The Brighter Side of Education

Increase Reading Achievement Using An Online Platform with Teacher Erin Phillips

September 22, 2022 Erin Phillips Season 1 Episode 1
The Brighter Side of Education
Increase Reading Achievement Using An Online Platform with Teacher Erin Phillips
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Show Notes Transcript

To start the series, I focus on the teacher as an independent variable. I am a teacher and in today’s episode, I welcome another teacher, Erin Phillips, to the show.

Third-grade reading proficiency is an indicator of future student success in middle school and ninth grade, on-time graduation rates, and career success; however, 47% of third- grade students are not meeting this goal. I conducted a study, An Evaluation of Virtual School's Preparation of Second Grade Students for Third Grade Reading Proficiency,  to investigate the extent to which virtual school in second grade prepared students for third- grade reading achievement. I used a mixed methodology to compare extant data from a state database on third-grade state achievement tests in the area of English Language Arts. Sixty-one second and third-grade teachers completed surveys, and three teachers participated in follow-up interviews. 

The data from my study demonstrated that third- grade students in virtual school outperformed third-grade students in face-to-face learning environments in reading proficiency by seven percentage points on the State Standards Assessments between the years 2015-2019. These data were in direct contradiction with the data from the teacher survey and interviews. With the results from this study, I made recommendations using Michael G. Moore's Theory of Transactional Distance to improve teacher effectiveness in online instruction to increase student reading achievement. 

This is where Erin and I connected. I taught second grade in the school where she taught third grade and we shared this knowledge of my study and the desire to implement positive change. Erin took the recommendations from the study and used them in her classroom with success. 

In the episode, Erin and I discuss the reading crisis and  how implementing online strategies  can help. Mrs. Phillips  is an elementary school teacher with experience in middle school, 3rd grade, and kindergarten. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her where we collaborated and cotaught 2nd and 3rd grades for some STEM projects. 

She discusses her experiences with students at reading different levels and how sh

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The music in this podcast was written and performed by Brandon Picciolini of the Lonesome Family Band. Visit and follow him on Instagram.

Books I've Authored:
America's Embarrassing Reading Crisis: What we learned from COVID, A guide to help educational leaders, teachers, and parents change the game, is available on Amazon, Kindle, and Audible, and iTunes.
My Weekly Writing Journal: 15 Week...

Reading and Hyflex Learning with Teacher Erin Phillips


·       Erin Phillips

·       Lisa Hassler

LH: Welcome to the brighter side of Ed podcast. I am your host. Dr. Lisa Richardson hasler here to enlighten and brighten the classrooms in America through focused conversation on important topics in education. Each episode, I will discuss problems we as teachers and parents are facing and what people are doing in their communities to fix it. What are the variables, and how do we duplicate it to maximize student outcomes? To start the series, I want to focus on the teacher as a variable with reading fluency as the problem. I am a teacher, and in today's episode, I welcome another teacher, Erin Phillips, to the show. She is a teacher in Sarasota County with experience in middle school, third grade, and kindergarten. I've had the pleasure of working with her where we collaborated in cotad second and third grades for some Stem steam stream projects together. Welcome, Erin.

EP: Thank you. I'm so glad to be here.

LH: So today we're talking about reading fluency as the problem, and I've had experience mainly as a second grade teacher and first grade teacher for the majority of my time. You have had a really unique experience because you've taught kind of backwards middle school. Then you went down to third grade, and then now you're in kindergarten, and so you're seeing reading fluency in a different lens, which I think is kind of unique. And I want to go back really quickly to the problem with reading fluency in America. What we're seeing right now is that 47% of students in third grade are not reading on level. And how that impacts us is that third grade is an academic indicator of a child's future success for not only middle school 9th grade, but also high school graduation rates and future career success.

