The first thing teachers notice and love about Geodes® is the quality of the materials. “The texture of the books. The illustrations. These feel good and are so visually pleasing,” says Julie Hastings, an elementary literacy specialist for the Park City School District in Utah.
Their appreciation for the early literacy materials goes well beyond the book covers, however. The educators also recognize how closely aligned Geodes are with the research about how young children learn to read and write.
“We look at the research based on the science of reading, and we go point by point. ‘Yep, yep, yep.’ Geodes meet the intention of the researchers’ design,” Hastings says.
FOCUS ON EARLY LITERACY
The district’s journey to Geodes began in the 2016–2017 school year when it adopted Fundations® from Wilson Language Training as part of a broader early literacy initiative. The goals were to provide effective reading instruction for all students, increase teachers’ awareness of why some students struggle to read, and identify striving readers early and provide appropriate interventions.
Four elementary schools
Adopted Fundations® in 2016–2017 school year
Adopted Geodes Level 1 in 2018–2019 school year
Adopted Geodes Level 2 in 2019–2020 school year
“That heightened awareness of how students learn to read helped us realize what we had been missing. It was clear that our previous curriculum did not include adequate systematic and explicit phonics and phonemic awareness instruction,” Hastings recalls.
Fundations® is a structured literacy program for Grades K–3 that supplements students’ core instruction and provides a systematic approach to comprehensively build foundational skills as well as spelling and handwriting.
When Barbara Wilson, cofounder and president of Wilson Language Training, announced that her company was collaborating with Great Minds® to develop a content-rich early literacy library of engaging controlled texts, Hastings jumped at the chance to begin using Geodes for Park City’s Level 1 students in the 2018–2019 school year. (Great Minds is the organization that publishes Geodes, along with Wit & Wisdom®, Eureka Math®, and PhD Science™.) “Once teachers became aware of Geodes and how they aligned with Fundations®, they wanted to be at the front of the line for adoption,” Hastings recalls. Park City went on to adopt the Level 2 materials in 2019–2020.
Geodes align with the scope and sequence of Fundations® in providing substantial decoding practice. In addition, they build essential knowledge and help students acquire important vocabulary words. That’s key because research shows that strong content knowledge and robust vocabulary are necessary for mastering complex text.
CONFIDENT AND ENGAGED STUDENTS
The impact has been immediate. “Students are a lot more confident and much more apt to read and reread,” Hastings says. Each text supports students in applying the phonics knowledge they have learned in class. Students also find the Geodes materials so relatable and relevant that they want teachers to read the More page at the back of the books—a paragraph or two of fascinating information that enriches the book’s story.
Initially, some teachers weren’t sure whether to use the Geodes materials as part of whole group instruction (along with Fundations®) or to fill skills deficits for students with learning gaps. “They quickly found out that Geodes are good for both,” Hastings says. Teachers appreciate how closely aligned the Geodes materials are with Fundations®. “Teachers have expressed how much easier it is to be thoughtful when choosing the most appropriate text for each student,” she says.
"Students are a lot more confident and much more apt to read and reread."
— Julie Hastings, elementary literacy specialist
Many Grade 3 teachers are using Geodes to help striving students catch up. “They love that the kids no longer miss out on comprehension instruction while they’re also focusing on accuracy and fluency,” Hastings says.
Hastings is now counting on teachers who have used the materials for the past two years to take the lead in helping their colleagues make the transition to this content-rich instruction.
“Implementation matters and buy-in from teachers is key. When they understand why we need to shift our instruction in this way, that’s all it takes,” Hastings says—that and the joy of seeing their students become confident, competent, and curious readers and learners.
Jenny has over a decade of experience in education policy and research. She has worked with states and districts on the development and implementation of college and career readiness policies, especially around the implementation of rigorous standards and high-quality instructional materials. She has extensive knowledge about K–12 standards, graduation requirements, assessments, and accountability systems nationwide. Additionally, she has conducted research for school districts to address pressing needs in those districts. Jenny received her B.A. in English and education from Bucknell University and her M.Ed. in education policy from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.