Volunteer readers in some Granite District schools have enhanced student writing projects and given teachers more time for other things, the Granite School Board heard Tuesday.
The Lay Reader Program, started three years ago by PTA groups interested in promoting more writing in the schools, has since become a district project and was piloted this year in three junior high schools and a high school.Writing assignments for students inevitably involve great amounts of time for teachers who must read the student work, criticize and ask for revisions. Involving lay readers in the initial stages of the process frees the teacher to devote more time to other class projects.
Granite is one of many Utah school districts participating in the Utah Writing Project, geared to upgrading the quality of writing in the schools.
Deidre Paulsen, president of the Granite Junior High School PTA Council, said she initially had misgivings about involving non-teachers in a critical education proj-ect such as writing. With lay readers, the teacher still is responsible ultimately for giving a grade, but the lay reader helps the student work through the initial draft and revisions, primarily through positive feedback with suggestions for improvement.
"I am pleased to say I was wrong," she said. The caliber of volunteers has been surprising. Many professionals with backgrounds in writing have stepped forward to help, she said.
The lay readers must be involved in training workshops and follow the district's criteria for judging the writing process. Their role is not to edit student work for mechanical errors but to critique the content. Some teachers would like them to undertake the editing as part of their involvement.
Beverly Cook, teacher leader for language arts in the elementary schools, said teachers also are being trained in the elements of good writing so they can form effective partnerships with lay readers.
The program will be spread to all the district's high schools and junior high schools and 20 elementary schools next year, with all elementaries involved by the following school year.
Judy Stone, a Skyline High School teacher who has been involved in the pilot project, told the board it has been very successful. She has 45 readers who preview student work. They have provided extremely positive and useful criticism of the student papers, she said.
With their help, "student attitudes toward writing are changing," she said.