EP: Right

LH: So what we're seeing is that 80% of struggling students that did not graduate from high school were struggling in third grade. We see seven out of ten adult prisoners are not reading above a fourth grade reading level. And so a lot of it goes back to how do we formulate the activities that the children are learning? How do we maximize their their learning by the activities that we're creating, the explicit direction that we're teaching, and how do we identify any problems that are coming into play? I did some research on it to compare virtual school in second grade for reading fluency in third grade to see if they were proficient. And it came back, and the research showed that virtual school outperformed face to face third grade students in the state of Florida. That was about eight percentage points this year alone. We have continued to widen that opportunity gap where virtual school is continuing to outperform those face to face students. And so now we come back and say, well, what can we do about those findings? And should we be looking at virtual school as something to be implemented into our face to face for more of a blended learning environment can that be done on a lower level when it comes to the primary grades? And so what are we doing now in the classroom to be able to maximize our students potential? So here you are in middle school. Did you come across students that were struggling in reading?

EP: I did, and it actually shocked me as how low I had some of my students. So I had middle school 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. And when I went to assess them and we went to work on things, they couldn't comprehend what directions were, test questions and in reading, just material they couldn't formulate in their head what this means, what is this telling me? So when I did a quick assessment, I had middle school age students reading at 3.8, which is equivalent to third grade in eight months. So here I am teaching students. I'm supposed to be teaching them these standards at this level, but they're reading down here. So how do I bridge that gap to help them thrive and be successful? They're already frustrated. They already feel like they're behind. So how do we not only academically meet their needs, but emotionally as well?

LH: Right? And you could see where that could really play. There are those social effects that start to impact a child as well, because then they start to withdraw and we start to see these negative side effects of just not being able to perform on grade level and what that does to a student's confidence. And so now when you went to third grade so now here we are, it's third grade. You are at kind of like that precipice. You are that really important part where they're saying if they're not reading on grade level and third grade, they're really going to struggle. And so when you came in now, what was your experience like in the classroom with trying to help students meet those needs?

EP: Well, I came in coming from middle school, going to third. I knew they have to read. They have to read on level, if not a little bit more, so that they don't fall behind. Because as they get older, it's only going to get more challenging. So in third grade, we really focused on my ones that weren't on level, getting them to level. So bringing in all different types of techniques and methods because the traditional teacher stand in front of you, I'm going to read, you listen to me or you read from a book doesn't work for every student. Some kids cannot learn auditory. They can't just hear it and know it or visually. So there has to be different ways to teach them to read and understand what they're reading.

LH: And you also did a hybrid classroom last year. You had some students that were online and you had some students that were face to face. How did you face that challenge?

EP: It was interesting, for sure, because there were kids when you're trying to maintain a classroom and you have some online and some in the classroom, it's a different dynamic. Yeah, my ones on online, to be honest, I felt like they were sitting there ready to learn because they're in front of you, they can hear everything. So you try and keep it quiet so that they can get what they do. Quick lesson, mini lesson. This is what we're doing. I do it, you do it. Go do it. When in the classroom, there's a little bit more flexibility where I can have them for a little bit longer of an attention span, but you actually brought it to my attention. Google Classroom Story Jumper and kind of different tools that I could utilize for my online learners that I actually brought into my classroom. So I put them all on the computer. So I essentially at some point had a full virtual classroom because it worked. So the different programs, I mean, there's I read, there's ABC, Spelling, there's just all kinds of online tools that help kids read. And they're young, they're full of technology, they know how to access these things. And so it was really neat to kind of find different techniques that I could use to help them help them learn in the classroom that I could bring online and bring from the classroom to my online.

