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K-2 Teachers Train in Phonemic Awareness

Eastchester teachers met for their first district-wide curriculum workshop Monday, kicking off a series of monthly meetings designed to strengthen instructional programs within the district


While the secondary faculty focused on the new electronic grade book and the upper elementary focused on curriculum mapping, early elementary teachers had a different task. They were learning a new phonemic awareness program that is now a part of the K-2 curriculum. 


Teachers from Waverly, Greenvale and Anne Hutchinson trained in Heggerty Phonemic Awareness instruction this week, as the Eastchester School District has officially adopted the Heggerty program as a compliment to current curriculums.


Heggerty Phonemic Awareness is a 35-week program focused on improving literacy through the use of multi-sensory learning. K-12 Humanities Chair Susan Chester said that K-2 students would receive roughly 10 minutes of Heggerty instruction daily this year, something she believes will be a boon for the district’s early elementary students.


“Heggerty helps the youngest students listen to, isolate, segment and blend sounds that they hear,” said Chester. “You don’t start reading by seeing the word ‘cat’ and memorizing that visual; this is a building block to the other skills in phonics and students are later able to use those skills when they are reading or writing a word.”


Chester added that phonemic awareness has long been a staple of the Eastchester School District curriculum, but that Heggerty’s lesson plans present concise, focused phonics instruction that will supplement the rest of the learning that takes place at the K-2 grade levels. 


Monday’s staff instruction provided teachers with the tools they would need to communicate Heggerty’s lessons clearly, although Chester said that many of the principles involved are not foreign to Eastchester’s educators and should be easily incorporated into the lesson plans within the district.


“Part of Heggerty is that you’re learning the hand motions that scaffold these skills. When you want students to take away or blend sounds, there are certain hand motions,” said Chester. “But what I found so lovely was that the trainer said that Heggerty’s hand motions aren’t magic; if a grade level already has a certain hand motion or gesture for a phonemic awareness and phonics skill, keep using it.”


“It’s good to hear that teachers don’t have to give up things that they know are already working for students,” she added. “We just have to be mindful of how important it is to remain consistent.”