Third Grade Readers Achieve Outstanding Reading Gains with MindPlay

Guest blog by Jennifer Brown, Teacher Leader, Louise Troy Elementary School, Dayton, Ohio

During the second semester of the 2017-2018 school year, our district previewed MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach (MindPlay) in grades three and seven. As a third-grade teacher at that time, I was asked to use MindPlay in my classroom from January through the end of the school year. Even though it felt disruptive to introduce MindPlay in the middle of the year, the students and I persevered. The results of that preview turned me into an advocate for MindPlay.

My third-grade inclusion class included five identified IEP and 19 regular education students, a total of 24. Students worked on MindPlay 30 minutes a day, five days a week for about four months.

Outstanding Reading Gains
Students in my third-grade class were performing far below grade level. At the beginning of the year, I had four or five students who could not read or write. Even though many of my students were not on grade level when they took the spring state assessment, they were making huge gains in reading and writing. MindPlay contributed to their success.

In my new position this year, I monitor MindPlay usage and growth for the entire school. Reviewing all of our classes, I see that the students who use MindPlay with fidelity have the most reading gains. It proves that if teachers use the program with fidelity, they will see positive outcomes. I see little or no growth from the classrooms that do not give students time on MindPlay.

From preview to the end of November 2018, these are the greatest gains I have seen for students using MindPlay:

  • Two third grade students have gone from a first-grade reading level to a third-grade level in three months.

  • One sixth grade student went from kindergarten to a third-grade reading level in three months.

  • One fourth grade student started with the preview in third grade reading at the third-grade level. As of November 2018, he is now at the eighth-grade level.

  • One sixth grade student started at a seventh-grade reading level in August 2018; and as of November 2018, he is at a ninth-grade level.

Incentives to Work on MindPlay
MindPlay was a big change and challenge for my students. I had them work on MindPlay for 30 minutes before they went to lunch. I told them that if they got in their 30 minutes, they were allowed to get on a website of their choice for the extra five minutes before lunch. The incentive worked!

Students liked the leader board. I would recognize the top five students every day and gave out rewards based on their activity, not level of performance. They received a gummy bear or some little treat for how much work they accomplished on a specific day.

Praise for MindPlay
As a third-grade teacher, I was not a believer in nonsense words. I learned that the nonsense words in MindPlay helped my students who did not know how to decode words. They knew words, but their spelling was awful because they were missing foundational phonics skills. These students could get by reading in third grade, but it was hindering their overall learning skills. Students got very frustrated working on MindPlay; they did not like “the lady” in the program making up words they could not read. Once I got them to stop and listen, they learned how to spell the words they were hearing, and those sounds transferred to their writing.

MindPlay covers the foundational skills that many of our students in grades 3-6 may have missed in the primary grades.

The program is designed to meet an individual student’s needs. The reports make it easy for me to see if they are mastering the skills they need, or not.

With the error reports, I can see how students are responding to the different activities on the computer. The reports enable me to see if they are just playing around, like hitting “xxx, jjj, or ppp” for an answer instead of working and learning. Realistically, a teacher cannot see what every student is doing.

Overcoming Challenges
MindPlay was introduced to us in the middle of the year. I had to implement something that was different from what I was using and had to find more time in my schedule. It was difficult for me and the students, but once I bought into it, things moved along better.

A lot of my students were missing key foundation skills so working on MindPlay was frustrating for them. They were missing phonemic awareness and not hearing the sounds, and that made it even more difficult. I had to put some rules in place: 1) It was not OK to yell at “the lady” who was saying the different words; and 2) they had to be on the program for 30 minutes.

Even though I wasn’t a big fan of MindPlay in the beginning, I encouraged my students to work on the program. In the end, we saw a lot of reading growth. When teachers try MindPlay for the first time, I suggest that they stick with it, especially the time recommendations. If they set a time every day to use the program, they will see positive results.

Robert SommersMindPlay