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College Street Elementary School first grader Skyleigh Cooper notes her observations of a piece of ice during a literacy program class in the school library.


 Manchester City Schools elementary Instructional Coaches in coordination with Dr. Mick Shuran, Director of Federal Programs and Instruction have developed a literacy program that is bringing educational togetherness opportunities for families while exploring a range of core curriculum through the use of a single book.

The program is being introduced initially to all first graders.   

Westwood Elementary Instructional Coach Stefanie William explained that the project will bring the community into the learning process.

Each first grader will receive “Poppleton in Winter by Cynthia Rylant.” There will be resources and activities for parents to do at home. “

“(These) are trying to bring parents into the literacy process,” Williams said. “We are teaching it in the library. All the kids will come through the library, and it will not take any instruction time from the teachers.”    

College Street Elementary Instructional Coach Michelle Vandenbossche said that “We do lessons each week that tie in science, social studies, math and ELA with our story.”

One lesson last week, involved a science experiment. Student groups were given a plastic cup with an ice cube in it, much like the icicles that Poppleton finds in the book. Students were asked to predict how the ice would behave, observe the changes and describe those changes in a worksheet. In a word, it was the essence of science.   

“This (lesson led) into decoding, phonics and reading skills,” she said. “Our book study focuses on literature, but we’re tying in our different standards,” Vandenbossche said.  

At each school, the librarian is assisting with the classes.

“We’re reading with them,” Williams said. “We’re doing hands-on activities with them. This week we used measurements with them, a math standard, because the character measures icicles.”

First grade standards call for non-standard measurement items. Students measure items first with things like Cheetos and Post-it Notes, to the basics down, before grabbing a ruler and looking at the concepts of inches and centimeters.

“We are trying to make reading fun and come alive,” Williams said.       

Shuran credits the idea to the Instructional Coaches.

“This is something that came out of the minds of our instructional coaches (Stefanie and Michelle). We started an increased focus on literacy the last school and had plans of doing something similar, then COVID hit,” he said.

Part of the benefit is also it targets learning loss.  

“We decided to focus initially on first grade this year because those are the students who missed several months of their kindergarten experience last year. Our goal is to continue to encourage reading, make it an everyday part of their life,” Shuran said.

Shuran notes that the “program is intentional in the fact that we are focusing on the same book for several weeks. Students become familiar with the story and it, along with the integration of other subjects, allows for students to increase their vocabulary and fluency.”  

Shuran added that the district values the program to the extent that plans are in the works for the same program in different grade levels before the end of the school year. 


John has been with the Manchester Times since May 2011. He covers Lifestyles in addition to handling education reporting and general news assignments.John has won Tennessee Press Association awards for Best News Photo and placed in numerous other categories. John is a 1994 graduate of Tullahoma High School, a graduate of Motlow State Community College and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Middle Tennessee State University. He lives in Tullahoma, and enjoys the outdoors with his wife, Mitsy, and his 17-month-old, Sean.

Staff Writer

Download the free Manchester Times mobile app at the app store. John has won Tennessee Press Association awards for Best News Photo and placed in numerous other categories.

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