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The Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) is a state assessment given to students from kindergarten through third grade. For students at Westridge Elementary School who do not meet the state’s PALS benchmarks, PALS tutors provide intervention and support.

“The tutors provide students with 30-minute lessons five days per week,” explained Andrea Crosson, a reading specialist at Westridge Elementary.

“At our school, we love using actual people for interventions. Tutors can personalize instruction and feedback and help students stay focused on their learning goals. They can also motivate and engage students,” she added.

The result is that tutoring promotes active learning which helps students retain more knowledge. Using the Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words (SIPPS) program, tutors guide each group of students through lessons with listening, speaking, reading, and writing components.

“As this was our first year as PALS tutors, we appreciated that there was a research-based program in place here at Westridge that is easy to follow and structured so that we can teach and guide the students at an easy pace,” said Sarah Benjamin and Emily Kayhak, both PALS tutors. “The SIPPS program focuses the group on the level of reading where the students need to begin so that as they progress, they can remain on pace with their peers,” they said.

The program also allows for creative flexibility. Benjamin worked with Crosson to develop a reader’s theater approach to tutoring her students.

“We took it to another level by creating props and setting up the room to resemble the set of the story we were reading,” Benjamin said. “We acted out the story as we read it and the students had an amazing time learning as they played."

“It has really been helping me,” said first grade student, Adeline. “I learned sounds, words, and we have been writing.”

“My tutor helped me a lot,” added Matteo, another first-grade student. “She helped me read better.”

“Our tutors combined with the programs they use have contributed to Westridge’s increase of students meeting the Spring 2023 PALS benchmark,” said Crosson.