Newport-Mesa teachers like Reading Wonders for new K-6 English language arts program

Elementary school teachers in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District are recommending Reading Wonders by McGraw Hill as the district's new English language arts instruction program for kindergartners through sixth-graders.

Teachers presented their preference to the board of trustees Tuesday night after a five-month pilot process.


The process was similar to the one used to pick The Math Learning Center's Bridges in Mathematics as the new K-5 math curriculum, though there were a few adjustments, said John Drake, district director of curriculum and instruction.

Principals selected teachers, including special-education teachers, representing all grade levels to test Reading Wonders and Benchmark Education Co.'s Benchmark Advance.

The consensus was to use Reading Wonders. The program includes print and digital resources to support "building strong literacy foundations, accessing complex texts, engaging in collaborative conversations and writing to sources," according to its website.

Teachers acknowledged no program will "do it all" but said they believe Reading Wonders is the best choice for Newport-Mesa students.

The recommended materials are on display through June 13 in the district office at 2985 Bear St., Costa Mesa. Trustees are expected to decide at their next meeting that day whether to adopt Reading Wonders for next school year.

Drake said the cost of the materials would be equivalent to that of Bridges in Mathematics, which the board approved Tuesday night to replace Swun Math in kindergarten through fifth grade. Bridges' cost is estimated at $1.8 million over six years, Drake said, with $170,000 paid annually for "consumable materials."

Drake said the Westminster and Orange Unified school districts also are working with Reading Wonders.

Fourth-grade teacher Guy Erskine from California Elementary School in Costa Mesa said he was "skeptical" of the English language arts pilot process but was ultimately pleased with the experience. He said both of the piloted programs were "excellent" in content, visuals and accessibility to students, but that Reading Wonders stood out the most.

Students who miss class can still access assignments because of the program's "wealth of resources," including games and the "entire textbook" available online, Erskine said. Also, he said, the program's online components can be modified depending on a student's comprehension level.

"I was able to sit with above-level students and read for fluency with them and dig deeper to answer questions," Erskine said.

Carrie Rose, a Resource Specialist Program teacher at California Elementary, had similar praise for the program. She especially liked how directions in the margins guide students through exercises to help encourage independence.

"That gave the kids a lot of confidence," Rose said. "Students walked away saying, 'I did it! I can participate. I know these answers.'"

Twitter: @vegapriscella