South Orangetown Central School District

A new phonics curriculum is being introduced in all kindergarten and first grade classes, following last year’s successful pilot program in four kindergarten classes. The new approach to phonics comes from Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading & Writing Project, which South Orangetown teachers have adopted as the primary English Language Arts curriculum for kindergarten through grade eight. “Engagement is so much higher,” noted kindergarten teacher Anna Coughlin, who piloted the program with her class last year. “Kids come in each morning excited for the next lesson.”

On Friday, Coughlin and three other teachers who piloted the program last year–Paula Ferzola, Rossana Lorusso and Amy Sheehy–welcomed kindergarten colleagues into their classrooms to observe a lesson and then debrief afterwards. These lesson study groups, coordinated by ELA Instructional Coach Kristy Nadler, created an opportunity for the experienced teachers to answer questions and share best practices.

“This approach to professional development is part of a larger effort to promote collaboration and to provide our teachers with opportunities to learn from one another,” explained Assistant Principal Maggie White.

Two second-grade classes are piloting the TCRWP phonics program this year, in anticipation of full-grade roll-out next year. Fundations remains in place for the remainder of the second grade this year and will continue to be used for reading support interventions.

Small group of teachers talking