Looking for an honest review of the Reading Simplified Academy

You’ve heard the hype, read the material, but want to know what it’s like to actually implement the program in a classroom?

Watch as Evangeline, a first-grade teacher, describes classroom struggles that she transformed into joys. 

She’s walked the journey from skeptic to advocate. Listen to her story.

First-Grade Teacher Reviews Reading Simplified

[1:26] - Astonishing classroom growth!
[2:34] - "I have never seen kids this engaged in centers!"
[7:08] - Kids are interested AND making progress!

[8:03] - Less time planning means "I actually have the weekends off!"

[If you'd rather read the transcript from the above video, here ya go...]

Teacher Reviews Reading Simplified

Evangeline:
I'm excited. I'm excited to have found it because my programs are failing my special-ed kids, and last year they failed my gen-ed kids, and I'm going, "There has to be something better than this," and trying to create it on my own was a nightmare. So I'm grateful I'm doing this.

Marnie:
I know. I know.

Evangeline:
It was like, "This is a joke. I can't do this." I think what's biting me is I'm a second-year first grade teacher. My partner is a first-year first grade teacher. We have to write our own curriculum map, our own quarter plans, our own year plan. I carved out an hour of literacy time every day, in addition to the 45 minute Fundation time I have to have, and I grouped my kids according to the Reading Simplified assessment into four groups. So every group gets me for 15 minutes every day, and then when they're not with me, they're at word work or work on writing or independent reading orthographic pattern books, things like that.

Marnie:
And which level do you think most people are at? Are they mostly at the first grade reading level?

Evangeline:
I put two of my groups ... I have four groups total. Two groups are on, according to the Reading Simplified assessments, two groups are on the kindergarten level, one group on first grade, and one group on my second grade level.

Marnie:
Okay, great.

Evangeline:
Although, with my second grade level, I only have two kids in that one. The one kid is on a sixth grade reading level. Yeah, I know. But the other kid is on a second grade reading level.

Marnie:
Are the kindergarten level readers your biggest concern?

Evangeline:
They are, and I just progress monitored them again, and all of them, to my utter shock ... I just, you got to be kidding me. They made growth. For example, I have a kiddo, he's really sick. He has kidney failure. So I'm thinking, he sits in a bean bag all day, bless him. Like he's not even interacting with anything, and yet he went from three sounds a minute to 12.

Marnie:
Wow.

Evangeline:
He went from 15 words, nonsense word fluency, to 27.

Marnie:
Wow. He can blend three sound words. That's great.

Evangeline:
Oh, it's shocking. My other kiddo, who was pegged ... We're looking at the kiddo for EC, not now but in the future, went from 13 words to 23. The other kiddos went from like 19 words, 20 words, to 47, and I'm going, "Yeah, I'm sticking with this program."

Marnie:
That's so exciting for you.

Evangeline:
I'm determined to learn it until my teeth break.

Evangeline:
My centers have already gotten easier. I've taken a video and uploaded it to my Bloomz account. But last year my centers, good material, it was frustrating. This year I have a word work center, a work on writing, an independent read, and then I put them on Raz-Kids or Studyladder because I had to get permission to download the other apps. So I'm getting permission for that to download onto the thing. And I run, like the military, 15 minute groups. I have a little doorbell, wireless doorbell. I hit it at the 15 minute mark. They all switch, and every child, every day, the minute they get to their center, it's like a pin could drop in here and you could hear it.

Evangeline:
My principal walked in one day, and she comes in to see something. She stops and she looks around, and she's looking, and then she bends down to ask a couple kids, "Hey, what are you doing?" And of the kids looked up for her and said, "Please don't talk to me. You're disturbing me right now. I've got to learn this."

I have never ... I homeschooled eight years. I was a tutor for two years. I was an assistant for two years. I was a volunteer for four years. I was a substitute teacher for four years, a special ed teacher for two years, now this, and I have never seen kids as engaged in centers. 


Evangeline I've never seen kids so engaged

But it is because I'm doing your suggestion where you said take one game and then differentiate the words, where before I would differentiate the activity every day or every two days, a new activity every day or every two days because that's what we were trained to do.

A part of you is going, "This is stupid because they're spending so much time learning the stupid activity that by the time it's done, we're moved on to the next activity." And so this time I got five activities total, and then I differentiate the words, and that's it.

Marnie:
Love it.

Evangeline:
Oh, my gosh. It runs like clockwork for a solid hour. It's unbelievable. This is just, I'm very happy. I'm very pleased. I'm very excited, and I'm very grateful that I can ask questions on your online system and people answer me, and thank you.

