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Small Group Lessons Boost Literacy, Reading Interest

While class size is on the rise in many schools across K-12 education, a new program to Sparta Area Schools — Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) — is providing small group lessons to students falling behind their grade-level in reading.

“LLI has shown impressive growth with reading levels,” said special education teacher Mary Kuzawa. “Students get a double dose of reading.”

In a ratio of three students per teacher, students are grouped with peers who are at the same reading level for a daily session focused on comprehension and vocabulary.

“It’s a lot easier,” said Appleview Elementary student Ben Trenton, comparing group reading to his other classes. “If we have a question about a word, (the teacher) can answer it right away.”

At Appleview, LLI groups are being implemented among Title 1 and special education students during the school’s extension period, a time reserved for expanding on what students have already learned, said Katie Miller, response to intervention teacher. The focus of LLI is to get the students up to speed with their grade-level peers, she explained.

Kyleb Childs’ favorite reading spot

Tracking Progress

Intervention teachers agree that one of the most helpful features of the LLI program is the built-in benchmarks. “We measure where students start at the beginning of the year,” explained Kuzawa, who then is able to compare students’ progress from fall to spring.


The sessions are highly structured, with books color-coded to the student’s reading level. Lessons are fairly scripted, and incorporate reading strategies, fluency and book structure.

Students take turns reading aloud so teachers can identify problem areas. After the group reading, students pick their favorite spots in the room to read silently, while teachers work one-on-one with those who need additional instruction.

For third-grader Kyleb Childs, under the table is the best reading retreat. “I usually slack,” admitted Kyleb, though he said the small group attention helps him focus better. “I can listen well to them,” he said, nodding toward his group leader Stacey Nutall, Title 1 teacher assistant.

Kuzawa said improvements among her students have been astounding compared to years prior to LLI. “The intentional teaching of specific strategies have allowed my students to grow at a faster rate,” she said.

Fourth-grader Emiliano Durand said LLI has increased his appreciation for reading. “I read at home more,” he explained, saying that he used to try to read ten minutes per day. “Now I read in the morning, afternoon and whenever I get bored,”

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Adrian Hirsch
Adrian Hirsch has been with SNN since its launch, starting as an intern from Grand Valley State University where he received a degree in broadcasting and business. After the internship, Adrian was brought on as staff to continue reporting, editing and publishing stories for SNN and Kent ISD. Adrian has been active with community radio station WYCE for years, served as Non-Profit Coordinator for GRTV, and currently works as the Web Producer for SNN.


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