Reading  Comprehension Lab School is showing results

The total school environment has changed at James Lewis Elementary School, and that change can be seen as soon as someone walks through the door.

“The literacy team wanted people to know that as soon as they walked in, they were in a totally new environment,” Pat Dade, literacy coach at James Lewis, told the Blue Springs Board of Education Monday. “We wanted there to be comfortable seating for people waiting and, of course, books to read.”

Several staff members made a presentation about James Lewis being a Reading Comprehension Lab School. The building is a lab school using Ellin Keene’s Thinking Strategies about improving literacy, which focuses on the Reader’s Workshop program.

Keene is the author of “To Understand” and coauthor of “Mosaic of Thought” and has visited with the district about reading and literacy strategies.

Dade said to incorporate more of an emphasis in literacy, several changes have been made at the school. One of the largest is the creation of Book Nooks. Funded through the school’s fundraising efforts with Sonic, these nooks have a different theme for each grade level. The goal is to encourage reading and comprehension by making reading fun and enjoyable for the students.

“We wanted to ensure that staff members were moving forward in student improvement,” said teacher Abbie Swisher. “To do that, we become experts in Reading Workshop.”

Reader’s Workshop places an emphasis on the interaction between students and the text. Students learn how to ask questions and make connections with prior knowledge. A similar format is used in Writer’s Workshop where mini lessons on literature as well as independent reading time is incorporated.

The lab school concept has been so successful at James Lewis that other school districts are visiting to see how the program works including the Fort Osage, Lee’s Summit and Liberty school districts. Chapel Lakes and Sunny Pointe have also become Reading Comprehension Lab Schools this year.

“We have truly changed the culture in our classrooms and how we handle instruction,” said principal Kelly Flax. “But there is always room for improvement. We can always learn from each other.”