Evangeline:
Well, I think the biggest thing that bites gen-ed teachers, and I saw this as a special-ed teacher walking into gen-ed rooms, was that ability to differentiate. How do you differentiate for all these needs without working 80 hours? What bit me as a special-ed teacher is, okay, my kids are making so much progress in my room, but then they can't transfer it.

Well, it makes sense now. Of course they can't because they're not working on the same stuff in there and they're not getting that differentiated level. And then what bites you is one of the things that really struck me in grad school was the orthographic patterns. They're so vitally important, but not segmented, and so many things are segmented on the orthographic patterns, and that's where I saw my special needs kids getting lost.

Evangeline:
It was like, okay, we're teaching short A, and then when my kids would see long A, that did not compute there was a long A. It was like, "Nope, it's short A," and they would read it that way forever. I knew there was a better way, but it's like there's no program out there for that. And then when you try and create it yourself, you're spending 60, 70 hours a week. It's insane, and it was like, I can't live like this. It's not functional. You know, you're at school all the time. Then when I found this, I kept seeing you on Facebook and I kept thinking,

"This is a joke. This is another gimmick. I have bought into so many programs. I've used four formalized programs as a teacher, and there's just no ..."

And then I finally, the orthographic mapping, the term you used, kept coming back to me and I went, "Well, maybe she's caught onto something nobody else has," and then we did it, and that's where I said I kind of put it to the test going, "Yeah, the proof's in the pudding. We'll see how it goes."

And then seeing how my centers run, it's phenomenal.

Evangeline:
I had a volunteer here the other day, and he's taught for 30 years. He's coming back as a retired teacher, and he's like,

"What are you doing? I've never seen kids so engaged and just working, and they want it." 

And I'm going, "Well, actually, let me show you what I'm doing. I'm doing this new program called Reading Simplified, and you're going to think I'm nuts, but this is it."

And he just grabbed it and he said, "Oh, my gosh, I wish I had been given this. Where is this?" You know? So I don't know if I'm doing it 100% right, but I'll keep-

Marnie:
That's not important. You're getting it.

Evangeline:
...doing it, but we're doing it. You know? We're doing it. So yay.

Evangeline:
I want to brag. I'm going to finally put it on the ... Like, I got to put it on my Facebook page,

"You guys won't believe it. My three lowest kids that don't make progress made progress yesterday." I mean, to go from like 12 to, what was it? Let me stare at it again. You know?

Marnie:
Like 47.

Evangeline:
I mean, the kid was reading like 27 sounds, and that was a stretch, and the kid was in tears at the end of it, and went to 37 and looked at me and said, "Well, I'm done now." And I'm like, "No, you still have 10 more seconds of this is ..." And they're like, "Well, we'll do it again next time. I think I did great." I'm like, "No, you have five more seconds."

But the fact they're interested, it just, that blows my mind that they're interested at this stage. Normally they're not interested until they can read more.

Marnie:
Right.

Evangeline:
You know? And they're interested at the sound stage? Holy cow. So there we go. Yay.

Marnie:
Great. Great first start for the year.

Evangeline:
Yes, it is. It's a good first start, and I'm excited, and I'm very happy not to be spending 70 hours a week on this anymore, to actually have the weekends off. That's nice. That's incredibly nice. My planning took me the other day, and I'm not kidding, I timed it.

My planning for my centers last Friday took exactly 26 minutes, and that was all my centers, and that was all my small group guided reading, 26 minutes. I'm like, "Are you kidding me? I'm done. I'm done for next week."

I kept walking around the house, "Hey, I'm done. I'm done, family," and they're all looking at me like, "Why are you so happy?" I'm like, "You don't understand. I'm done. 26 minutes." I called all my teacher friends. We were excited.

Marnie:
Yay.

Evangeline:
But they all still think it's a gimmick, but I'm like, "Okay, you just give me three weeks, three months, and let's see what your MOY scores are compared to my MOY scores, and then I get the chocolate cake. You guys are taking me out to eat if mine are better." But anyway, so thank you for meeting with me.

Marnie:
My pleasure.

Evangeline:
It's going to go well, and thanks for helping me figure this out. I just knew I just needed a little bit of tweaking in my brain to wrap around that.

Marnie:
Got it. You got it.

Evangeline:
Yay. Yay. All right, so I'll see you next time. Thank you, Marnie.

Marnie:
My pleasure.

Evangeline:
Yeah.

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1st grade teacher reviews Reading Simplified