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Strategies to Improve Reading

Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest is partnering with Michigan school districts to increase kindergarten and grade 1 reading skills. To meet this goal, the Strategies to Improve Reading (STIR) partnership will develop, test, and refine an approach—consisting of a set of resources, tools, trainings, and coaching sessions—to support educators and school leaders in integrating evidence-based strategies and student-focused practices into K–1 literacy instruction, with a focus on students’ ability to decode unfamiliar words. This approach will build educator capacity to (a) implement features of effective instructional practices for phonological awareness and phonics, (b) use and support decision-driven data collection and analysis, and (c) adapt leadership practices to support literacy.

Current Projects

REL Midwest will test the usability, feasibility, and acceptability of a package of professional learning opportunities for kindergarten and grade 1 teachers called Strategies to Improve Reading (STIR). STIR has multiple components, including (a) a summer institute; (b) a facilitated professional learning community; and (c) on-site, job-embedded coaching. STIR is designed to support effective instruction in phonics and phonological awareness; data collection and use to inform literacy instruction and intervention; and effective leadership practices for literacy for kindergarten and grade 1 teachers and school leaders. To understand whether STIR is usable, feasible, and acceptable to educators, the research team will conduct surveys and interviews with teachers, school leaders, and district leaders; collect data from artifacts used during the professional learning opportunities; and collect student test scores. The research team will produce multiple deliverables, including a report, a blog post, an infographic, and presentations to district stakeholders.
The STIR partnership works with educators to improve the implementation of instructional routines and data-based decision making related to phonological awareness and phonics in K-2 classrooms. Improving students' skills in phonological awareness and phonics will help them become fluent readers capable of making meaning from text. STIR currently works with Lansing Public Schools and Battle Creek Public Schools in Michigan with an aim of scaling up to additional Michigan districts during the five-year contract. This work is done in partnership with the Michigan Department of Education.

No completed projects at this time.

Product Type: Infographic | Publication Date: February 2024
This resource features a set of flowcharts that can help Kindergarten, grade 1, and grade 2 educators identify student skill reading needs in phonological awareness, phonics, and fluency based on universal screening data. Once the needs are identified...
Product Type: Blog | Publication Date: February 27, 2024
Building on Part 1 of their conversation, REL Midwest literacy coach Christina Grayson and speech-language pathologist Dr. Ryan Lee-James discuss evidence-based instruction that leverages students’ cultural and linguistic knowledge in phonemic awareness...
Product Type: Blog | Publication Date: December 13, 2023
In the first of a two-part conversation, REL Midwest literacy coach Christina Grayson and speech-language pathologist Dr. Ryan Lee-James discuss the importance of incorporating and celebrating students’ diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds into...
Event Type: Training Material | Event Date: October 06, 2023
Time: 12:45 p.m.-3:45 p.m. ET Location: Battle Creek, Michigan Description: During the Data Day, educators and school leaders will receive additional training on their focal student’s profile and instructional routines from the Summer Institute. They...
Event Type: Training Material | Event Date: September 29, 2023
Time: 8:00-3:00 p.m. ET Location: Lansing, Michigan Description: The second day of the Summer Institute will focus on analyzing data in order to inform literacy instruction of whole group needs as well as small group differentiation. Speakers Kat Theodore...
Product Type: Video | Publication Date: September 2023
This Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest video explores how educators can implement culturally and linguistically responsive practices in their literacy instruction. In the video, REL Midwest Technical Assistance Consultant Christina Grayson...
Event Type: Training Material | Event Date: August 24, 2023
Time: 7:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. ET Location: Lansing, Michigan Description: During the Summer Institute, educators and school leaders will receive training on (1) the core principles of culturally responsive pedagogy, evidence-based literacy practices, and...
Event Type: Training Material | Event Date: August 22, 2023
Time: 7:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. ET Location: Lansing, Michigan Description: During the Summer Institute, educators and school leaders will receive training on (1) the core principles of culturally responsive pedagogy, evidence-based literacy practices, and...
Event Type: Training Material | Event Date: August 16, 2023
Time: 7:30 a.m. - 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time Location: Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center, Battle Creek, Michigan Description: During the Summer Institute, educators and school leaders will receive training on (1) the core principles of culturally...
Product Type: Blog | Publication Date: March 28, 2023
Guest author Heidi Turchan, an early literacy consultant for Calhoun Intermediate School District in Michigan and a member of REL Midwest’s Strategies to Improve Reading (STIR) partnership, describes how using structured literacy instructional routines...
Product Type: Video | Publication Date: January 2023
This documentary, produced with Detroit Public Television, explores strategies used by two Michigan districts to accelerate reading growth for young learners. In the program, educators and leaders from Detroit Public Schools Community District discuss...
Product Type: Resource | Publication Date: January 2023
The Strategies to Improve Reading (STIR) partnership is working with school districts in Michigan to increase kindergarten and grade 1 reading skills. This handout provides an overview of the STIR partnership.
Product Type: Blog | Publication Date: October 24, 2022
The development of strong reading skills in the early grades plays a key role in students’ academic success. To support budding readers, research evidence recommends that teachers provide differentiated instruction in small groups in the context of Tier...
Product Type: Blog | Publication Date: July 12, 2022
Because of disruptions to schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic, many young readers in Michigan missed opportunities to develop foundational reading skills...
Product Type: Resource | Publication Date: June 2022
REL Midwest works with educators in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin to support the use of evidence and data to improve student outcomes. In particular, REL Midwest seeks to address priorities related to the needs and...

REL Midwest Logic Model (273 KB)

REL Midwest Logic Model