By Jennifer Flieder
As a middle school language arts teacher, I know that for students who do not have decoding or automatic word recognition skills, there is no room in the regular curriculum to reteach them the skills they should have learned in elementary grades. The ability to engage middle school students in these foundational skills at this grade level is very difficult, even if a teacher has time to do it.
Usually, if students don’t have these skills by middle school, they start to mask it by using work-around strategies, so they don’t reveal their deficit. They don’t want to draw attention to something they can’t do that is so important. It’s embarrassing to them.
However, WordFlight gives us structure and a platform to convince our middle school students that there is still hope for them. They can learn and improve their skills. They can do hard things and feel the power of completion and proven academic gains. They can unlock the complex content across middle school subjects as appropriate for this age group.
WordFlight is done in the privacy of students’ computers, so they are not revealing their deficits in front of the whole class. As students engage with WordFlight, they are learning these essential decoding and word recognition skills.
The genius of the program is that neuroscience and the sciences of reading and learning are embedded in the product. It’s all there, but invisible to the user. Students’ confidence builds as they use WordFlight. Their momentum increases as they experience success.
Building Reading Confidence
Last year, I had eleven classrooms of sixth and seventh graders that I worked with once a week. There was time every day for students to work on WordFlight. Four days a week, they worked in their regular classrooms, and one day they met with me. I reviewed the learning objectives, their goals and customized ten minute mini lessons. During independent work time, I walked around answering questions. This year, because of the success of the program, the administration added more WordFlight teachers and made it an everyday intervention class.
“Even if you don’t feel like you’re making progress, the data shows that you are,” I tell the kids to encourage them. As they make progress, their confidence gets stronger.
Middle school is not too late for reading intervention. Recovery at this stage in a student’s academic career puts them on a path to reading success. Reading is access to not only the outside worldly things, but also the inside soulful things. When we read and write, we have the opportunity to know ourselves in a deeper, more meaningful way. And when we know ourselves, our contribution can be clearer and more impactful.
Jennifer Fiedler is currently a reading interventionist at Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy (middle school) in the Cedar Rapids Community School District, in Cedar Rapids, IA. Jennifer has taught language arts in the Cedar Rapids area for 34 years.