Arizona Republic
Mar. 2 2007

Author: Georgann Yara, Special for The Republic Estimated printed pages: 2

Back home in Evansville, Ind., Carrie Hillyard is the curriculum facilitator at Culver Elementary School.

But Tuesday at Tempe's Laird Elementary School, as Hillyard took notes during third-grade teacher Nicolette Patterson's reading lesson, the teacher became the student.

Hillyard and two colleagues spent the day observing Laird teachers using Reading First, a delivery system that uses non-traditional methods to teach reading.

Patterson taught her students to comprehend big words by breaking them down into smaller, more familiar words. She also used America Online, or AOL, as an example of an acronym.

"I like the focus on reading and the excitement from everyone, from the principal to the students," Hillyard said.

Reading First lesson plans are more interactive and time-intensive, and rely on the creativity of the instructor, educators said. Games, verbal exercises and small-group work are part of the strategy.

The system's success also comes from the practical application of language and showing students the use of words in everyday life instead of textbook drills.

The system is geared toward elementary schools that have lower reading levels and serve a large number of economically disadvantaged students.

Laird is one of six Reading First schools in the Tempe Elementary School District. The academic progress of its students since Laird implemented the program four years ago was the reason it was selected as a demonstration site for the Culver educators.

Culver teacher Jennifer Harpenau observed a second grade, where a student spelled "paragraph" on a board using magnetic foam letters. She was impressed at the lack of behavior problems she was accustomed to seeing, and that the presence of English language learners was not audible.

"I didn't notice any of that," Harpenau said. "The kids responded in complete sentences, not one-word answers."
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Chandler Republic
Page: 21

Index Terms: JUVENILE
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Record Number: pho165110281