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Summit offers Indiana teachers valuable early literacy strategies, research

November 24, 2015

The early development of reading skills is crucial and the brought elementary school teachers to Indiana State University for Duke Energy's first Power of Reading Summit.

Melody Birmingham-Byrd, president of Duke Energy Indiana, said the Duke Energy Foundation was proud to be able to give back to Indiana communities by helping to fund an event that provides educators with the tools to make reading a reality for Hoosier students.

"You provide the reading foundation for our kids, and we want you to be more fully equipped to do what you do - teach children to read," Birmingham-Bryd told the educators.

Made possible through a $44,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation and co-hosted by Indiana State and the Indiana Department of Education, the summit involved 91 school systems, 341 kindergarten through second-grade teachers and administrators and 139 schools in 69 of the 72 counties in Duke Energy's Indiana service area.

The day's speakers included:

• Christie Cavanaugh, a 30-plus year veteran educator with experience in early childhood, special education in elementary school and higher education.

• Louisa Moats, who has served as a teacher, psychologist, researcher, graduate school faculty member and author of scientific journals, books and policy papers on reading, spelling, language and teacher preparation who has taught students with reading and learning difficulties.

• Susan Neuman, a specialist in early literacy development who has served as the U.S. assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

• Timothy Shanahan, keynote speaker and a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he is founding director of the Center for Literacy.

"I don't claim that instruction has to be the same for everyone, but the things that students need to learn to become readers are pretty much the same," Shanahan said. "Whether a student is taught to read or they learn to do it on their own, they have to have knowledge of the alphabet, hear the sounds and match sounds to letters."

A child's reading problems develop early, so early elementary teachers play an important role in turning the tide by stressing foundation skills such as spelling and language comprehension, said Moats, who also stressed the need for daily reading and teacher-led instruction that tells children what to practice.

"There's no way to be a good reader without language comprehension and word recognition skills, and there is a window of time to do this in the early school years," she said. "Reading gaps widen as a child gets older. Because the gaps are narrower in the beginning, second-grade and earlier is the best chance to help kids who are on a lower projection. The good news is I would have just stayed home in Idaho if reading failure couldn't be turned around, though it takes a long-term effort."

That is good news for Mavery Bridgewater, a Title I teacher for Clay Community Schools with 16 years of experience. She came to the summit seeking new strategies to teach reading.

"I am always looking to get more information on the development process for young learners, so I can improve what I do for them in the classroom and help them to get a better grasp of the content," she said.

Cavanaugh said targeted small group instruction is an important part of effective teaching and can provide teachers with data on whether or not students are on track with the content.

"Spend time thinking about your pace, transition from student to student, process feedback and how each student is responding to what they're doing and if they grew in their knowledge of the content during the lesson," she said. "When they are working with you, group them by similar needs, but in student-led small groups, group them by varying levels and ensure a mixed ability group because students can learn from each other, but don't let the small groups stay the same way every day."

For students who need interventions, Cavanaugh said determine the needs and ensure it is accelerated and efficient.

"You need to know when to move on, so you have to have knowledge of your students to help support their specific needs even when they are working in groups," she said.

Cavanaugh's small group strategies appealed to Heather Aldridge, a Title I teacher at Rushville Elementary.

"I came to learn more effective strategies for working in small groups with my students so that every student can get the most out of the classroom instruction time," she said.

The summit displayed the importance of Indiana State's partnership with P-12 schools and business partners to provide "high quality and relevant professional development" that will help Indiana educators stay current in their field and in their classrooms, said Kandi Hill-Clarke, dean of the Bayh College of Education.

"Today...is our way of saying ‘thank you and we value you'," she said.

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or betsy.simon@indstate.edu

Photo: http://photos.indstate.edu/Events/Events-by-Year/2015/Power-of-Reading-Summit-2015/i-nqXtZsc/0/S/11_23_15_literacy_summit-4984-2-S.jpg - More than 300 Indiana educators turned out forthe first Power of Reading Summit on Nov. 23, 2015 at  University Hall. The event, co-sponsored by Indiana State University and the Indiana Department of Education, was made possible for K-2 teachers through a $44,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation.

Photo: http://photos.indstate.edu/Events/Events-by-Year/2015/Power-of-Reading-Summit-2015/i-BSgh7ks/0/S/11_23_15_literacy_summit-5227-S.jpg - Timothy Shanahan, tkeynote speaker and a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he is founding director of the Center for Literacy, conducts a session for teachers at the first Power of Reading Summit on Nov. 23, 2015 at  University Hall. The event, co-sponsored by Indiana State University and the Indiana Department of Education, was made possible for K-2 teachers through a $44,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation.

Photo: http://photos.indstate.edu/Events/Events-by-Year/2015/Power-of-Reading-Summit-2015/i-LWkTNS3/0/S/11_23_15_literacy_summit-5255-S.jpg - Power of Reading summit involved 91 school systems, 341 kindergarten through second-grade teachers and administrators and 139 schools in 69 of the 72 counties in Duke Energy's Indiana service area. Hosted Nov. 23, 2015 at University Hall, the event was co-sponsored by Indiana State University and the Indiana Department of Education with a $44,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation.

Story Highlights

The Power of Reading Summit was made possible with a $44,000 Duke Energy Foundation grant and was co-hosted at Indiana State by the university and the Indiana Department of Education.

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