Featured Projects

January 2021 - Lower Yukon School District

Adverse challenges result in creative and innovative solutions for the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program of the Lower Yukon School District (LYSD). One of these challenges is child readiness and preparedness when entering public school. The One Book Project, supported by the CLSD Grant, was launched in response to this substantial need for at-home learning materials for our youngest learners. The One Book learning boxes are designed, assembled and distributed monthly to the families of all kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students throughout LYSD.

Each month a new learning box or packet is distributed, filled with engaging materials that target early literacy, numeracy, and developmental skills. A story book is included with a reading star chart, bookmark and stickers. Additionally, the family will find the Family Connection flyer, written specifically for each month’s content as a guide for at-home learning. The Family Connection introduces strategies and tools that encourage activities and routines to support early literacy skills.

The project has solicited positive feedback from families and school sites alike. One encouraging message from a grandparent read, “I have had the privilege to look at some of your boxes for the young ones. Fantastic work. I love it. I see that my grandchildren would benefit, so that means all kids can benefit as well. My wife and I are very impressed.” The positive response from communities serve as a catalyst for continued creative problem solving in a time when face-to-face classroom instruction is not always possible.

Producing and shipping three hundred individual learning boxes each month is a big undertaking, but with the partnership of the Kusilvak Career Academy (KCA) this became a possibility for the ECE program. This strategic partnership with the district’s residential CTE program, located in Anchorage, allowed for high-school students attending KCA sessions to have the opportunity to participate in an on-the-job (OJT) experience assisting with the assembly and shipping of the One Book learning boxes. In addition, a media project is in development which will allow these students to create read-aloud videos and early learning activity tutorials.

This OJT experience introduces career opportunities in early childhood education, media exploration, and early learning support in the family environment. Perhaps even more importantly, these students are introduced to the world-changing difference they can make by reading to a child. Furthermore, the KCA students have been excited to work on projects that will be sent to their own villages and for some to a younger sibling.

The LYSD ECE program is convinced that by introducing a daily read-aloud routine in homes, a positive impact will be noted in the trajectory of school readiness and student learning. The One Book message states: Reading one book a day exposes a child to 78,000 words per year and 296,660 words by the age of five! One book…at a time!

To learn more about LYSD's One Book Project, contact Sandra Main at smain@lysd.org.

February 2021 - Southeast Island Consortium

Keijin (five) districts working together as tleix (one) comprise our Consortium Comprehensive Statewide Literacy Development (CLSD) Grant: Chatham School District, Hoonah School District, Pribilof School District, Southeast Island School District, and Yakutat School District.

We are a consortium of districts that have similar small, remote schools. Small schools face unique challenges as teachers have a wide range of ages and abilities in one classroom at the same time. Teachers in small schools need not only evidence-based instructional strategies but also classroom and data management expertise. The best literacy instruction comes from staff who understand how children learn and are confident in identifying needs and providing interventions. For this reason, we chose to focus the grant funds on professional development in best practices of literacy instruction with the goal of sustainability.

Through collaboration on professional development, our small districts can implement combined grant resources and provide professional development beyond the individual district budgets. Often in small or rural districts, the teachers do not have the opportunity to collaborate with educators who teach similar grade levels or content because they are the only teacher for that particular grade level or content area. A long-range goal is to provide collaboration opportunities for teachers and students across these five districts.

Parent information and engagement activities are a priority for schools. However, during the 2020-2021 school year, districts have faced challenges that have negatively impacted the ability to communicate and connect with families. Each school district is focused on parent engagement to meet the needs and health situations in the learning community.

Tlingit means “People of the tides.” Tides reflect constant change and reshaping of shores. The rhythm of life is connected to the strong influence and pull of the sea. Yet, for centuries, the traditions and culture remain constant.

We are reshaping literacy instruction to implement the constant, which is the vision that each of these five districts has for literacy education in their unique setting.

Specific professional development for 2020-2021 has included:

iReady: iReady has two parts: a diagnostic assessment and a personalized instruction path for each student. Diagnostic assessments are administered three times a year to monitor specific growth and change within students’ literacy skills. The personalized instructional pathway includes plans and materials for individual growth and options for grouping students based on needs. A multitude of teacher support options is available. Professional development for iReady during the 2020-2021 year will total 25 sessions using different combinations: each district receiving individual district professional development or, when schedules allow, districts will combine for professional development.

Literacy Modules: Literacy modules on evidence-based strategies for improving early literacy are developed with Lexie Domaradzki and will be recorded and available for implementation in future years. The literacy modules are designed for university credit with Arlie Swett, Consortium Literacy Consultant, and the facilitator for these courses.

Paraprofessional Professional Development: We are working with Iḷisaġvik College in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, to design opportunities for paraprofessionals, which leads to a two-year Associate’s Degree or a four-year Bachelor’s Degree. Iḷisaġvik has developed courses relevant to paraprofessional training. The curriculum requirements will include our Literacy Modules, which we are developing.

District Literacy Coaches: CLSD grant funds are dedicated to providing a .5 District Literacy Coach for each district. The responsibilities of this .5 position are flexible to meet the needs of each district, including: working directly with small groups of students in coordination with classroom teachers; providing in-person observations and relevant feedback on literacy instruction to classroom teachers; coordinating with the Superintendent for scheduling CLSD literacy professional development; implementation of iReady diagnostic assessments and the personalized instruction path for each student; parent and community engagement literacy opportunities; and a weekly zoom conversation with the District Literacy Coaches and the Consortium Literacy Consultant. The challenges and tasks for coordinating literacy work with five districts are building on the foundation of weekly, agenda-driven conversations.

