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Jamie Thomas: Instructional Coach at Reading in Motion

Reading in Motion understands the importance of children’s literacy and works to bring the power of reading to children who are not equipped with this advantage. In the US, over 30 million adults can’t read at a functional level. Jamie Thomas is working to make sure that staggering figure doesn’t reach the next generation of learners. As an instructional coach, Jamie works in the classroom with young students to ensure that they are reading at or above their grade level and sets them up for a lifetime of reading success.

What creates the inequalities in children’s literacy?

There are a lot of reasons for the inequalities in our educational systems, some stemming from what students have access to. Many kids don’t have exposure to books or aren’t being read to. It really matters that kids have access to culturally relevant resources so they can understand the world around them. We call these “windows and mirrors” experiences— they need to have windows into different lives than the one they live, and mirrors that show experiences that they can relate to. These inequalities can be fixed through teacher education programs that show teachers how to teach literacy skills explicitly. Students sometimes need extra help learning these foundational skills. If they fall behind, then they start guessing words while reading or developing their own strategies to fake their way through it. This ends up hurting them down the line when reading gets more complex and they can’t guess. It’s so important that teachers know the right path to teaching reading to different kinds of students so they all can succeed.

Can you tell us more about what you do as a coach?

My job is incredibly rewarding, I get to see such amazing growth in kids at such a formative age. I partner and collaborate with teachers to help them make goals for their teaching process that ensure that they meet those goals. We have to build a trusting relationship in order for that process to work well. I teach the foundational skills that help kids read through drama, music, and other engaging activities. As a coach, I give them the key strategies they need to push learning forward. Reading in Motion is big on using data, so we often analyze student data to inform teachers and group students together that are at similar skill levels. Our program is very unique, we have a curriculum, a strategy, and a support network for teachers and students.

What does the curriculum look like, and where is it taught?

Our program is taught from Pre-K to 1st grade in both English and Spanish. All of our programming, which totals 32 weeks, is music and drama focused. We have 5-minute fluency warm up exercises that kids can do anytime, regardless of if they’re at school. The curriculum has many catchy songs, games, and activities to engage students in the learning process. In Pre-K, we use full body participation to have kids form letter shapes with their bodies and correlating those letters to sounds. In 1st grade we introduce scripts and students take on character roles to practice oral expression. We teach in the Chicago surrounding area, Detroit, and Las Vegas, mostly in Title 1, Title 2, and Title 4 schools. Our goal is to help teachers differentiate what certain students need to help them learn to read, and to make reading a fun process for everyone.

How have you been able to see the impact of your work?

I can clearly see the impact of our work when our students’ data improves. When comparing schools that use Reading in Motion to those who don’t, there’s a huge difference in the foundational reading skills. I get to see the “lightbulb moments” when students realize that letters make sounds, sounds make words, words make sentences, and sentences make stories. I also get to witness the teachers’ “lightbulb moments” when they carry these literacy skills with them to all students. I love working with teachers in Kindergarten and 1st grade in the same school so I can see the students’ development over the years and watch their teachers grow with them. It’s an incredible opportunity to be part of the long-term process of reading.


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