NYC’s Push for Phonics—How Teachers Can Prepare
On August 10, Lexia® sponsored nonprofit news organization Chalkbeat’s webinar, NYC is promising to overhaul literacy in NYC schools. What will it take?, to discuss Mayor Eric Adams’ recent announcement to prioritize literacy throughout the city with a phonics-based literacy curriculum.
The virtual discussion featured a collective of New York City’s top educators. The panel included voices from all ends of the spectrum—a principal, teacher, education department official, parent of a child with dyslexia, and an academic expert.
The session aimed to address the challenges educators face with reading instruction touching on post-pandemic recovery and the struggle to meet the needs of the city’s diverse student population. This, of course, was no easy feat, but the 500-plus attendees left the session with a better understanding of how the NYC Department of Education plans to find solutions to these pressing issues giving educators and families the resources they need to succeed.
How to Address Phonetic Awareness in the Classroom
We’ve highlighted our top-five takeaways from the session to give teachers the tips and resources needed to prepare students for a phonics-based reading curriculum.
Engage in Professional Learning
The Department of Education is ensuring New York City teachers in grades K–12 are provided training in reading instruction that is foundational, multisensory, explicit, and systematic. Each curriculum material the DOE recommends to a school has been fully vetted by the DOE and various literacy experts, said Carolyne Quintana, deputy chancellor for teaching and learning.
Even before the onset of the pandemic, Mercedes Valentin-Davila, a kindergarten and dual language teacher in Brooklyn, said her school was aware of the urgent need to address phonetic awareness. Teachers were trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach the previous year and their principal is continuing these PD efforts for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year.
Currently, the staff is being trained with Lexia’s professional learning suite, LETRS® (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling), to offer educators the additional support and tools they need to master their classroom teaching strategies.
Leverage New Literacy Support Resources
The DOE has provided literacy coaches for grades K–2, but now there will be literacy coaches for grades 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12, Quintana said. There will also be an additional 80 academic intervention specialists hired to support all of the districts. To support students with dyslexia, the DOE is offering Made by Dyslexia two-hour training for educators to complete in their own time.
Quintana said the DOE is also asking schools for “strategic intervention periods” during the school day. Valentin-Davila said her school, P.S. 24, has already been dedicating time for struggling students. Staff referred to the data to design targeted lessons for small groups in the morning before school began. These groups were typically no larger than four students.
Embrace a Culturally Responsive Curriculum
Darlene Cameron, principal of Manhattan’s STAR Academy, explained that if a curriculum reflects students’ unique backgrounds and experiences, then they become more engaged with learning early literacy. Cameron has already implemented culturally responsive books, materials, policies, procedures, and practices in her school. She wants the schools’ diversity to be celebrated and have students and parents see their families represented in the curriculum.
The DOE is also building a universal culturally responsive curriculum and professional learning called Mosaic for grades K–12. It brings to light the “hidden voices,” including communities of LGBTQ+, AAPI, black studies, and many others. Quintana said she’s very excited for Mosaic to be added to the NYCDOE Passport to Social Studies curriculum. A big announcement will come, but some resources are already underway.
Encourage Parent Involvement
Quintana suggested parents participate in their child’s school open house and meet and greet. This exposure to the teachers and classrooms will support parents in learning how to help their children practice reading at home.
Foster Open Communication with Parents
As a parent of four children with dyslexia, NYC resident Naomi Peña explored resources to support her children’s literacy needs and is now helping other families do the same. She said people in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community tend to not be diagnosed with dyslexia because it’s a complex and expensive process. So, she’s excited the administration is leading the adoption of Structured Literacy instruction.
Do you notice your child is struggling with learning how to read? Peña recommends first visiting their teacher to ask what can be done to help. She said to take your concerns to the principal and then even the superintendent if you don’t get a response or if you’re not satisfied with the solutions suggested. Of course, she said NYC parents can also get support from her advocacy group, the Literacy Academy Collective.
Chalkbeat’s webinar, NYC is promising to overhaul literacy in NYC schools. What will it take?, is available now on demand and is a must watch for any educator looking to overcome the challenges of reading instruction.
For more information about how you can incorporate the science of reading into your classroom, don’t forget to check out our white paper, Ensuring Literacy Instruction Meets the Needs of All Learners.
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