Believe and Read becomes an ‘anchor’ during distance learning

St. Therese Catholic School in Deephaven was one of 17 Twin Cities Catholic schools excited to start Believe and Read in the 2019-2020 school year. In Adam Groebner’s first year as principal of the infant to eighth-grade school, he advocated for bringing the literacy initiative to St. Therese after seeing the benefits from his work at Our Lady of Grace Catholic School in Edina.

“One of my favorite pieces of Believe and Read is the consistency,” Groebner said. “Now the methodology is bringing consistency across our classrooms and grade levels, beyond Believe and Read.”

The Catholic Schools Center of Excellence is pioneering Believe and Read, an initiative that brings Groves Academy’s literacy methodology to kindergarten through third-grade Catholic school students to improve their reading skills.

Groebner said student engagement has been higher with the curriculum. During Believe and Read lessons in second grade, for example, students at all reading levels would eagerly and actively participate.

And then the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S., causing schools across the nation to close their buildings and shift to distance learning. Groebner was again grateful for the consistency of Believe and Read, which helped the St. Therese community transition to distance learning and continue to thrive with the literacy curriculum and methodology.

“It really provided the teachers and students with a routine that they could quickly transition to,” he said. “The strong structure of the program was easy to continue remotely, and our teachers did that in different ways. Some did daily live virtual lessons, some recorded videos, and others did both.”

Consistency in transition

Alison Dahlman, principal of St. Peter Catholic School in North St. Paul, discovered the same benefits of Believe and Read, which became a successful pivot to distance learning. In the first year of the initiative, she said the curriculum provided a clear path in and out of the classroom.

“It was important to us that the Believe and Read curriculum maintained the trajectory of the initiative,” Dahlman said. “Teachers created video lessons to continue that virtually, and they delivered it at the same pace as they had in the classroom. Students didn’t miss a beat once we pivoted to distance learning.

“Because it’s so methodic and routine, it’s desirable when things are so chaotic,” she continued. “Believe and Read was an anchor in the instruction for kindergarten to second-grade students. And it was an anchor for teachers and families.”

Dahlman saw other benefits during distance learning. She discovered that parents developed a greater understanding of and appreciation for the program with their children learning the daily lessons at home. Students were able to interact with the material in a new way, and it became real for parents, who observed how teachers and students used the curriculum.

“With Believe and Read, the walls of the building were gone, and parents felt an intimate connection with teachers,” Dahlman said.

Krysten Knecht, whose son, Finn, was in first grade at St. Peter during distance learning, was thrilled to have a front-row seat during his Believe and Read lessons. She said his teacher’s instructions were clear and built on students’ knowledge.

“Throughout the weeks of distance learning, his reading and especially his spelling skills continued to improve,” Knecht said. “His confidence at reading out loud and tackling new words were noticeably better.

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