Most Holy Rosary Students Benefit From Literacy Initiative

| February 5, 2014

Syracuse Diocese Catholic Schools logoBY CLAUDIA MATHIS

The reading and writing skills of students at Most Holy Rosary School in Syracuse have steadily improved over the last two and one half years due to the implementation of the school’s Literacy Initiative.

The initiative was kicked off during the 2011-12 school year with the goal of providing the students with the comprehension strategies they need to become successful readers and critical thinkers. The faculty felt that reading comprehension was an area that needed more attention.

The project got its start after Most Holy Rosary reading specialist Janice Rupe returned from an International Reading Conference. She was impressed by a presentation about a school in Virginia that had employed the Literary Initiative. “I thought it was exactly what the school needed,” said Rupe.

After discussing the possibility of starting up the program at her school with her coworkers, a decision was made to incorporate it into the school’s curriculum. Rupe now serves as the coordinator of the program.

The first year’s project was entitled “Give Some Attention to Comprehension.” Each month, the students focused on one comprehension strategy. Strategies were introduced through engaging, interactive activities during school assemblies. A team of teachers met monthly to plan the assemblies and write songs for the strategies, and cartoon character were created for each strategy.

At the conclusion of the first year-long initiative, Most Holy Rosary held its first annual Family Literacy Night in May 2012. The students sang the comprehension strategy songs for their parents at the well-attended event.

Last year’s project, “Writing is Exciting! 6 + 1 is Tons of Fun,” taught the six traits of writing: ideas, personal voice, sentence fluency, organization, word choice and conventions (grammar). Rosary’s 3rd grade teacher created cartoon characters for each trait. Rupe taught lessons on the traits and each of the teachers focused on a different one each month. The librarian and technology teacher guided the students in completing a research and writing project about an animal of their choice, and the projects were displayed at the second annual Family Literacy Night, which was even more successful than the first.

This year, in an effort to more fully implement the Common Core State Standards, the faculty decided to focus on nonfiction writing. The theme is American history and its heroes. Each grade has been assigned a different topic. The students will write about American heroes, the exploration era, Native Americans, the colonial period, the music of the revolutionary colonial period, the westward expansion and the Civil War era.

Rupe said that at this year’s Family Literacy Night, 5th and 6th grade students will be a part of a reenactment of Syracuse’s Underground Railroad and Jerry Rescue.

Overall, the initiative has been very successful at Most Holy Rosary. “The children’s comprehension skills are improving,” she said. “Fewer children need intervention. It’s successful because everyone is involved in it, and we’re focusing on the same thing. We’re building on it every year.” n

Claudia Mathis is a staff writer for The Catholic Sun.

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