St. Martha opened its new Learning Lab this year and has onboarded two new resources -one meant to help students with diagnosed learning differences, the other to gauge reading ability and provide enrichment as needed.
As well, several St. Martha teachers underwent training on how to help students using these resources.
We sat down with Taffie Duckworth, Assistant Principal and Learning Coordinator to learn more.
How did the Learning Lab come to be? What need does it address?
We saw that there was an opportunity to better meet the needs of our students. Diagnosed learning differences, like dyslexia, are becoming more and more identified, and we wanted a way to better address our students’ needs.
Teachers, especially those trained to use these new tools, now have dedicated space that’s inviting and calming (we intentionally kept décor to a minimum) to help students 1 on 1 or in small group sessions.
What are the new tools and resources offered in the Learning Lab?
Tools that help each child succeed. We have small group and individual instruction and a full time resource assistant to help with that. We also have three different learning coordinators each designated for primary, intermediate and middle school.
We have the Lexia reading program, which is for students grades K-5 and can overlap into middle school if needed. The program is a phonemic and phonics based program, which reinforces concepts of decoding, fluency, spelling and comprehension. It individualizes lessons for those who are striving to read at their grade level and challenges those who need it.
We also have 10 teachers trained in Barton’s Reading and Spelling program, which is an Orton Gillingham-based program specific to helping students with a dyslexia diagnosis.
How are these resources used?
All K-5 students are using Lexia to enhance the curriculum they are getting in the classroom. The data the program collects – similar to what we gather from Scholastic and other types of programs – helps us identify gaps, or where students may need some additional instruction in certain areas. They also help us build upon skills for students who already have a strong foundation.
With Barton’s, a teacher who’s been trained works with students 1×1 to move systematically through the levels in the program. It’s used as part of strategy and accommodation plans.
Is it common for schools to offer these types of resources as part of their curriculum?
Very few schools have teachers trained in Barton’s Reading and Spelling. Having the program and the teachers to administer it allows us to address students’ needs and support them without them incurring the cost of a tutor (which can be as much as $60—70 an hour, twice a week.)
So yes, it’s unique to find these type of resources in-house at a school where you’re not having to pay additional fees, attend after school tutoring, etc.
What’s your goal for this new space and new resources?
I’m excited we can take a more personalized, research-based approach to help children learn to read. I think we’ve got the tools to help students build confidence and be as successful as they can possibly be.