Promoting for better literacy

Rosie Ellendson has served as literacy coach for the Fort Dodge Community School District for 12 years, providing resources to the district’s teachers and encouraging literacy among its students.

“I provide training for the teachers. We look at data first, and based on the data of what the student needs I provide training to the teachers on that strategy,” she said. “For example, differentiation, which means, in a classroom, we meet the needs of all learners.”

During her 28 years as an educator, Ellendson taught 14 years in a school district in Montana before starting in Fort Dodge in 2001.

“Back then, we had six elementary schools, and now we’re down to four schools, so I’m K-6,” she said.

Based on student data, Ellendson offers ideas to teachers in meeting the needs of the district’s students at each grade level.

“I go out and model it, and then I have to provide them with resources to help them do that,” she said.

Ellendson provides resources to students, including a diverse array books.

“We send out to the teacher other resources,” she said. “I help create choice boards for them. I help teachers create different activities, like helping them with close reading. Anything that’s going to help them with their comprehension or five components of reading. Any resources I can get my hands on to help them meet the needs of all learners.”

Students respond well to the new forms of instruction, Ellendson said.

“The differentiated instruction and the choice boards, they love it,” she said. “Instead of just having a worksheet, they love where they get to have some control and choose how they respond to a book.”

With a choice board, for example, a student might complete an assignment on sound waves by creating a rap, if they’re into music, doing reader’s theater or making a PowerPoint.

“Together (with teachers) we create different ideas for the choice board, and then the students get to choose,” she said.

Teachers, too, appreciate the new techniques and the impact it has on students.

“They think it’s a lot of fun and they’re learning through an interactive way. And engagement has gone up,” Ellendson said.

Ellendson said she most enjoys modeling the new techniques and strategies.

“I love when I get to go into the classroom and actually, all these things I’ve learned through the state or through the different trainings I’ve been to, I love that I get to come back and practice it with the kids and do it right there with the kids, hands-on where I get to go into the classroom,” she said.

According to Ellendson, literacy is important.

“We need to all be life-long learners,” she said. “We need literacy because it’s a part of every day. We need it to go out into the world. Not just to pass a test, but we need to be able to read to drive, to go to the supermarket. It’s a part of everyday life.”

Ellendson hopes to foster an enthusiasm for reading among the district’s students.

“I’d really like our students to take that joy of reading and instead of going home at night and watching TV, is to find themselves wrapping up with a good book and hitting that love of reading,” she said. “I’d love to see more kids get into that, because it opens up the world to them.”