Elementary Education Students Offer Grant-Funded Literacy Support In Big Rapids Public Schools

Ferris State University
Ferris State University College of Education and Human Services students work with students at Riverview Elementary School, in Big Rapids. 

Students at Riverview Elementary School in Big Rapids whose reading abilities qualify as “at-risk” will receive assessment and support from Ferris State University Elementary Education-Language Arts pre-service teachers. Teacher candidates will learn how teachers use data to form their instruction.

Teacher Education Professor Amy Kavanaugh is the supervisor for a program that received the support of a $5,000 Student Achievement Grant from the National Education Association.

“The School of Education’s Student Retention and Recruitment Coordinator Andrea Kitomary deserves full credit for identifying and securing the NEA resource, which serves to benefit Teacher Education students and those youngsters who will be assisted at Riverview,” Kavanaugh said. “We learned shortly after the start of the Spring 2019 semester that the Association had approved this project. Riverview’s principal, Renee Kent, has also been a key collaborator, which has allowed us to place nearly all of our students seeking Language Arts minors in settings appropriate for ‘Inquiry in K-8 Classrooms,’ their capstone course.” 

Sixteen teacher candidates are now involved in researching best practices to assist those young students who would benefit from individual or small-group intervention.

“Teacher candidates will gather baseline data on the elementary students’ phonics skills, vocabulary, fluency and reading comprehension, with a goal of offering instructional and assessment plans, so the children can work to improve their abilities and increase confidence as readers,” Kavanaugh said. “A turbulent period of winter weather, coupled with rapid program implementation after the grant was approved, have been considerable challenges. Still, we are confident our students’ strategies, along with support of the teachers at Riverview, will benefit the skills of the at-risk youngsters.”

A portion of the NEA grant funding will support the purchase of instructional aids for this program, according to Kavanaugh.

“This grant means that there is a more intentional focus brought to the annual capstone activity for these Ferris students,” Kavanaugh said. “Their activities as pre-service teachers should be great preparation for what they will encounter in their student teaching assignments.”

Kavanaugh said that beyond the assessment of and support for this focus group, the Early Elementary Language Arts students will detail their strategies and research efforts in poster presentations. The information will be available for review and discussion at the College of Education and Human Services Research Symposium on Tuesday, April 30.