Teachers Explore New Methods for Teaching Literacy in Long Island Schools

By Stacey Andell for Schools K-12

Sachem School District teachers completed another professional development activity thanks to the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning.   The program is called the Strategic Instructional Model (SIM) and looks at how teachers can improve literacy in low performing adolescents

The Strategic Instructional Model

Developed over 25 years of research, SIM works to help teachers recognize what lessons are of greatest importance and target those lessons towards a diverse group of learners.   SIM rests on four philosophical principles:

  • Low proficiency students can be taught in mainstream classrooms.
  • Teacher’s aides, or support teachers, should concentrate on helping students develop learning strategies.
  • Subject teachers should organize their lessons so that the material can be understood and remembered by low proficiency students.
  • The students should be actively involved in deciding how to learn new strategies.

SIM works on two levels, one addressing the needs of the teacher and the other addressing the needs of the student.   For teachers, SIM training provides a method for organizing information in ways that are most useful for students, so that they can understand what they learn and then be able to use it to accomplish tasks.   For students, academic coaching develops learning strategies that can be applied to what they learn in school.   These strategies range from learning ways to approach written texts, including informational readings and math word problems, as well as ways to express information in writing, as is often required on standardized tests.

Another important element of SIM is the way that it promotes teamwork among teachers, students, and parents.   In deciding what content to teach to students, teachers and students work together to determine what information students need and what the best method of delivering that information is.   This creates a feeling of comradery in the learning community and helps all stakeholders contribute to the overall success of students.  

What Long Island Teachers are Saying About SIM

Many classroom teachers have welcomed SIM as a concrete approach to meeting the needs of their students.   After observing a demonstration writing lesson conducted using the method, teacher Jill Kristoff comments, “The SIM sentence writing strategy is a very useful tool for children, teaching them grammar and sentence structure, as well as improving their writing; and because it is taught in steps, children of all abilities can be successful with it!”

What Long Island Schools Students are Saying About SIM

Students agree with their teachers that SIM offers them a lot of structure for understanding what they are learning.   After observing the demonstration lesson conducted by University of Kansas teacher – trainer Dottie Turner, one student said, “Ms. Turner helped me a lot with sentences.  She taught me what a good sentence needs.  Now my sentences are much better with details, and they are not boring.”   Another student also believed that she had benefited from the demonstration lesson and expressed her pride in participating in a professional development experience for her teacher.  She commented:  “The demo lesson was helpful to my writing.  It was also a lot of fun.   Teachers were sitting in the back, but they were not watching me.   They were watching Ms. Turner.  I loved that lesson!”

The Sachem School District community hopes that SIM will help local teachers and students achieve higher statewide assessment scores by including all students in the learning experience.    The Strategic Instructional Model meets the guidelines for the No Child Left Behind Act and studies have shown improved academic performance for all students.   Long Island schools welcome this added tool for improving the achievement of their students and look forward to implementing it on a broader level for their students.