WOODLAND — Woodland Middle School’s English language arts teachers teamed up with teachers in the Diverse Support Plan who serve students with disabilities to create an innovative approach to reading comprehension in which both groups of students teach and learn from one another.
Four days a week, Diverse Support Plan students join the English language arts classes for a block of time. Students partner up, one English language arts student with one Diverse Support Plan student, and each takes turns reading. English language arts students help guide their partners through sentence structure that might cause them to struggle, help to pronounce difficult words and assist in teaching them so both groups become more fluent in reading comprehension.
The two teams of teachers decided to start the partnership with reading comprehension due to the importance of reading. They have already seen significant improvements in the performance of both groups, even though the program has been in effect for only a few months.
“We think (English language arts) makes this partnership particularly effective, since reading is a necessary element to every part of our lives every day,” said Jenna Bozarth, a Diverse Support Plan teacher at Woodland Middle School. “We’ve seen significant improvements for our DSP students. For example: One, in particular, started the year as a slow reader and became much faster since he enjoys competing with his ELA teammates; the competition motivates him to try harder to keep up and improve.”
In addition to helping Diverse Support Plan students learn more effectively, studies show that teaching others helps internalize lessons for the English language arts students as well.
“We’re differentiating our typical sixth grade ELA learning experience by including our DSP students to help build inclusivity and diversity as well as improving learning for both groups,” said Kelly Hathaway, a sixth grade English language arts teacher. “Additionally, these two groups of students form connections that extend beyond the classroom, so our DSP kids create friendships with our ELA students that they can enjoy throughout school.”