SULLIVAN, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Since implementing a new approach to teaching reading, Sullivan Elementary School (SES) continues to see growth across all levels.

“77% of our kids in K, one, and two were reading above or on level. That’s the highest we’ve had in growth over three years,” Brandy Gentry, a literacy coach at SES said.

This summer WTWO reported that Southwest School Corporation brought Orton Gillingham training (OG training) to the corporation.

Based off of the data, Gentry said the OG training approach to teaching the science of reading is working.

“We look at data and say ‘Okay, these kids, this is their weakness. So, how are we going to adjust our teaching to be able to see growth in these students?’ So, I partner with the teachers to play with them and co-teach with them so we can show that growth in our kids,” Gentry said.

The state statute defines the ‘Science of Reading’ as a vast, interdisciplinary body of scientifically backed research. It requires the explicit, systematic use of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

First-grade teacher, Jill Nichols, said when it came to implementing OG, she was nervous at first.

“This is my 21st year of teaching first grade and as we’ve evolved, it’s just amazing. I really feel like I could go back and teach the kids I taught, you know, 21 years ago because this has completely changed the way they read.”

During her morning lesson, Nichols incorporated many tools as part of her visual, kinesthetic approach to teaching. “We really focus on phonemic awareness, we focus on those sounds and making sure that the children are able to not only be able to say the sounds but then are able to read the sounds. It’s a lot of songs, tactile, a lot of visual lessons, hand motions. It’s just a lot of fun to teach them and I think they enjoy it too,” she said.

Gentry’s personal life experience after her own son struggled with dyslexia led her to initially become OG certified. Now she is seeing students just like her son, succeed.

“Those kids who have always struggled, and now, they’re reading. And they’re so excited to be able to read. And the teachers are so excited because they’re actually being able to teach them how to read,” Gentry said.

Success is even identified at all levels, Nichols said, “Orton Gillingham is not just for kids with dyslexia. I have very high kids, I have very low kids, you get the whole gambit.”

Benchmark assessments happen three times a year. Gentry said her hope, with the changes SES has made, is that they will see growth in all areas.

“It’s not just looking at those three times of year, it’s looking at the whole year and seeing where we see growth at, and we’re seeing that.”