New teaching system discussed in Lakeview

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 2:53 pm on Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction creator Nora Chahbazi gave a quick run-through of her groundbreaking reading system for parents and students at Lakeview Middle School on Monday evening. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

LAKEVIEW — Students from Lakeview Middle and High schools showed up with their parents in tow at the middle school Monday evening for a free meal and demonstration of an innovative teaching technique being implemented in Lakeview classrooms.

Though primarily a system for teaching reading, teachers at the middle school and high school have been using the method in math, science and other classes as well.

According to Nora Chahbazi, who developed the system, EBLI — Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction — provides educators and parents a teaching tool not previously available in the classroom. According to the EBLI handout, the system is “a proprietary system of research-based literacy instructional practices embedded into effective, efficient strategies and activities that teach learners of all ages and ability levels to reach their highest potential in reading and spelling.”

Read that phrase as often as you like; chances are your response will still be, “Huh?”

Though that official definition of the program is an all but unintelligible hodgepodge of “edu-speak,” the system itself is far more straight-forward. And according to middle school Principal Tim Erspamer, it has also proven to be very effective.

“It’s working very well for all the students,” Erspamer said. “It works with our cognitively impaired kids and our students who excel academically.”

Though similar to the phonics system many boomers grew up with, EBLI carries none of the “special” rules baggage or other oddities that have caused phonics to fall, to some degree, from favor with many educators.

EBLI focuses the whole student’s mind on the task of breaking words into their component letter sounds. Words are actually spoken out loud by letter sound as they are written.

“As you’re writing, your mouth has be saying it, if you want to imprint it on your brain,” Chahbazi said.

Lakeview Middle School Principal Tim Erspamer welcomes parents and students to a free dinner and introduction to the school’s EBLI reading system Monday evening. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

Thus, “science” becomes “SC-I-E-N-CE” to the mind of an EBLI instructed student. If it seems a little confusing at first, it’s only because the method is fairly new.

All evidence to date, however, indicates improved test scores and comprehension across the board. According to Chahbazi, middle school students typically see MEAP score gains of up to 27 percent after only six weeks of EBLI instruction.

“We’ve boiled off all the fat,” Chahbazi said. “There are no rules and no exceptions to the rules. Phonics does a lot of drilling and worksheets. We don’t do that. We teach to how the brain works best.”

At Monday’s gathering, Chahbazi ran parents through a typical, if somewhat accelerated, EBLI lessons. The students in attendance, more familiar with the material, quickly outpaced their parents.

According to Lakeview Superintendent Kyle Hamlin, the system has been used in the middle school for more than two years and is quickly migrating to the high school, as well.

The system, and training for teachers, is being funded through a state grant.

“It’s a grant, but we have to spend that money responsibly,” Hamlin said. “This system really seems to be getting positive results.”

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