Catholic Schools Employ Creativity and Innovation to Fuel Comprehension, Foster Love of Literature
Faithful Shepherd Catholic School alumna Sami Amatuzio, who graduated from Saint Mary’s University with degrees in biology and chemistry, is now a project specialist for Wright Medical Technology.
But as a student at the Eagan Catholic school years ago, she needed reading assistance because she has dyslexia. Teachers worked one-on-one with her, cultivating her strengths to develop the skills she needed for success.
“That’s how I was really able to learn,” Amatuzio said.
Catholic schools continue to help their students succeed in reading by tailoring teaching strategies to a student’s best learning abilities.
Data from spring 2018 MAP testing shows 91 percent of eighth grade Catholic school students in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis scored at or above grade level in reading. In language usage, they scored 92 percent — revealing that students are vibrant readers who can also write and grasp complex passages.
To help students accomplish this, Catholic schools use academically challenging curriculum and set high expectations. In reading, lessons focus on decoding, comprehension and critical thinking — skills that are integrated into all subjects.
For students needing academic support, many schools have learning specialists who help them achieve their goals. For reading, tried and true methods are implemented, such as the phonics-based, multisensory Orton-Gillingham Approach and the ROAR technique, which utilizes the “I read — We read together — You read” model.
Catholic schools’ success is also attributed to the “fun component” teachers billow into the basics. In Minneapolis, Carondelet Catholic School’s reading specialist Eileen Moening plays Scrabble Slam and uses sand trays and Play-Doh with students.
“We know it’s important that students hear, say and feel, so they learn,” she said.
Nichole Olson, a learning specialist at Visitation School in Mendota Heights, said Catholic school teachers do a good job of igniting a love of reading in children. Visitation first grade teacher Ann Marie Zeimetz agrees.
“Gone are the days when teachers stand in front of classrooms,” Zeimetz said. “Today, reading strategies in Catholic schools are fun.”
Zeimetz said students go on “haiku hikes” and “poetry parades,” design sock puppets and read to their prayer pals.
Steve Wright, a fifth grade teacher at Visitation, hosts author book talks. He even snagged an author to ice fish with the class. On Halloween, students read scary stories they’ve written.
During Wright’s class, Grace Keeley’s passion for reading enkindled a love of writing.
Her work was chosen to be published in an anthology debuting this fall. “Ask the Archbishop,” a collection of letters from Catholic elementary school students to Archbishop Hebda, exemplifies the creative ways Catholic schools fan the flame for reading.