FALMOUTH — The role of the new literacy leader at Falmouth Elementary School is to not only ensure that students are developing strong skills around reading and writing, but that the faculty is also using best practices in terms of direct instruction.

The position was added because “we want to ensure that all of our students are challenged with rigorous and engaging learning experiences designed to optimize their growth,” said Gloria Noyes, principal at Falmouth Elementary.

In addition, she said the school wants students to be able to “develop strength, stamina and independence as readers.”

Heather Canty, the literacy leader, has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in reading education and said she fully “believes in the power of great reading and writing instruction.”

“I love watching the growth that can happen when kids believe in themselves and their abilities as readers and writers,” she said.

Noyes said that while prior literacy instruction at Falmouth Elementary was “spot on,” teachers and administrators also recognized there were a few areas that needed more attention and focus.

Those areas included “strengthening and aligning our phonics/phonemic awareness instruction and word study instruction and expanding and integrating our reading and writing workshop instruction,” among other goals, she said.

Adding a literacy leader to the staff was a good way to address these needs, as well as to ensure that Falmouth Elementary is using the “best practices in literacy instruction,” Noyes said.

Over the past three years, staff at the school has worked with a consultant once a month, but “what we need now is professional learning and coaching in the (specific) areas noted,” she said.

Canty spends part of her day teaching literacy skills in the classroom and the other part of her day is spent working with grade-level teams and individual teachers to help them plan and develop direct instruction techniques, Noyes said.

“Our school has made a commitment to thoughtfully embark on a journey toward continued growth as reading practitioners,” Noyes told the School Board recently. 

“Our educators are delighted to have more opportunities to access professional development with an onsite expert. There is so much excitement around this new position, as well as our quest to learn more about reading instruction,” she added.

In particular, Noyes told the board, “we (are looking) forward to learning more about vocabulary instruction (and) phonics and phonemic awareness instruction … along with how to be a dynamic reading teacher for our learners.”

Another key part of the new literacy push at Falmouth Elementary is an effort to bolster individual classroom libraries.

“Classroom libraries are an extension of and work closely with the school library to ensure a range of books are at the fingertips of our students,” Noyes said. “The ideal model is to (give students the chance) to explore and pursue independent reading.”

“Students need to move through a large volume of books each year in order to develop into strong readers with high-level skills … (and) having books at the ready is an important part of supporting this” goal, she said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Heather Canty, left, on the job as the new literacy leader at Falmouth Elementary School.