Schenectady County

Reading center finding niche in Schenectady

“Uhhh..,” said reading instructor Kathy Jensen to her class of three students, while pointing at her

“Uhhh..,” said reading instructor Kathy Jensen to her class of three students, while pointing at her stomach.

“Uhhh…,” said the students while they stood up and repeated, with the same gesture.

The class and teacher did not have a case of indigestion but were trying to imitate the sound that the letters “oo” make in the word “book.”

“Because this is multisensory, some students learn best with their muscle memory,” she said.

Jensen is one of four instructors at A Different Way In Reading Center, a free program targeting dyslexic and struggling readers that started in mid-September. The after school program is housed at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, but is not affiliated with the parish. Twenty-four students and two adults meet three times a week in various small groups of no more than five for one-hour sessions.

Jensen, a retired special education and adult education teacher for the Schenectady City School District, teamed up with Roberta Read, a former special education teacher with BOCES and private tutor, to start the program. The other instructors are Linda Dalton and Lisa Fine.

The program is based on “Alphabetic Phonics.” Students learn the rules of words and how to break up the words into different sounds.

“We assume nothing. Every single sound of the language and secret of how the language works is taught explicitly,” Jensen said. She added that students are “sponges” for this type of information.

On a recent afternoon, after the students did the “uh” exercise, they wrote the letters “oo” and the word “book” in their notebooks. A picture of a book and the letters “oo” appear on flash cards that Jensen reviews with the students at the beginning of each session.

Students also record all their lessons in their notebooks. The program stresses daily review because Jensen said studies have shown that children need to be exposed to a concept 500 to 1,500 times before they will commit it to memory.

The students also reviewed the suffix “-less.” Jensen encourages them to break apart the word by taking away the suffix and concentrating on the root word, starting from the vowel to the end.

“If they see a word and it’s too many letters to process, this is how we make it smaller,” she said.

Jensen said students can use this process for each new word they learn.

“No new learning is any more difficult,” she said.

The students also used popsicle sticks to represent putting together a compound sentence with a subject, verb, other words and a connector such as “or.” The lesson concluded with spelling practice and review of the cursive letter “a.”

Eleven-year-old fifth-grader Josh Stroganow of Schenectady, said he is enjoying the program and believes his skills are improving.

“It helps me with my reading level,” he said.

Other students interviewed who did not want their names used said their spelling and reading has improved since they started the lessons.

Jensen said the center cannot take more students, but are looking to partner with local public and private schools to train teachers in using this reading approach.

She said parents have been extremely supportive. The center just received a donation of pencils and an electric pencil sharpener. People have also donated candy. The center also received a $10,000 state grant through Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady.

For more information, contact Jensen at 377-5387 or Read at 489-1938.

Categories: Schenectady County

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