear on the MCAS tests. The questions require a student to write a response paragraph after reading some information. "Virtually all of our writing instructional program is 'Writing Process,'" explained Bober, which involves multiple drafts of writing. The ELA MCAS test scores have shown that writing on demand is a weakness for Carlisle students, said Bober. "I think you've identified [writing on demand] as something missing for the kids," said committee member Dale Ryder. Bober said the change in the curriculum is having an immediate impact in the classroom.

Teacher assessment

Bober and LaPorte assist in peer observation. "Rather than have an administrator observe us, we observe each other," LaPorte explained. She said they help teachers to provide meaningful feedback through writing conferences when working with students. One step in the writing process is for students to confer with teachers on their written work. LaPorte said it can be difficult to identify the student's strengths and "come up with a teaching point — here's how to move them on a little bit more. We're really working together on that."

Professional development

"A lot of our professional development this year has been focused on reading instruction strategies" for the third-grade team, explained Bober. They discussed what skills were taught in the lower grades and how those curriculums mesh with the third-grade reading curriculum. "Without making major changes in instructional units that are being taught, we were able to enhance the explicit teaching of reading skills and strategies daily in every classroom," said Bober.

English Language Arts review

A new committee of teachers, administration, and parents met for the first time in January to start an English Language Arts curriculum review, reported Bober. Their work will be done in three phases: identify what is being taught, review what students are learning, and then formulate recommendations. The writing instructional program will be reviewed first, then the reading program, and then the "speaking and listening aspects" of the ELA program.

Committee member Chad Koski asked what alignment work is being done with the high school to help with the transition from 8th grade. Bober said it will be part of the curriculum review.

2008 The Carlisle Mosquito