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Our district's online literacy programs differentiate instruction for students, identify learning gaps and focusing on individual needs

5 long-term benefits of our online literacy programs

Our district's online literacy programs differentiate instruction for students, identify learning gaps and focusing on individual needs

Key points:

  • Online literacy programs help educators differentiate instruction
  • Engaging literacy solutions help students absorb learning material

When we started using a new online literacy programs 10 years ago, our reading scores were mediocre. Within a few years we had moved up to being a Level 1+ school, which is one of the highest rankings for Chicago Public Schools’ rating system (which is currently being replaced with a new system). We’re using the literacy program as a main component for grades K-5 in addition to another program for fifth graders.

We really like how both online literacy programs differentiate instruction for students, identify learning gaps and place students at the right levels for their individual needs. This functionality also lets teachers know when to pool students for the offline Skill Builders to help move past specific challenges students are facing. Additionally, the data that we get from the platforms is invaluable; we’ve become so used to looking at it and then using it to help inform our instruction.

5 reasons to be in it for the long haul

Here are five long-term benefits that we’ve seen from using our literacy program for the last 10 years:

1. Teachers decide how they want to break it down and implement it within their 90-minute reading blocks. We leave it up to the reading teachers to decide how they want to use the programs. Some teachers assign it for homework and others build it right into their classroom time. Other teachers set up different stations or centers throughout their classrooms and have students rotate through the literacy platform that way. I feel like if we just told teachers they had to use it or otherwise mandated it, they wouldn’t have been so quick to embrace the online literacy platforms. Instead, they see the power in the programs, and how they can use them with their students, plus the data that they can get out of the software.

In fact, our data shows that 80 percent of our students (753) who started the 2021-22 SY working below grade level advanced at least one grade level of material, while 65 percent of those students who met the recommended usage of the program started below grade level caught up to grade-level or above material, and 40 students met end of year benchmark.

2. Students love it because it is really engaging, colorful, and fun. We really like the student-facing platforms in both Lexia’s Core5 Reading and its PowerUp Literacy. The interfaces are really engaging for them; they love the animations. It keeps their attention and their focus. To get them excited about the literacy platforms, I print out certificates of achievement for students at the end of each month. Those who met their goals in terms of units completed and minutes spent on the platforms receive the certificates. They love getting this recognition for a job well done.

3. English language learners get tangible benefits from using the programs. We have a large population of English Learners (EL) and we’re also using the company’s Lexia English program in our bilingual classrooms as a form of additional EL support. Students learn the English foundations and phonics that they may not necessarily learn in their regular, 90-minute reading blocks.

4. The learning curve is short for teachers. Early on, we offered quite a bit of professional development on the literacy platforms. That’s tailed off now because we’re at the point where we can teach other schools how to use it. It’s just become part of our daily routine here. Where in the beginning it was more about how to use the program and how to read the data, we’ve since progressed into reviewing all of the resources and online components the programs offer. 

5. We have a great resource that’s engaging and fun for the kids to use. We held a contest in the Chicago area last year that really brought out the competitive nature in our students and teachers. They loved being part of the competition and we got our eyes opened to the fact that there were other schools that are using the literacy platforms and “sneaking up on us.” It was great motivator for us. We ended up winning the winter games, so it was great. We have a banner celebrating the victory outside of our school.  

Going forward, we want to build a culture of assessment in the classroom. Having literacy platforms that embed assessments right into the program so teachers don’t have to stop and have their students take a test helps to not only alleviate students’ test-taking anxiety, but it does provide teachers with all the information and support that they need to be able to offer differentiated, individualized reading instruction in real-time.

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