IDA Grants Result Reports 2020 – Georgia College and State University
Grant Awarded – September, 2019
Program Length – September, 2019 to May, 2020
Initiative to Improve Dyslexia Awareness and Teacher Training Grant
Funded by the International Dyslexia Association – Georgia
Stacy L. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor of Elementary Education
Department of Teacher Education
Georgia College and State University
The IDA – GA Grant was able to fund two initiatives at for Georgia College teacher candidates, faculty, and local teachers. A dyslexia awareness and simulation experience as well as structured literacy training were the two areas of focus for the 2019-2020 funding.
Dyslexia Awareness: Dyslexia “Simulation”
The purpose of the dyslexia “simulation” was to increase awareness about dyslexia including what a student with dyslexia might experience, how s/he might feel, how to notice red flags and some resources to support student with dyslexia. All of our student professional organization officers (SGAEYC – Student Georgia Association for the Education of Young Children) were trained by John H. Lounsbury College of Education alumna Stephanie Starr with the IDA Northern California Experience Dyslexia materials ($250). The officers then led simulations for the teacher candidates. Teacher candidates and College of Education faculty rotated through 5 stations that focused on dyslexia awareness. After each station there was a brief reflection time. Following the completion of all stations, Stephanie Starr shared an IDA fact sheet and modeled the use of some multi-sensory materials that are helpful in Pre-K – Fifth grade classrooms. Although COVID 19 shut down our university two months early, teacher candidates were also able to lead the dyslexia simulation at a partner elementary school in Baldwin County. Participants from all the simulations reported immediate connections with the experiences. “This really makes me rethink how I talk to my students.” “I am realizing some things I have been saying and expecting are not helpful to my students.” “I am glad there are resources that will help me teach my students in different ways.”
Structured Literacy Training: REAP Workshops
The majority of the funding ($9,750) supported training in structured literacy provided by Reading is Essential for All People (REAP). During the 2019-2020 school year, eight sessions were conducted by REAP. Session attendees included Early Childhood/Elementary Education teacher candidates (at the junior and senior levels); Early Childhood/Elementary Education faculty, Special Education faculty, Reading faculty; Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy staff; and teachers and administrators from five local schools/districts. (In addition to the faculty, staff, and administrators in the training, the 90 teacher candidates were working with over 100 partner teachers in five local counties, thus further increasing skills and awareness in the local communities.) Each group participated in one 4-hour session in the fall and one 4-hour session in the spring semester. Six of the eight sessions were complete before the COVID shut down, and, amazingly, REAP was able to pivot and offer the last two sessions via zoom for our senior teacher candidates.
We have been able to see and hear about the positive results of the training anecdotally and in the data. Senior teacher candidates reported being able to talk about their recent training to administrators in interviews during their job search – thus continuing to raise awareness as well as position themselves as not only as a desirable first year teacher, but a resource to others in the school. Junior and senior teacher candidates reported being able to immediately apply what they had leaned in training in their field placement. A local curriculum director reported feeling relieved in finally having resources to support her teachers that were struggling to reach some of their students and she has already contacted REAP about further training opportunities for teachers in her county. One teacher in the workshop went on to pursue her Orton Gillingham training!
In addition to the ways listed above, participants were surveyed about their experiences. 100% of participants were able to identify ways that the training had impacted their teaching. Top answers included
- Being able to see and understand their students differently
- The ability to identify students who needed further support
- Having multiple strategies and multi-sensory tools to better reach students
- An increased confidence in teaching phonics
- The realization that their awareness and enthusiasm as the teacher plays a critical role in students’ development.
90% of participants reported already using specific strategies from the training in their classroom instruction. Some of the most reported strategies/tools included
- Magic E
- Curly C/Straight K
- Elkonin Boxes
- Varying Decks
- The Alphabet King
- Chopping words
84% of participants reported that they had a breakthrough moment or win with a student from the knowledge gained from the structured literacy training. Breakthrough moments occurred
- Most frequently in 1:1 re-teaching/tutoring of students
- When matching the right strategy/tool to the student need
- In decoding words
As one participant stated, “This program is AMAZING & I think every teacher should learn the skills offered.”
Those who did not report a breakthrough moment indicated it was more to do with their specific field placement (math only class, upper grade), but felt confident they would be able to use their new knowledge and skills in the future.
Thanks to REAP’s inclusion of highly skilled and knowledgeable trainers, quality materials and engaging sessions; participants at all levels were able to stay curious and engaged with such important content. We are thankful for the two in-kind sessions they donated last year. We have continued our relationship with REAP for the 2020-2021 school year and might be pursuing funding to further the training of our teacher candidates. We are especially grateful to IDA-GA for the support of our teacher candidates and local teachers to improve the teaching of students with dyslexia.
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