An Electric Age of Development

Students work at desk while teacher look on


Professional Development Equips Teachers to Support Early Literacy

Did you know by the time a student starts senior kindergarten, she already knows most of the fundamentals of language? Research has proven the importance of early childhood learning experiences and their impact on long-term learning, behavior, and health. 

St. Mary’s uses an evidence-based approach to curriculum development to ensure that teachers capitalize on this electric age of development and growth for young Turkeys. This school year, Early Childhood teachers are participating in a year-long professional development program focused on literacy.

Head of Early Childhood Christina Block and North Campus Curriculum Director Jessica Lancaster are leading the effort to infuse “LETRS” (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) best practices at St. Mary’s. LETRS empowers teachers to understand the “what,” “why,” and “how” of scientifically-based reading instruction focusing on phoneme awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.

“Last year, the ECC was looking for ways to ensure we were teaching structured literacy in the best way,” said Jessica Lancaster, North Campus Curriculum Director. “It is important to us to ensure that all Early Childhood teachers use the same language when discussing childhood literacy. We want all the teachers to be equally trained so that, regardless of their role, they can conduct age-appropriate assessments and use data to plan and implement instruction for the youngest learners.”

This professional development is possible thanks to generous donations to the St. Mary’s Fund. 

“The LETRS approach validates that we already implement much of what the scientific research of reading recommends,” said Mrs. Block. “LETRS has been a big investment of time and resources in training our teachers, but we wanted each teacher to feel like she had the tools in her toolkit to meet each girl’s need.”

Some of the techniques LETRS uses include interactive storybook routines, such as repeated story readings and vocabulary teaching practices.

“A teacher may read the same book several times, with each retelling having a different focus. The first read may emphasize vocabulary, while another read connects the student’s background knowledge with what is happening in the story. A third read may include active questions, leading students to build strong connections and deepen their comprehension of the story,” said Mrs. Lancaster.

Ultimately, the Early Childhood team has embraced LETRs, understanding that the additional teaching methods the program espouses ensure that St. Mary’s follows through on its mission statement – providing a superior educational experience for girls, which will encourage and enable her to reach her individual potential.

"When students come to us in St. Mary’s Place at ages two and three, they are they are in the developing stages of oral language. By the time they leave us a few years later in Senior Kindergarten, they are communicating with more complex oral language structures and are using those skills when learning to read and write," said Mrs. Block. “The learning in the ECC building is explosive. The girls change so much and so fast, and St. Mary’s wants to take advantage of every learning opportunity while we have them here,” said Mrs. Block.

  • Early Childhood

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