Teaching hands-on curriculum

As a Special Education teacher, Ms. Lisa Tanner is a mentor and a motivator to many of her students. Her role is the dedicated teacher of Language Live, an interactive reading intervention program that provides support for students who struggle with reading and writing.

Language Live is composed of two sections completed over the course of one to three years.The first is done online by the student, and the second is direct teacher instruction. The online portion of the program allows students to individually work on phonetic awareness and read at their own pace. The teacher provides direction on writing and essay development, thesis statements and other Common Core related aspects taught in regular English courses.

“It works on, as I call it, ‘all the pieces of the pie’. It’s not just spelling, it’s not just vocabulary, it’s not just reading comprehension. It’s all six pieces. In every lesson, you cover all pieces of the pie so you’re never just working on one skill, but you’re developing all of them.” Tanner said.

Language Live has been at Walnut High School for about three years. While Tanner was teaching at South Pointe Middle school, the program that originated from Rowland School District spread throughout WVUSD. Tanner taught Language for 15 years, then integrated technology with the curriculum to develop a more hands-on version of the Rowland program, thus creating Language Live.

“I have students that always come back to me and just say, ‘Ms. Tanner, we’re totally writing an essay the way you taught us in Language,’ or ‘I understand how to do my junior research paper because you showed us the steps on how to do it and write in MLA format and cite text evidence,’” Tanner said.

Along with four other Walnut teachers, Ms. Tanner assesses the students to place them in their proper reading intervention level. From there, she focuses on improving phonics and phonemic awareness skills such as analyzing and identifying definitions, while integrating other language abilities like reading comprehension and grammar into the curriculum.

“I see the difference in the students and how they gain the confidence that they haven’t had to learn how to read and write,” Tanner said. “Now that they are seeing that they can read and write a lot better and write essays and understand how to write a literary analysis, they get the confidence to actually do it. When they go out to their other classes, that confidence is transferred to their other subjects.”

Tanner’s source of inspiration is her students, to whom reading may be the only area of struggle in their academics. Through Language Live, her students are able to learn the skills needed to access higher levels of English and eventually succeed.

“The best part of my job is just knowing that, at the end of the day, everything that I’m doing in my class with these students is teaching them skills they need to be successful,” Tanner said. “I’m glad I’m able to see [my students] develop their skills through [Language Live] and gain that confidence to say ‘I got this, I can do this.’ It makes me feel proud because that’s something students will carry on from when they graduate to college and beyond.”

By Joy Wang, Staff writer
Photo by Airi Gonzalez