Lower School News

Literably Literally Helps Build Student Literacy
Rachel Freeman, communications/website manager
 


Building literacy skills in children is critically important to their success as students. During in-person instruction, Nueva lower school teachers spend a considerable amount of time getting to know their readers one-on-one using the Fountas and Pinnell benchmarks. With the move to remote learning, and the challenges teachers face of being able to meet one-on-one with their young students, reading specialist Liza Zassenhaus introduced the lower school faculty to Literably, a reading assessment tool that provides teachers with information on student accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. 

“It’s important for us to have sustained, consistent benchmarks while we’re in remote learning,” Liza said. “Literably is designed to mimic Fountas and Pinnell, while providing us with clear data about what books kids can be reading at their levels. This is just one of the many tools we use to assess our students’ reading abilities.”

Literably is a unique tool—one that works particularly well in remote learning—as it records students reading and then provides teachers with marked-up texts where reading miscues occurred. 

For first grade teacher Emily Mitchell, this is the value of Literably. 

“While Literably provides us with just one data point, hearing students reading and seeing visually the text marked up is huge,” she said. “It’s so hard in remote learning to read individually with each student, so hearing them read through Literably gives me so much information I wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”

This information is helpful not only to individual classroom teachers, but also to a group of lower school faculty and administrators who are putting together a scope and sequence of the reading curriculum across grades. The group—made up of Director of Teaching and Learning Elizabeth Rossini, Lower School Head Megan Terra, fourth grade teacher Sarah Merkt, kindergarten teacher Paul Knight, lower school learning specialist Bailey Flood, and Liza—noticed a shift that takes place in expectations around reading assignments at the start of second grade. 

“The focus shifts from learning to read to reading to learn,” Liza noted. “Students in second grade are asked to read a diverse body of literature across different genres, including a number of nonfiction texts.” 

It is this shift, Liza said that informed the decision to introduce Literably and other reading assessments. 

“We really need to make sure that students have foundational reading skills by the time they reach second grade,” she shared. 

One of the benefits of using a consistent assessment tool like Literably is that it equips teachers with the information they need to provide book suggestions to students that are aligned with their reading levels.

“Liza does an amazing job of providing students with book suggestions that go hand-in-hand with our work around social justice and equity,” said Director of Social Justice and Equity Alegria Barclay. “I can’t speak more highly of Liza and the work she is doing not only in building reading skills in our youngest learners but also in introducing them to these really important topics.”

While Literably is a valuable tool for teachers, Liza emphasizes that this is not the only tool teachers use for teaching and assessing reading skills. 

“We don’t want this assessment to be the end all be all, and we don’t want it to overwhelm the way we teach,” she said. “It helps us by providing a baseline and a consistent lens through which we can determine how best to serve our students. Teachers need to find ways to lift up and support their students, and this tool is one way teachers can do just that.” 



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