Reading Program Helping Students Find Consistency

Teachers at Mary J. Tanner Elementary School are helping students master their reading comprehension skills collaboratively. A research-backed reading and phonics program has made following the lesson plan and staying on course easier for students from Pre–K through the second grade.

Students follow the Wilson Language Training Fundations program in each grade level at Mary J. Tanner. Wilson created Fundations in part to make learning to read fun, all while laying the groundwork for students to find consistency as they’re learning literacy.

For Kindergarten Teacher Kaitlin Limmer, Fundations has helped establish a baseline knowledge that her students can carry with them as they advance from one grade level to the next.

“Every classroom in our school has the same letter strip on the wall and every teacher is following the same guidelines to help our students become the best readers they can be,” said Ms. Limmer. “I think it also helps ease any concerns parents may have because the familiarity and base lessons carry over from each grade level.”

Each Fundations course is built into units. The first unit at each grade level is designed to reteach the last unit from the previous year as a way to help students re-familiarize themselves with everything they’ve been taught up to that point. Ms. Limmer credits this feature for helping teachers recharge students after their summer break.

“Fundations makes sure our students aren’t falling behind on their lessons,” said Ms. Limmer. “Having the first lesson in one grade built in a similar fashion to the final lesson in the grade before also allows me time to be more patient and careful with the lesson plans leading up to it. I don’t feel rushed to make sure my students are at a certain checkpoint. I know the path they’re on at the next grade levels.”

Wilson’s mission statement reads in part, “the program’s research-based approach and extensive materials allow teachers to confidently present a carefully structured reading, spelling, and handwriting curriculum using engaging, multisensory techniques.” Teachers at Mary J. Tanner have used those principles to help students get back on track following time spent in remote learning environments.

Second Grade Teacher Courtney Picard is confident in the program’s ability to keep students ready for higher grade levels: “The lesson plans are structured in a way that keeps the students curious about what comes next,” said Mrs. Picard. “Some of the lessons are built in a way that can feel slow for students, but that’s intentional to make sure we’re accurately identifying any student who may be struggling to grasp the material.”

While the course work is structured and uniform, teachers have found ways to make the lesson plans more exciting and engaging.

“Fundations does provide us the space to have some fun with the material,” said Mrs. Picard. “We create games and word association activities that the students love. It helps make the unit feel less like work and more like something they can look forward to each day.”

This is the third year Fundations has been utilized at Mary J. Tanner, meaning next year’s second grade class will be the first to complete the program in its entirety. Teachers believe continuing with the program in the future will continue to make sure young readers are prepared to succeed at Granville Elementary.

“I think the explicit phonics instruction lessons built within the program by Wilson will help our students tremendously as they progress,” said Ms. Limmer. “Having that repetition at a young age and being able to recognize the lessons regardless of the class or teacher is so important at this stage of their educational journey.”