Skip Navigation

Home Blogs Improving Literacy in the Florida Panhandle – Where We Are Now

Improving Literacy in the Florida Panhandle – Where We Are Now

Southeast | March 04, 2024

In 2022, the REL Southeast Florida Panhandle K-5 Literacy Partnership was formed to focus on improving literacy in north Florida panhandle elementary schools, one of the most rural areas of the state. The area served by this partnership includes Leon County Schools (LCS), the school district for the state capital – Tallahassee, and 14 small, rural counties that surround it which encompass the Panhandle Area Education Consortium (PAEC).

After engaging with PAEC and LCS and developing a logic model, the partnership decided to focus on improving the use of evidence-based literacy instructional practices and strategies by teachers, literacy coaches, and leaders. Both PAEC and LCS agree that a partnership approach can help them accomplish their common goals focused on improving literacy instruction and interventions in elementary schools. This blog will focus on one of the areas targeted for improvement, content area literacy instruction in grades 4-5. Sessions in this area were facilitated for partnership member districts, their educators, and staff from PAEC and the Florida Department of Education.

Content Area Literacy Strategy Instruction in Grades 4-5

The content area literacy strategy instruction in grades 4-5 strand was based on the Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices practice guide. REL Southeast staff provided five training sessions during June 2023 to build the knowledge and ability of grades 4-12 content area teachers to implement the recommendations from the practice guides in their classrooms. Teachers practiced strategies related to the recommendations and created infographic posters of these strategies. They also developed and presented lessons plans aligned with the evidence-based strategies.

Example of a Lessons plans aligned with the evidence-based strategies Example of a Lessons plans aligned with the evidence-based strategies Example of a Lessons plans aligned with the evidence-based strategies

Discussions in the training sessions, teacher-created lesson plans as shown above, and interactions with school and district coaches reflect that the established outcomes of knowledge building and implementation have been met . For example, after the training, a teacher noted, "I learned the research-based strategies that were shared, and the time given to develop the lessons was invaluable." A literacy coach also shared, "The research behind the strategies and their relevance and importance became clear during the training. I learned the strategies and activities to best engage for these types of rigorous lessons." In partnership meetings and other training sessions across the year, participants in the training and those supporting teachers in their schools discussed lesson implementation.

Sustaining the Knowledge

In order to help sustain the knowledge from these training sessions, PAEC staff provided teacher stipends for development of additional lessons aligned with the content area literacy strategies. PAEC also supported the filming of training sessions for their future use, and the topic of supporting content area teachers with literacy strategy instruction has become an ongoing agenda item for the PAEC literacy coach cadre meetings. LCS literacy leaders also continued to provide coaching support to teachers who had completed this training. Below are images from one of those sessions.

PAEC training session example PAEC training session example

After the sessions concluded, it became clear that it would be helpful to develop a graphic designed for content area teachers as a dissemination tool that could be a resource for implementation. Therefore, REL Southeast developed the Improving Adolescent Literacy infographic that was released in July 2023. The infographic highlights recommendations in the Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices practice guide and provides activities related to them using a science-based article for context.  

REL Southeast has conducted training on adolescent content area literacy in Mississippi, Georgia, and other districts across Florida and has been asked to share this project work at various literacy conferences. It is clear that other districts and other states are interested in this work based on the requests for presentations and training.


Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith

Connect with REL Southeast