Whatcom Day Academy preschool teachers will soon be helping to improve early childhood literacy education across northwest Washington.
The Whatcom County independent school recently won a $30,000 grant to document specific literacy teaching practices and then share those ideas with early childhood education groups in Whatcom County and other areas of the region.
The grant is from Doing What Works, a website supported by the U.S. Department of Education that helps teachers implement teaching practices that are supported by research.
For the last couple years, Whatcom Day Academy has been partnering with Western Washington University associate professor Matthew Miller to help train new preschool and elementary teachers. Students from Miller’s literacy instruction class spend hours observing Whatcom Day Academy preschool teachers during literacy lessons. The students then report back to the teachers, giving them insight into what they’re doing and what they could be doing more.
The grant will build upon the WWU work, specifically focusing on two areas of literacy education: phonological awareness, which deals with students understanding what sounds different letters make, and dialogic reading, which deals student comprehension and analysis of what’s being read to them.
Whatcom Day Academy teachers will receive training in the two areas of literacy education being studied, and then each will develop lesson plans specifically related to those areas. Each teacher will then create four video case studies of them teaching lessons to students, using the information they learned during the trainings.
The case-study videos, along with feedback from the teachers, will then be used by other early childhood education groups and WWU students to help improve literacy education.
“It’s important to know why you’re doing something; a lot is because it feels right to do and it’s what you’ve always done,” said Miller. “This allows (teachers) to look at really why they’re doing things and how they can connect to best practices.”
“This will really help strengthen early childhood education in the county because literacy is such a critical piece of what happens at that age,” said Susan Donnelly, head of Whatcom Day Academy.