LH: Yeah, and that's a good point about how the hybrid is a little bit of a unique situation where you have students that are at home and they are videoing in for the lesson and then you have your face to face students that are here in the brick and mortar school and they're ready to learn. So being able to delegate and balance is difficult. That really does stretch beyond. But what I noticed is when I applied some of those online teaching methods to my second grade classroom I'm sorry. When I applied those with having an online platform, and I really focused on what was my lesson using the platform, to be very explicit, all of my information was attached to that platform. I used it to teach from. And what I found is that I became a very deliberate teacher where I knew exactly what I wanted. My objective was clear. The students saw it, they could see my material, they knew it was expected of them, they knew where to turn it in. And then students that were at home because of quarantine vacations, they all had access to the lessons. So students were not left behind and they always had access to their learning regardless of the time and space. So Bridging, that was really important. And I saw that in my own class. It really improved my reading fluency for my children because they weren't behind and I was able to keep them on task and on target, but also because the parents at home were able to support me. They knew what they were doing, they knew what was expected of their child. They could see work that was turned in. They also could review it, and so they could support them at home. And so that transparency really built a strong foundation and a relationship that connected school and home,

EP: it's huge, because parents are always asking, "what can I do to support my kid? What do we need to be working on?" And when you have that there for them, they can see this is what you've been working on, or this is what we're doing, and they can always go back to it. And I love how you said the explicit date of your lesson, because now as I've been coming down, I need to know what is the main objective? What do they need to get? And so you condense that for them, and it's right there. They know exactly like a laser beam, this is what I'm doing, keep focusing on that skill and that target, and then you go from there.

LH: And then also just knowing their attention span. So I know I'm going to focus my lesson. It's going to be a maximum of ten minutes long for my explicit lesson. Or I would take the students age and then add a minute or two. With having children coming in at seven years old in second grade, that would say, okay, my target lesson is going to be anywhere from like eight to ten minutes maximum. And then I know that I need to stop and at that point do an activity. Maybe it's going to be collaborative, but then you work on those other methods and strategies. And so I found that my background in online teaching and learning really helped me become a better teacher when I was able to incorporate that online platform and partner with parents and just have that transparency, even for review. Like, I would just pull up the Google Classroom and then say, oh, remember we did this thing on verbs, and then pull it back up and then watch the video again. And they would sing and dance, and they would really find that to reconnect their brain. And those bridges that were made in the learning process were like, reactivated. Then tests became better and they were just more excited about it. And so I feel like also it left out some of that when your kids would come home and they would say, what did we do? Or you would ask them like, what did you do at school today?

EP: Nothing. Just happened a little while ago.

LH: Yeah, I know. What did you guys do today? Nothing. I know they didn't do nothing. Right. So this really clarifies, and the parent knows exactly, okay, we were doing adjectives today, and maybe they want to pull up that video to help their child, or they can see what they were learning at home. So I thought that was really a very great tool that I was able to use,

EP: and it's used as a teacher because it's kind of, like, a nice portfolio for the kids, but it's also nice for myself. If we're reviewing for something, I can go right back to it the day. It's right there. I don't have to search through all. My files for, like, the video

LH: and for subs. It was fantastic. They would just kind of come in. They'd pull up the day, oh, I've got social studies today between one and 145. Great. There it is. This is what I'm teaching, and these are the activities that they're going to do. And everything is there, so I just found it super helpful.

EP: Yeah.

LH: All right, so now you're in kindergarten, and how does that change you? Now you've come from you see how they struggled in reading in middle school, how on board you were in third grade. To get them on track, they had.

EP: To be on track in third grade.

LH: So now you are at the very beginning. Yes. Okay. How does that feel to be at the beginning? And how does your experiences coming from middle school and third grade really shape how you handle third grade? I'm sorry? Kindergarten years, when you start noticing their.

EP: Struggles in reading, I honestly think it has made me more prepared, probably, than I ever could have been as a kindergarten teacher. Just seeing where they're going, knowing how crucial this year really is for reading. Sight words are huge. Reading, building, reading Stamina right now. So it's my class right now. Being able to just sit for a few minutes quietly, independently. Reading is huge. We're working on goals. I set two minutes every other day. And so right now, we're at 14 minutes.

LH: Oh, wow.

