Archive for Thursday, March 10, 2005

Priddy strives to make reading personal

Starside reading specialist honored as De Soto USD 232 elementary teacher of the year

March 10, 2005

Jack Bush has a few speculations about why his reading teacher might deserve an award.

"I've had her for, like, three years, and she's real nice," he said. "She helps me with hard words."

Jack, a third-grader at Starside Elementary School, said he always looked forward to his reading class because of the teacher, Starside reading specialist Tana Priddy.

Last week, Priddy captured others' accolades, too, when she was chosen as De Soto USD 232's elementary representative for the 2005-2006 Kansas Teacher of the Year competition.

Priddy is like a swinging door between reading theory and struggling students.

As a professional, she's at ease discussing complicated educational strategies. But Priddy translates theory into tricks that students of all levels can understand, enabling them to apply what they learn to conquer those "hard words."

Practice -- Jack calls it "brain exercise" -- stems from two focus areas: guided reading and reciprocal teaching, Priddy said.

Priddy described the guided reading as strategy work with "leveled text."

Students read books with difficulty levels matching their ability levels. If students stumble, Priddy walks them through strategies that help decode even the trickiest words.

During a Tuesday morning reading session with Priddy, Jack and three other third-graders were faced with the challenge of deciphering the difference between two 'c' words.

After using the "chunk it up" strategy at Priddy's recommendation, Jack figured the word was actually 'corner,' not 'curves' as it appeared at first glance.

"Picture clues" came into play Tuesday, too, when readers associated illustrations of bicycles versus unicycles with their respective printed words.

Reciprocal teaching broadens the lesson.

"That's when we're focusing on comprehension skills," Priddy said.

This step is where students clarify, question and summarize what they've read, she said.

Priddy's process is very personal -- she typically works with a group of just four students. She goes through the process herself so students can mimic her strategies.

"They see me model, they see me take on the role of a student," she said.

Gradually, practice makes perfect.

"They need to be able to identify which strategy is appropriate to use and when. Over time, they are able to do it on their own," Priddy said. "The ultimate goal is for them to be able to transfer all of this into all curricular areas and to be able to use these strategies independently."

Priddy said, when teaching, she tried to take into account all facets of each student. She uses that information to pique students' interests and apply reading to their lives.

A bicycle-lover, for example, will be more likely to stay focused -- and pick up on strategies -- if he can apply reading lessons to one of his favorite things.

"I think it's important to see the whole child," Priddy said. "The child at school, the child at a different subject, the child at home."

Her constant focus on students makes Priddy a standout teacher, said Tim Smith, Starside's associate principal.

"The thing that I think Tana does that she does the best is that when she makes a decision, her decisions are always based on 'What will the impact be on my student?' Smith said.

Smith said Priddy, who has been teaching at Starside since 2001, applied that priority to everything from assessments to daily lesson plans.

"That's definitely what puts her at the top of the list," he said.

Priddy and the district's secondary nominee for Teacher of the Year, Monticello Trails Middle School science teacher Joshua Kindler, were surprised in class on Friday and recognized Monday by the Board of Education.

The two will move up to the regional competition later this year.

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