In one year, two struggling fourth graders from South Sioux Community Schools in Nebraska became star readers with the help of WRS Certified Teachers and Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioners (W.D.T.) Amanda Pick and Lori Baker.
Juan: Gaining Confidence and Becoming Curious
In September 2021, quiet and observant fourth grader Juan struggled with foundational literacy concepts. Reading aloud was difficult. He attended special education classes where he read at about the second-grade level. Amanda stepped in to help and selected him as her WRS Level I practicum student.
Wilson® Credentialed Trainer (W.C.T.) Jeanne Rutgers observed Amanda and Juan’s WRS lessons and quickly saw that Juan, the youngest of eight children in a non-English-speaking home, was a hard worker. Jeanne also noticed he was “ready to bloom” into a strong reader. All he needed was intensive Structured Literacy instruction to boost his skills and confidence.
Amanda happily reported that with repetition and exploration of word structure, Juan’s vocabulary skills improved, and he enjoyed learning about words. He proudly told Amanda he was able to figure out a word his classroom teacher used because of its Latin base.
“The way [WRS] is laid out is amazing,” Amanda said. “It’s like a code, and they’re finally teaching you a way to crack it.”
By May the following year, teachers noticed that Juan was more confident, making eye contact and speaking in class. He retold stories with detail and ease, using a broader vocabulary. As he built a trusting relationship with Amanda, he began showing curiosity and was asking questions about word structure.
“He wanted to know the science behind the things [WRS] was teaching him,” Amanda said. “Getting his thoughts in order and being able to write and know he’s writing the words correctly motivated him.”
“It was really emotional to watch him grow,” Jeanne said. “After [WRS instruction], he was a different kid. He volunteered information and was excited to show what he was learning. He’s going to keep up, and he’s going to do well with whatever he puts his mind to.”
Michael: Persevering Beyond Guessing to Reading
Juan was not the only rising star of the fourth grade in South Sioux. Lori Baker, Amanda’s teaching partner, fellow WRS teacher, and Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioner, had the joy of watching another student’s reading skills improve.
Michael, a bright and active child, became Lori’s WRS Level I practicum student in September. Michael’s reading and spelling skills fell between the first- and second- grade level. Like many children with reading difficulties, Michael guessed at words, but he had a strong memory and was capable of learning.
“A lot of kids can get by with memorizing for a long time, then it starts to fall apart because they can’t add any more to their memory,” Lori explained. “When given the opportunity to learn how words work, why vowels work the way they do, and how all of it goes together, he really seemed to enjoy his learning. It was fun to watch.”
In addition to his decoding difficulties, Michael struggled to pay attention in a large group. He needed structured guidance and one-on-one interaction, both hallmarks of WRS. With Lori’s diagnostic and individualized instruction, Michael thrived.
“Part of the power of a one-on-one [setting] is the relationship building,” Lori said. “We already had a previous relationship, and I think relationships were important to him. He was excited to get to work with me again. He was thrilled to be there.”
“He went from being a guesser, which he had been for many years—and that’s a hard habit to break—to being able to look through words, notice parts he knew, and figure them out,” Lori said. “Wilson has given him the tools to build on the learning he had so he can be successful in his reading and writing.”
This past spring, Juan and Michael’s test scores showed they now read and spell better than many of their peers. Congratulations to Juan and Michael on their show-stopping progress!