EP: And we're trying to get to 20.

LH: And these kids are five,

EP: They're five. And that's impressive. It's impressive. But they are working so hard now. Right now their books are basic sight word books. I can walk. I can run. The dog is at the barn, the cow is at the barn. Basic patterns. But it's at their level, and I know how important it is to start at their level so they don't get frustrated and keep building up from that.

LH: So now have you noticed that this is the very beginning of kindergarten and you have a lot of different backgrounds of academia for the support for those kids coming in?

EP: Yes.

LH: Some of them have had no preschool.

EP: None.

LH: Some of them are like professional preschoolers. They've been in it since the day they turned three.

EP: Yes, they have.

LH: And then you've got some that were home schooled.

EP: Yes.

LH: And so how are you, and young students

EP: I have a four year old.

LH: How are you balancing that?

EP: It's like a circus. I mean, I feel like I'm juggling a lot of plates because I am I have kids that have never, ever been to a preschool, and I have kids that have been to preschool. They know how to hold a book. They know you should read left from right, but then I have other students that are pointing all over a page. So what I'm finding is I've changed completely how I teach. Instead of doing a lot of whole group, I maybe do a quick five minute mini lesson because they're five, I have them for maybe five minutes and then I do a lot of centers. So I'm a center. So they come to me for an actual short, small group lesson, which is what the target objective is. We do it, I make sure they're got it, we do a quick exit ticket, or if I know I need to keep working with them if they're a little bit lower. And then they get to move on and practice other things that we've been working on that are going to keep reinforcing the skills and helping them stay on target and task where we are.

LH: So you're doing a lot of that formative assessment where you're just checking in, seeing how they're doing, monitoring, you need more, you're going to stay with me, you've mastered this, you can move on to this center. Now that I think is going to.

EP: Be crucial in kindergarten and also changing to the different styles. So I do actually have a tech center that's one of my centers for them. And there's a thing called Iredi. And so they get on and it is all about reading, about phonemic awareness and all of those skills as emergent readers, which are just learning to read is really helpful. And so they love that one they might have where they get to match a letter in a sound or a picture and a letter. So all these different skills that we're building on, they get to always do every day. And I have a block which I've made, I have an hour and 15 minutes for language arts. So being able to utilize that whole time for them is also key.

LH: What are you doing with parents? So are parents on board with what your goals are and how you're getting them ready for reading?

EP: Yes. So I send home a monthly letter about just kind of what the objectives are, what we're working on, what skills. And they have homework for me, me. So they have a folder, they get a book every week from me. And the parent has to sign off every week that they have read it. They have to read it to their parent. And every time I can check it off that I know they're comprehending and getting it, they'll get a little level higher. Because in kindergarten they need to end on a level D, which is more thicker sentences, more than just three or five words. So just building that constant stamina, everyday, independent reading and throwing in the dessert books, which I like to call them, is like the fun books that they really want to read. Because if they can read, I can walk, I can run the pattern books. And then goldilocks and then they'll be able to read the fun stuff that they want to read.

LH: That is true.

EP: And they light up. I had a group yesterday, my small group, they had their books. I was like, okay, I want you to read it to me. And they're looking and then he's like, the cow is brown, the bear next page. The bear is brown, and it is starting to click. So as they keep recognizing these words and they're understanding how to sign them out and they're looking at the pictures and they're matching, it's a whole new world.

LH: So one of the things that I always recommended to parents when children are going to be reading those books out loud and the repetition of it was building those sight words from short words, I mean, short term memory into long term memory, and that repetition, how important it was. So I would always recommend that they do it anyway. So, like, you would have students that would say, I read that book yesterday at home, I don't want to read it again. You'd say, no, you really do need to. So those are some skills and strategies to let parents know how important it is, even if they've already read the booking. It's easy. That's the process. And so I think it's so important to inform parents about that process so that they know to keep pushing their child to be listening.

