Magazine menu

Sun, Jun

Enlarging a Child’s World: Woodlynde School’s Approach to Reading


Reading is not simply a fundamental skill necessary for negotiating a society filled with signs, instructions and emails. Learning to read also opens doors to a world of imagination and discovery, of learning new things, boosting imagination, gaining experience from others and seeing different perspectives. At Woodlynde School, we believe that children must learn to read not just to prepare themselves for college and careers, but also to experience the richness and beauty of the world around them.

At Woodlynde, more than 35 years of experience allows educators to teach reading so that young learners quickly benefit from research-based, systematic instruction that is individualized to their learning styles. As a Wilson® Accredited Partner, Woodlynde trains educators in the rigorous elements of teaching literacy, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. All Woodlynde teachers from kindergarten through fifth grade are Wilson Level I certified and collaborate continuously to apply the program techniques to meet the specific needs of each student. Since young children learn best in the morning, all Woodlynde elementary students are immersed in direct, multisensory instruction daily from 8:30 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. in groups that range from one to six students per teacher. Students learn the letters with clue words for sounds, and the format and language that teachers employ are consistent as students progress from grade to grade, reinforcing and enhancing learning and memory. Rather than waiting and hoping that slower-developing readers will “catch up,” Woodlynde educators understand that the brain is more plastic at an earlier age and multisensory instruction is the key to proficient and fluent reading. Parents learn how to support their children at home, whether by practicing with word cards and games or listening to their children read decodable passages to build fluency. We share a mutual goal of reinforcing learning processes that children employ with increasing independence.

Whether they are five years old or ten, having an independent strategy for unlocking words motivates students to persist as readers and writers. From the summer before their first day of kindergarten, Woodlynde students learn to use their fingers to tap and blend the sounds in the syllables of our language. Whether they are using gel boards to trace and name letters in “trick” words (the high-frequency words that don’t follow the rules) or practicing their “baseball words” to reach a goal for identifying high-frequency words, students are having fun as they use all their senses to build reading skills. When a Woodlynde student encounters a difficult word, they have a strategy—you will often hear them explain, “I can tap that!”

Research from the Shaywitzes at Yale to Maryanne Wolf at Tufts clarifies how important it is to provide highly trained teachers who work collaboratively to teach the segmentation and blending skills for accurate, automatic naming of the letters, syllables, words and phrases of our language. At Woodlynde, students learn the meanings of words using pictures, experiences and word walls and become experts who can tell you the meanings of difficult words so their listening vocabulary can reinforce their word identification and comprehension skills. Along with word analysis and vocabulary, students are guided to read high-interest information articles as they “scoop” sentences into likely phrases on the SmartBoard.™ They practice reading aloud after they have developed mental images of what they have read. Most importantly, Woodlynde students learn to automatically divide unfamiliar words into syllables and independently decode one syllable at a time. They no longer guess impulsively or wait for someone else to volunteer the words; they have developed a toolbox of strategies that empower them.

Jacqueline Kennedy once stated, “There are many ways to enlarge a child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”  The teaching of reading is so vitally important that it has become the core mission of our school. At Woodlynde School, we put the research into action in a differentiated but cohesive program where the leaders of tomorrow are the readers of today. By helping children become avid readers, we are not only preparing them for their next academic steps, but we are also enlarging their world and putting it at their fingertips.