The International Dyslexia Association’s (IDA) Annual Reading, Literacy and Learning Conference reaffirmed many of the teaching methods currently used by Trident Academy teachers.
The importance of teaching self-advocacy skills, a high priority at Trident Academy, was consistently mentioned.
Mrs. McKenna says, “I left the conference with a clear understanding of how to teach the students why they need to be their own self-advocate and provide them with strategies to do so. Learning differences can be challenging to understand, so removing the mystery or confusion of what the student’s learning difference is allows the student to effectively communicate or negotiate what their needs are. Our goal at Trident Academy is to provide all students with the tools to successfully transition into other educational settings, which is why self advocacy is really a focus in Middle School.”
The teachers also noted that one specific book was referenced more frequently than any other across almost every workshop. That book was Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan. The authors emphasize instruction that offers rich information about words and their uses with student-friendly explanations. Vocabulary instruction must not only be direct and explicit, but playful and interactive to ensure students will have continued use of their vocabulary words both inside and outside of the classroom. Not only will this expand a student’s oral expression, but it will increase reading comprehension and written expression.
Mrs. Price says, “It was incredibly validating because Trident Academy’s vocabulary program (known in the Lower School as “Word Wizard”) is based on Bringing Words to Life. The goal of Word Wizardis to foster robust and deep vocabulary instruction to broaden the students’ oral language and writing; not memorize definitions. The vocabulary words are imbedded throughout the day’s instruction and are chosen because of their high frequency use for “mature language users” (e.g., absurd, industrious). Each student has a chart where earn different points for hearing, using, and writing the vocabulary word.”
Many of the writing workshops at the conference emphasized understanding sentence structure. Several different researchers, including the developer of Framing Your Thoughts, which is the program Trident Academy follows, all stated that explicit instruction of sentence structure is the most fundamental and important part of writing instruction.