EP: Absolutely.

LH: When do you become concerned, like the red flags, that you would maybe want to do some interventions? At what point in kindergarten is that really when do those red flags occur naturally?

EP: So we do a screening kind in the beginning just to kind of get a baseline. Where are they with just letter recognition, sound recognition. If I say sun, can you tell me, you know, what sounds you're hearing? And then I do running records three times a year. And so I document all that. I keep up with how they're progressing. So if we get through a unit and I haven't seen any growth, then I start getting a little concerned. I'm like, okay, do we need to have a little bit more intensive reading? Do I need to bring in the reading specialist? Is it a language maybe issue that we need to address? So every few months I do a big actual formal assessment, but I'm doing running records weekly with my students. Might not be documented every time, but I'm knowing, okay, they've had this book for a week or two weeks. Have we made progress or not?

LH: So I think it's important or to say that now, with all of this knowledge that you have coming backwards, how efficient and proactive you are in kindergarten to get those kids reading on level and to be using the variety of strategies and methods, the different assessment tools that you have, and even being able to bridge that gap with parents, to form those collaborative relationships, to really get on things going on.

EP: And I sent home site words to them, actually on Monday, and I said, put them around your house. Hide them, play them in the car, make a game. I mean, anything you can do, just keep them reading. Keep them recognizing words so they can read. Because my biggest worry for my middle schoolers was how are they going to succeed as adults if they're struggling reading middle school material? How are they going to be able to read a rent agreement? How are they going to be able to read a lease agreement? You know, how are they going to read really important things as adults if they can't read at a middle school level? And then in third grade, that is such a huge year for reading. I mean, it is huge. And if you're not there, what can we do to get them there?

LH: And I think one of the things that we're talking about so the reason why third grade reading on grade level, in third grade is so important is because of those changes in the brain. So a lot of our teaching a child to learn how to read happens K through two. And then what happens in third grade? We start teaching through the reading. So through the content. So you need to be reading.

EP: You always told me in K through two, you're teaching to read, but in third and on, you're reading to learn.

LH: Yes,

EP: that is what you always told me, and that stuck with me so much because I shouldn't be teaching them how to read in third grade. They should be reading to learn and learning the material that I am teaching them. Right.

LH: And there's a change in the brain that happens to where research shows that the interventions that are placed in K one and two have a higher pay off than in third grade. And it's not that they cannot learn. It's just more difficult. It takes longer. You have to work a lot harder at it. They do. And so you really want to maximize your time by identifying and providing those interventions at the K through two grades and then making sure that you're following up, of course, throughout the rest of the grades, but just to maximize their potential and that time during those K through two primary grades.

EP: Right.

LH: All right, well, just put a little call to action here. So with knowing the things that we're doing in the classroom when it comes to teacher variables and using methods and strategies, incorporating even online teaching and learning strategies as we've walked away from COVID and being able to now use those tools a little bit more explicitly and then integrating them into our face to face classes and seeing a benefit from there. But then also understanding how every student learns differently and that we believe that now we need to have more customized methods.

EP: Absolutely.

LH: For them so that we'll see more success in the long run. And I'm hoping that through my book, america's Embarrassing Reading Crisis what We Learned From COVID that policymakers, educators and parents alike can talk about solutions to the reading crisis that is gripping the United States include virtual school as a part of it. And, of course, the variable of great teachers and how teachers are meeting the needs of their students and becoming more flexible in their strategies. So thank you, Aaron, for taking the time to join.

EP: Thank you for having me. This is awesome. So to be here.

LH: In our next episode, I will welcome Dr. Livia Paler Duller as she discusses the topic of Dyslexia and how her organization is helping children and families across the world. If you have a story about what's working in your schools that you'd like to share, you can email me at dr. Lisa it is the mission of this podcast to shine light on the good in education so that it spreads affecting positive change in our schools. So let's keep working together to find solutions that focus on our children's success.