NORTHAMPTON — At Ryan Road Elementary School, students in Diana Ramsden’s first grade class work on reading and writing using a mixture of phonics lessons already included in the school’s reading curriculum and new lessons being piloted from one of two programs the district is considering after receiving two grants totaling more than $300,000.
As part of the lesson, one of the students, Azalea Bossie, points to a series of cards on a board to help sound out different vowel combinations — helping show how the “ou” in “soup” is pronounced differently from the “ou” in “trout,” but sounds similar to the “ue” in “rescue.”
Later on in the lesson, Ramsden displays on the projector several “nonsense words” that you might find in a Lewis Carroll novel, words like “mapnet,” “ludkey,” “bignip,” and “heblet.” Students sound them out, breaking them up into syllables, before then applying the technique to read real words like “cobweb” and “fungus.”
The Northampton Public School district is looking to update its K-5 elementary school literacy program, joining a nationwide conversation about how to improve reading in students through techniques collectively dubbed “the science of reading.”
The district received a $169,200 Evidence-Based Practice Grant from the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in April, a competitive grant for which more than 80 school districts in Massachusetts applied. That grant came on the heels of another $154,000 grant from the federal government called the Accelerated Literacy Learning through High-Quality Instructional Materials.