Feature

Ben's Journey: The Making of a Rising Star

Susan Belluz

Ben arrived in September with a huge grin on his face. He was ready for grade 1! Ben was articulate and knowledgeable, an engaged learner. December rolled around and Ben had acquired a few sight words. He wanted to read, was excited to read, yet had along way to go. He was reading level 4 in  Alpha Kids.

Ben is a student at Hawthorn Public School in the Peel District School Board in Mississauga. Some  young,  eager learners like Ben need extra support to meet with success. But teachers only have so many hands and minutes to devote to each student. ISSP (in-school support) teachers have heavy loads. The process of identifying students and getting them formally tested by school psychologists can be lengthy. To assist students like Ben we needed to do something more.

Our vision was to create a program tailored to the needs of our own school and our own students. Our cozy little “country school” in the city is home to 230 students from grades K to 8. We have one teacher per grade. Our EQAO scores are strong. Our allocations are .4 ESL. and .9 ISSP.

We are a mixed community. We have some ESL students, many families have two parents, and we are generally a middle-to upper-income community. We have parents who are genuinely interested in their child’s academic success.

Ben’s learning style is similar to that of a vast number of Primary students. He does not have a learning disability, and he has not been identified by the in-school review committee (ISRC). He does not need to be labelled and tested. What he needs is a structured presentation of the tools necessary to acquire appropriate reading decoding skills. I envisioned a program that would enhance Ben’s learning curve with decoding and comprehension skills. This would not be a remedial program. It would provide him and other students with structured  reading practice guided by mentors. Determining which students would benefit from the extra practice would be done informally by the classroom and the ISSP teacher.

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