Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Masters of reading

Florence students credit program for improved skills

By Natalie Morales
Enquirer staff writer

FLORENCE - Summer school students at Florence Elementary take pride in their improved reading skills after using the computerized Fast ForWord reading enhancement program.

"We learn how to read and all that stuff, and we can have some fun doing all of it," said Gregory Corbin III, who will start second grade this fall.

Corbin is one of about 40 students using Fast ForWord at the school this summer.

The Fast ForWord program helps children develop language and reading skills. Children playing the early levels of the program's computer games learn listening skills that will help them identify sound patterns and follow directions better.

As the difficulty increases, the program focuses more on developing connections between spoken and written language. Children associate the way words sound with the way they look by playing games that vocalize words and then display them on the computer screen.

"I'm a legend because I've been here a lot," Corbin said. "I've been playing these games since I was in first grade."

Florence Elementary first through fifth-grade students play the educational games for 100 minutes a day at summer school, said Cindy Kinser, Fast ForWord teacher. Students who take part in the program during the school year work for 40 minutes during the regular class day and an hour after school.About 75 students participated in the program during the school year. The school has lab space to accommodate 100 students.

Students evaluated to be one or more years behind their grade's reading level are placed in the program, she said. Through the year, teachers and parents can recommend other students who need extra support in reading to join the program.

Florence Elementary started using the program during summer school in 2003 after finding that a number of its students were below the reading level for their grade, Principal Charlie Walton said.

Students' progress is monitored as they move through the Fast ForWord levels.

"Last year we saw over a year's gain in the kids' reading levels during the school year, so our results are really good," Kinser said.

Other area schools, including Boone County High School, also used Fast ForWord to improve students' reading levels.


E-mail nmorales@enquirer.com

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