Speech-language pathologist lobbies for program expansion

Initative supports reading and writing skills for Primary students

KELSEY POWER PHOTO  Sheri McGill answers questions from the South Shore Regional School Board about Primary language and literacy program: KLLIC.

Sheri McGill answers questions from the South Shore Regional School Board about Primary language and literacy program: KLLIC.

More South Shore Primary students could have the chance to perfect their pronounciation and improve their reading and writing with the aid of additional speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and new Kindergarten Language and Literacy in the Classroom (KLLIC) kits.

“Bridgewater Elementary has three Primary classrooms, and, realistically, with the number of needs there, I can’t take my time to do all of the three classrooms, so I’m doing one, and I don’t like that,” Sheri McGill, an SLP, told South Shore Regional School Board on January 30, 2015.

She was advocating the expansion of KLLIC, a proactive research-based program supporting reading and writing skills for Primary students.

“It is language and literacy based, and initially it is delivered by SLPs in the classroom, but our hope is we build that capacity with the classroom teachers,” said Ms McGill.

After working with SLPs for two years, teachers should be able to implement KLLIC, with the help of its kits, independently.

Jeff DeWolfe, director of programs and student services, requested the presentation because the allocation of speech and language services is a problem for the board.

“This piece was missing from our [literacy] intervention,” said Mr. DeWolfe, who said he would try and support the program, depending on its budget, by preparing kits and looking at SLP allocations.

“We did a gap analysis from the province which tells us where we’re short anyway, so we could actually in a systematic way implement KLLIC in more Primary classrooms,” said Mr. DeWolf. “That really is one of our goals moving forward.”

Originally designed by SLPs for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board of Ontario, the program has been used by select SLPs, teacher and schools in Nova Scotia since 2010.

KLLIC augments the language arts program by targeting specific language skills: articulation of sound, phonological awareness, print awareness, grammar, basic concept development and other literacy outcomes.

“As we know, past Primary and Grade 1 there’s not a whole lot of time in the classroom to focus on those basic skills,” said Ms McGill. “We see the wheels come off in Grade 3, but they’re already off a lot of the time in Grade Primary.”

KLLIC is implemented over a 20-week period, divided into 10 cycles and centered around a particular book with its own activities and goals for a period of two weeks.

An SLP introduces the book by reading it in class and doing related activities with the students. He or she then leaves behind a kit with various classroom activities the teacher can carry out for the next two weeks. The SLP then has a chance to pull out particular students or small groups who may be struggling with a similar area to work one-on-one.

“There are activities that can go home with parents and an intro letter for each cycle so parents know exactly what we will be targeting. … We’re always available for consultation,” said Ms McGill.

“We’ve got nothing but positive feedback from the teachers … It gives them that extra awareness of some of those literacy and language skills to work on, but also some novel ways and new ways of hitting those outcomes.”

Expanding the program, however, requires time and money.

“Everything comes in sheet form and it all has to be cut, so there’s a lot of upfront prep work for that. But once it’s done, it’s done,” said Ms McGill. “The kits are sturdy and last for a long time.”

This process took her 80 hours.

She currently only owns five kits, and preparing the kits is an issue even if teachers are trained to run the program.

At the moment, the time of the SLPs is a trade-off. Time teaching is time away from individual students who need their assistance.

But expanding this service might be beneficial overall.

“As someone who’s been involved in early childhood and in working with kids with learning disabilities or special needs, we know that phoneme awareness sequencing is absolutely critical to decoding skills. So many of the kids with severe learning disabilities, that’s the root of their problem,” said Theresa Griffin, District 6 representative.

“So taking a very proactive, preventative approach is very critical, and I’m delighted to hear that is what you’re doing.”

If it’s implemented, the program will be offered at the Early Years Centre in New Germany.

 As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

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