Oklahoma State University
College of Human Environmental Sciences
Beyond Read Aloud

Ann Hargis, right and Jennifer Jones, Human Development and Family Science visiting assistant professor, show how long the large intestine is as they tour the Farm To You Exhibit during the Beyond Read Aloud workshop.
Early childhood educators became the students on the Oklahoma State University campus during a workshop held by the College of Human Sciences this summer.  Thirty teachers from northwest Oklahoma participated in the training session, which illustrated ways to teach science and language arts in ways that support children with developmental delays/disabilities and those who are still learning English.

The workshop was part of an $85,000 grant project titled “Beyond Read Aloud:  Integrating Science and Literacy While Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners,” which is being directed by Julia Atiles, an associate professor in early childhood education.  It is funded by the Oklahoma State Regents Title II No Child Left Behind professional development grants program and the U.S. Department of Education.

“Beyond Read Aloud” involves collaboration between OSU faculty and six public school districts. Participants in the program are pre-kindergarten through third grade teachers from Oklahoma City, Enid, Gage, Guymon, Hooker and Mooreland. 

Atiles said working with six different school districts allows the researchers to study a broad range of students.  The small, rural schools also reflect the changing demographics of Oklahoma and the rest of the nation in the increasing Latino population and the limited resources to address the needs of the students learning the English language.

The professional development training includes hands-on activities and classroom resources.  The teachers engaged in experiential activities during the 4-day training that illustrated how to teach science and language arts in an integrated way, meeting state standards.

Among the activities for the workshop was a tour of the Farm to You exhibit coordinated by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and the Department of Nutritional Sciences at OSU.  The teachers were able to witness first-hand how the display can help children learn where food grows, how food is used by the body to grow and develop, and how health habits keep the body healthy.

“I am very pleased at the large number of teachers who have participated,” Atiles said.  “We feel from their enthusiastic responses that they will enhance their teaching of science and language arts to their diverse student populations.  We are looking forward to measuring their progress during the next school year.” 

Along with Atiles, who serves as the principal investigator of the project, Jennifer Jones, visiting assistant professor in human development and family sciences, is the co-principal investigator.  Collaborators include Vickie Ehlers, an early childhood education specialist and instructor, and Sheila Rowland, also an ECE specialist, and Leslie Baldwin, a clinical supervisor from the communication sciences and disorders department in the College of Arts and Sciences.  Meghan Pendergast, a doctoral student from Georgia State University, also assisted with the workshop.

Atiles and her team will do individual follow-up trainings in each teacher’s classroom during the 2011-2012 school year to promote implementation of the instructional strategies covered during the workshop.  Additionally, an electronic community has been set up to allow the educators to share ideas and experiences.

Participants will be asked to complete surveys measuring the success of the learning community, teaching efficacy regarding English language learners as well as science, and attitudes about inclusion.  Other sources of data will be lesson plans and reflections that the participants will post on the community of learners website during the school year. 

The goal of the research is to assess the program effectiveness in supporting teachers’ development of strategies for integrated teaching of science and language arts with all students, in ways that will provide support to English language learners and children with developmental delays/disabilities.

“This is the highlight of the summer,” said Debra Loop, a teacher at Coolidge Elementary School in Enid.  “Not only that it is happening, but that we can learn what it is like to learn these things as a student.”

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