After using the Fast ForWord® program to accelerate learning for English language learners (ELLs) and students with disabilities, Martha Reid Elementary decided to expand its implementation to include all kindergartners. From fall 2010 to fall 2011, the number of students who were “Developed” on the Screening Section of the Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI) increased, while the number of students who were “Still Developing” decreased. Teachers also noted marked improvements in students’ focus and attention.
Martha Reid Elementary is one of 22 elementary schools in Mansfield Independent School District (ISD). As part of a district-wide implementation, the school began using the Fast ForWord program in spring 2009 to help ELLs and students with disabilities improve their reading ability.
In 2010, Principal Elizabeth Hostin decided to expand the school’s Fast ForWord implementation to include kindergarteners as well. “The Fast ForWord activities exercise the brain to improve brain fitness. We thought it would be a good idea to try the program in kindergarten to help students improve their focus and attention,” said Hostin, who is now principal of Linda Jobe Middle School in Mansfield ISD.
Martha Reid Elementary launched the Fast ForWord program at the kindergarten level in October 2010. Fast ForWord is a family of educational software products that accelerate learning by applying proven research on how the brain learns.
During the 2010-11 school year, every kindergartner worked on the software 30 minutes a day in the computer lab.
“At first, our kindergarten teachers were hesitant. They weren’t very happy about their kids leaving class to go to the computer lab every day. But, within a few weeks, they were sold,” said Hostin. “When budget crunches started, they said, ‘You have to keep this program. We’ll do whatever it takes.’ To me, that speaks volumes.”
The Fast ForWord program improves brain fitness by building memory, attention, processing, and sequencing in the areas of English language and reading. Through individualized, adaptive computer exercises, physical changes occur in the brain. These exercises strengthen the brain’s ability to process information quickly and accurately; pay attention despite distractions; recall information; and retain knowledge.
“Last year, our kindergartners were very inattentive at the beginning of the year. But by early December, students could sit still and attend to tasks until completion. The only change we made to our curriculum was the addition of the Fast ForWord program. Our teachers said it made a big difference,” said Hostin. “Fast ForWord is also very engaging. Our kindergartners loved working on the program.”
As students advanced through the Fast ForWord products — including Fast ForWord Language Basics, Fast ForWord Reading Readiness, and Fast ForWord Language v2 — at their own pace, their classroom teachers monitored their progress with Progress Tracker. In addition, teachers used the online data analysis and reporting tool to identify students who needed intervention, and to illustrate students’ progress during parent conferences.
“Our reading specialist also used the Progress Tracker data to create a fun display, so students could see their progress,” said Hostin. “She created trees and gave each student an ant, which would climb the tree as the student progressed through each Fast ForWord product. As soon as a few ants started moving, all the students wanted to get their ants moving up the tree. Then, when a student finished a product, they got a dot with their name on it and could place the dot on the ‘100 percent sign’ in the room so everyone could see they completed the product.”
After using the Fast ForWord program, Hostin and the kindergarten teachers noticed differences in students’ behavior in the classroom and in their performance on state assessments.
“The Fast ForWord program stretches and exercises students’ brains,” said Hostin. “As a result, our kindergartners became more attentive and focused. They were able to sit for longer periods of time and get their work completed. It was fun to watch their progress.”
Students also improved their performance on the Screening Section of the TPRI. The TPRI is a one-on-one early reading assessment designed to identify the reading development of students in kindergarten through third grade. The Screening Section is a brief assessment for identification of students who may be at risk for reading difficulties. It allows teachers to quickly gather information on students who are “Developed,” as well as those students who are “Still Developing” important reading concepts and would benefit from additional instruction.
At the beginning of the 2010-11 school year, 67 kindergartners scored “Still Developing” on the Screening Section of the TPRI, and 47 scored “Developed.” The entire kindergarten then used the Fast ForWord products and at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, as the students entered first grade, only 36 students scored “Still Developing” and 86 students scored “Developed.”
“We saw such great growth with our kindergartners. They began first grade this year at higher levels than they did as kindergartners. Usually on the TPRI, we’ll see some regression in the summer but that didn’t happen this year,” said Hostin.
|Martha Reid Elementary – Kindergarten students
TPRI Screening Section – Beginning of Year
Number of students scoring at each level
As a result of the kindergartners’ success at Martha Reid Elementary and another school, Elizabeth Smith Elementary, Mansfield ISD decided to expand the Fast ForWord program to all kindergartners during the 2011-12 school year.
“We’ve been really pleased with the feedback we’ve gotten from teachers about the Fast ForWord program,” said Sarah Jandrucko, an area superintendent who also serves as the lead administrator for the elementary school level. “Last year, teachers from Martha Reid Elementary and Elizabeth Smith Elementary shared that students’ assessment levels were much higher after using the Fast ForWord program. They said it helped students improve their language and reading skills.”
“The Fast ForWord content also ties directly to the content we teach in kindergarten so our teachers have been very receptive to it,” she added. “They like that it supports what they’re doing in the classroom — but in a different way. That makes it a really strong program.”