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Helping Minneota kids ‘win’ at reading

January 26, 2011
By Jenny Kirk

MINNEOTA - At Minneota Elementary School, having vital reading skills is so important that a new program - called WIN Time - was initiated this year. WIN stands for "What I Need" and is a way to assess and then focus on the individual needs for each student in order to ensure successful reading.

With the exception of Fridays, Minneota students in kindergarten through third grade receive 30 minutes of daily interaction, working on a range of reading skills in 12 different groups throughout the school.

"During WIN Time, the kids go to different classes throughout the building," said Harlan Ulrich, Minneota Elementary principal. "The K-3 teachers, special education teachers and some paraprofessionals are involved and work with kids on reading skills and the things they might need. It seems to be working really well."

Article Photos

Photo by Jenny Kirk
Minneota first-grade teacher Missy Breitbach, above, works on phonemic awareness with elementary students as part of a new focused reading program called “WIN Time” which is designed to identify individual student needs and improve reading abilities. Four times a week, students in kindergarten through third grade, like Devon Schramm, left, Nora Fadness, Kalob Regnier and Jackson Esping, break up into 12 groups to work on different aspects of enhancing reading skills.

Minneota Title I teacher Britney Latzig came up with the name for the program, which stemmed from Response to Intervention (RTI) concepts. RTI is a framework that is set up to assess, meet and improve the needs of all school children, regardless of where their abilities currently lie. Latzig is also the RTI coordinator.

"We started in the first part of October," Ulrich said. "We have groups for about two months and then we rearrange the groups accordingly."

Minneota first-grade teachers Missy Breitbach and Heather Webskowski both believe that WIN Time has been very productive already.

"We're learning on the fly since it's our first year, but it's been good so far," Webskowski said. "We try to break it down and focus on what each individual needs."

Based on data from the AIMSweb program and teacher recommendations, students are placed in appropriate focus groups.

"It's a way to get those needs met," Webskowski said. "Some groups learn about comprehension or fluency, and others work on sight words or word attack. We expect more from our young kids now because they come in to school as readers. Overall, reading is really part of everything you do."

During WIN Time in Breitbach's group, students learn about phonemic awareness.

"It's putting sounds to letters," Breitbach said. "We use the 'LiPS (Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing)' program."

Along with Breitbach, three other Minneota teachers attended training sessions at the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative this past summer and incorporated what they learned into WIN Time.

"'LiPS' is a very good program and really good for our intervention groups," Breitbach said. "It just helps break it down. It's very important to have a good foundation for reading and spelling."

Early on, Breitbach said that each student was given a hand-held mirror to use.

"The kids need to know how your mouth should look and feel when you make certain sounds," Breitbach said. "It's really neat because I can see the kids doing it and figuring it out."

On Monday, Breitbach covered the letter "G" and "C." Then, she asked her group of nine students to identify letters that corresponded to the various sounds she made.

"I like reading," said first-grader Anissa Schramm. "Using the mirror wasn't so hard. It was cool."

Some letters are known as "lip poppers" or "lip coolers," while others are referred to as "tongue scrapers," "brothers" or "cousins." Some of the consonants require "wind sounds" or "fat air" to perfect.

"Some of the students aren't hearing the sounds correctly, so we also give them other tools to help associate the sounds to letters," Breitbach said. "Jackson was having trouble with one of my sounds and when I asked him what group the sound was from, he said 'tongue scrapers' and got the letter right away."

Webskowski said that pinpointing specific needs instead of assigning students by age level seemed to increase reading success.

"Within each group, we all have different age levels," Webskowski said. "Students are either at, approaching or above grade level. The groups are based more on the skills each child needs. The groups are also fluid in that kids get switched around. It's a unique program. The kids are enjoying it and it's worked out well."



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