By Rosalie Osborn, Middle School Head Teacher
For the past ten years I have had the opportunity to teach literacy in the middle school. Having come to MMFS with a background in the Orton-Gillingham approach to literacy learning, working with the Wilson Reading System has always felt like a great fit for me. The program was created in the 1980s by the Orton-trained Barbara Wilson, and was designed to provide the same direct, explicit, structured, and sequential work prescribed in Orton-Gillingham. The approach is particularly well suited for our model in the middle school, where students receive daily instruction in small groups.
For my literacy groups and others like it, the bulk of daily instruction and nightly homework assignments follows the scope and sequence of WRS. The materials are controlled text, meaning that sets of words, sentences, and passages at each incremental level are composed of words that primarily contain only those phonetic elements that have been previously introduced. As a result, within the structure of Wilson’s materials, students who have struggled to decode on their own are able to engage in reading and spelling assignments with independence. Wilson’s seven-part lesson plans, laid out in the Instructor’s Manual, provide students with opportunities to engage in multisensory learning in support of their development of independent reading and spelling skills.
As a teacher who relies on these materials to support my students both in and out of class, I have spent a considerable amount of time over the last few years working to adapt them for best use in our middle school. As technology updates have taken place, I’ve been able to make digital versions of sound cards, word reading pages, and manipulatives. This summer I applied for an MMFS PA Grant to support my ability to organize, edit, and complete these materials and make them available for other teachers to use. A primary goal of my work was to use Wilson’s daily lessons to create corresponding files in MimioStudio Notebook, an interactive whiteboard application. An additional goal was to create digital files of skill-based work that literacy teachers could draw from to create tailored homework assignments and differentiated work for students in their groups. Additionally, in an effort to streamline literacy instruction and increase efficiency, I sought to weave exercises derived from our school-wide writing program, Judy Hochman’s Teaching Basic Writing Skills, into Wilson lesson and homework assignments. Creating these materials will allow me and my colleagues to more seamlessly engage in the incredibly multifaceted work of literacy instruction and to reinforce with our students the interconnectedness of their work in reading, writing, and spelling.
Creating this work was a labor of love. I am so grateful for this program and the way it has allowed me to support my students. Though I only made it through Book Three this summer, I intend to keep working on these materials and sharing them with others so that we can continue to strive toward excellence in our instruction and revealing brilliance in our students.