For more information on Southeast Island Consortium contact Arlie Swett at arlie.swett@gmail.com

March 2021 - Fairbanks North Star Borough School District

Rhonda Harvey is the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District’s stellar Secondary Literacy Grant Coach. After working with students as an English Language Arts (ELA) teacher and as a district building coach, Ms. Harvey jumped at the opportunity to support every 7th-12th grade teacher at the ten secondary schools in the district. Helping teachers across all content areas is the driving mission, as supporting literacy is essential for student growth and learning in all subject areas. Therefore, teachers should feel capable and confident in teaching students with evidence-based literacy strategies no matter the subject area.

Ms. Harvey's first year in the position has been very different from the original vision. Rather than returning to in-person learning in the fall, the school board voted to continue remote-learning for the first semester of the school year. The decision for online learning meant developing resources to support teachers to improve the virtual learning experiences offered to students. Ms. Harvey has met with PLCs and other school groups virtually to promote the program and the vision of content-wide literacy practices at the secondary level. Ms. Harvey has also worked with individual teachers to adjust in-person practice to become more effective in the virtual learning environment. Investing in relationships and taking the time to build resources for both virtual and physical learning spaces, Ms. Harvey has quickly become an asset for many teachers in the district.

In late January, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District began bringing students back together in person. The decision to return to in-person learning was met with much joy and some trepidation. However, Ms. Harvey has started to visit different classrooms across the district to support teachers as educators learn how to teach students attending school remotely while also working with students in person.

Ms. Harvey has created an interactive literacy notebook for teachers at Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. The interactive Google slides notebook was designed for all secondary teachers. Each section contains strategies to use in all classrooms and students while providing extra support to struggling readers. Throughout the document, there are links to handouts and tabs on each heading to transition quickly through sections. The notebook is organized based on the four quadrants of successful/struggling readers and the formula: Reading Comprehension = Linguistic Comprehension + Word Recognition. The notebook dives into three categories of struggling readers & six clusters of characterizations. The purpose of the interactive notebook is to give secondary teachers quick access to reliable resources and strategies to help struggling readers.

Ms. Harvey is looking forward to hosting a camp for teachers over the summer, which will provide opportunities to try strategies and practice different ways to support students in developing literacy skills. The educators involved will teach literacy strategies and interventions during an educational camp for secondary students. The learning experience will allow teachers to immediately practice skills with students, and obtain feedback from colleagues on best practices.

For more information contact Rhonda Harvey @ rhonda.harvey@k12northstar.org

April 2021 - Nenana City School

Hello, fellow AKCLSD subgrantees. We are Nenana City School, a combined K-12 local and boarding school located in Nenana, Alaska. Part of our plan to improve literacy in our student body includes Literacy Cafes. Literacy Cafes are meant to be an opportunity for parents and guardians to learn more about the science behind reading, receive support in helping their students learn to read, and provide other parental support as necessary.

While Literacy Cafes were written into our grant application, the concept did not fully develop until a group of interested staff members came together and created a vision for how they were to be implemented. Our Literacy Cafes are meant to serve families in the Nenana area, including all K-6 students and their families in Nenana City School and CyberLynx homeschool families in the surrounding area. The original idea was to host a monthly meeting at the school, where children and their parents would come in and be treated to food and good conversation. With full bellies, the idea was to split the students and parents up for a bit, providing students with some hands-on social-emotional activities based on the Brightways Learning curriculum. While students were getting some wiggles out, the parents would be meeting for information about literacy skills, a guest speaker, or a combination of the two. Finally, the Cafe would end with parents and students coming back together to read a provided book, using a strategy or two the parents just learned about.

Doesn’t that sound like a great way to spend an evening? Unfortunately, a global pandemic had other plans for us. While we’d like to get to some semblance of our original plan, our Literacy Cafes have taken on quite a different form this year. We are still using the same group of books, a series from an outfit called Dynamic Resources, but our Smart Start plans have not allowed us to host anything in our building. Instead, we chose to have a semi-virtual approach. Families who have signed up for our “Virtual Literacy Cafe” are provided a package every month with books for each student in their family, a one-sheet printout of a reading strategy appropriate for a beginning reader and a more experienced reader, and materials for an arts and crafts project related to the theme of the included books. While the idea is to keep students off screens and encourage a literacy-oriented family event, we also create and publish a video that walks families through each strategy included and often includes why the reading strategies are important.

While our participation is high, particularly for students enrolled in our building, the reality is that this approach is certainly less effective than our original plans. Thankfully, implementing a Virtual Literacy Cafe has provided us many learning opportunities. We have built capacity in our district to implement in-person Literacy Cafes next year more effectively, and we have expanded our initial designs to potentially including preschool-aged children. We hope to host in-person Literacy Cafes for our K-6 students and their families, partner with our local Head Start, and extend our Cafes' reach as much as possible.

Our Literacy Cafe initiative has probably been the hardest hit by the pandemic. Yet, our team has attempted to meet our goals by providing students and families with books, materials, and videos to support literacy at home. While we’ve been happy to provide a Virtual Literacy Cafe, we are looking forward to the days we can invite students and families into the building for some warm food, good conversation, and the support and time they need to connect through reading.

Thank you guys for reading. If you’re interested in learning more about how we’ve approached Literacy Cafes or any of the materials we’ve used, please feel free to contact me at scalkin@nenanalynx.org.