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Some county teachers using Strategic Instruction Model

COVINGTON - Some Newton County teachers are trying out a new teaching strategy this year to help address more students' needs.

Jean Austin, special education instruction coach for the Newton County School System, recently told the Newton County Board of Education that she is helping some teachers in the district use a Strategic Instruction Model.

"(The model) is a comprehensive approach to adolescent literacy that addresses the need of students to be able to read and understand large volumes of complex materials as well as their need to be able to express themselves effectively in writing," she said in her presentation.

Austin said it's not a program for young children but mainly for middle and high school students.

It teaches that most low-achieving students can function independently in general education settings and tells teachers how to give students the strategies they can use to be successful students. Otherwise, students learn passively and might not do well in school.

"Instruction focuses on making the students more active learners by teaching them how to learn and how and when to use what they have learned to solve problems and be successful," Austin said.

In reading, students will learn such strategies as word mapping, visual imagery and paraphrasing, and in writing, students learn about various types of writing and error monitoring. Teachers also might use such strategies as first-letter mnemonic devices, paired associates, tutoring and others, as well as motivational tools.

Although Austin doesn't have much local data yet since this is a new program, she said national data and research showed that students wrote an average of 65 percent complete sentences on pretests and an average of 88 percent complete sentences on the post tests. On word identification, research showed that students made an average of 20 errors in a passage of 400 words before learning strategies and after instruction made an average of three errors per 400 words, while comprehension increased from 40 to 70 percent, she said.

Austin is training teachers and schools that want to use the strategies and feel it would benefit the students, but she said it's not for everybody.

"You don't want to teach everybody the same strategies because every student doesn't have the same needs," she said.

Austin said that she and teachers using this strategic instruction are collecting data this school year to determine the success of the program.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.