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Anderson leads literacy at DSU

December 27, 2023

When Dr. Katie Anderson was teaching middle school science and reading, she found that she needed to teach just as much reading in her science classroom as in her reading classroom. This taught her the importance of literacy in helping students be successful in all subjects and inspired Anderson’s passion for literacy that has continued throughout her career.

Over the past five years, Anderson has been the higher education representative through the South Dakota Department of Education State Personnel Development Grants (SDPG) program, and worked with six other educators to create a literacy framework or literacy plan for South Dakota. 

According to the S.D. Department of Education website, the SDPG program is meant to help develop a systematic, cohesive, collaborative, and sustainable evidence-based literacy model for struggling readers.

“We were working with several districts and literacy coaches across the state to train teachers and literacy coaches in the big five areas of reading,” Anderson said.

The big five areas of reading are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Anderson also worked with Dr. Sally Crowser, a DSU adjunct, to develop literacy training sessions for teachers across the state a few summers ago. Since that time, other educators have joined them as trainers, and each summer they deliver the free sessions to K-8 educators. 

During the trainings, they spend a day on each of the big five areas, and attendees leave with a teaching reading sourcebook and a multiple measures book.

Literacy skills enable students to comprehend, analyze, and communicate complex information, fostering critical thinking and deep learning, Anderson explained.

Last year, the S.D. Department of Education reached out and gathered a group of educators, including Anderson, to develop the literacy framework. She worked with Crowser, Dr. Kim Buechler, Amber Muller, Elizabeth Parce, Deb Zebill, and Jennifer Newcomb. Additionally, to support the framework, they developed implementation guides for districts and families to support them.

The group, which collaborated with an advisory team and the S.D. Dept. of Education, held writing retreats and monthly Zoom meetings, and regularly communicated and shared resources.   

“The South Dakota Literacy Framework provides a clear vision and comprehensive guide for educators to implement effective, evidence-based literacy instruction aligned to the Science of Reading throughout the state,” the document reads.

The framework includes six components: leadership for implementation, assessment/data-based decision making, professional learning, classroom instruction, tiered instruction, and Department of Education literacy supports.

This will help improve reading programs in school districts and help students become proficient readers.

Anderson has received positive feedback and excitement about the new framework from school districts.

“Essentially, the framework is driving professional development in the state centered around reading,” Anderson said.

The framework also touches on the role of parent and family engagement with learning and reading. Offering a simple example, Anderson recommends parents start by reading to their kids and help them develop their vocabulary.

“When you go to the grocery store, instead of putting the kids in the cart and having them watch a show, you could talk to them about what you’re shopping for, use big words and define it for them,” she said. “So, say, ‘Look at this really big apple’ and explain that it could also be called humongous. You’re just helping to grow their vocabulary.”

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