At the start of this school year, South Heart Public School expanded its high school-supported Silent Reading (SSR) program to all of its classrooms. South Heart Elementary School principal Jessica Geis said from 8:30 a.m. to 8:50 a.m. everyone in the class, including teachers and para-educators, spent the first 20 minutes of their day. to read.
âIt started because we were trying to find a time for collaboration between teachers, and also to get students to read more. And our high school has been doing RSS for a few years. So we took the opportunity to create a school-wide SSR block, âsaid Geis. âEssentially, it’s about asking students to choose the books they want to read.
The most recent program adds to a school system that remains one of the best performing schools in the state, ranking 8th out of 163 schools in the state according to a US News and World Report list.
Students at South Heart Public School have a great time with their books in the library. (contributing photo / Jacky Walby)
Geis explained that some of the younger students, like those in Kindergarten and Grade 1, are not quite ready for a full 20 minutes of independent reading, so this period is used as story time when a teacher, para-educator or guest speaker reads aloud. .
Reading has long been proven to improve understanding and performance in students. In a study conducted at Emory University, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan students’ brains before and after reading. In the days following the reading, they discovered increased connectivity in areas of the brain involved in receptivity to language, as well as in physical sensations and movement.
South Heart’s fifth-grade teacher Leah Miller said the program has improved the learning environment in multiple ways. She said students love the first 20 minutes of their day and it shapes them to be lifelong learners.
âIt allowed every student from Kindergarten to Grade 12 to be immersed in books. I saw an improvement in endurance, an increase in comprehension and really just love of reading, âMiller said. “It’s so good, and they’re so focused.”
She stressed the importance of using the program to set a good example.
âAnother thing that’s been really wonderful for the kids to see is that the adults (also read). I mean, we can tell them it’s important to read, but we sit down with them, âMiller said. âIt’s important that children see this.
On Wednesdays, that time is typically used to collaborate with the other fifth-grade teacher on successful teaching strategies, she said.
âThese are days when we talk about how we can tailor instruction to the needs of students, what we need to look at differently and what we do that is successful,â Miller said. âSo we come together as a teamâ¦ really looking at how we build them and develop them to be successful adults. “