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Walnut valley Unified School District

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Our motto is KIDS FIRST... Every Student, Every Day!   Walnut Valley USD is proud to be a National Schools to Watch District with numerous National Blue Ribbon, California Gold Ribbon, and California Distinguished School awards. 

Program Spotlight

November 8, 2021

By Kelli Gile, WVUSD Office of Community Resources

WALNUT, CA-- With fabric bookbags slung over shoulders, Westhoff Elementary first graders marched onto the kindergarten courtyard ready to offer up a cross-age reading lesson on Friday.

For about 30 minutes, the six and seven-year-olds became teaching experts using facial expressions and hand gestures while delivering true-life tales about penguins and bugs and space.

This year, Westhoff has turned first-grade classrooms into reading workshops with implementation of the renowned Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP).

Reader’s workshop students learn skills and strategies while reading books they have picked themselves with the goal of becoming life-long, confident readers and writers.

Elementary Learning Specialist Therapi Kaplan commented that students have literally been “gobbling up the reading.”

“I’ve never seen kids’ eyes light up with reading like this!”

The November 5 reading celebration marked the completion of a four-week unit of study on non-fiction works.

The youngsters had been excited and a little nervous prior to the reading session where they would also be fielding questions from their kindergarten buddies.

But, they had rehearsed and were prepared to do their very best.

Maya Jornacion, 6, skillfully read “Cats and Dogs” by Katy Pike and “Good Food” by Jean Elliot Junis to her kinder partner.

"I like that you can read books that you like,” she said afterward.

“And I can learn all about stuff!”

Her first-grade teacher Amy Leinen credits the pilot program for giving students the time to study and explore books independently as well as in their partnerships.

“I love how the children embrace everything that they learn during reader’s workshop and use it to read to and teach the kindergarten buddies,” she said.

All the research confirms the minutes spent on high success reading is the greatest indicator of a successful reader, reported Principal Dr. Sandra Lee.

“Reader’s workshop allows students to fall in love with reading which will point them towards an upward journey of wanting to do something they love to do,” she said.

The school’s Community Club has backed the new program with shelves of high interest books.

In the non-fiction unit, students had been learning to monitor their reading by studying meaning, syntax, and tackling decoding.

They quickly discovered that there would be words they wouldn’t know – like hailstones – a rare occurrence in So Cal.

“We’re teaching them strategies how to not only tackle the vocabulary and decode it, but find the meaning of it,” Kaplan explained.

Westhoff currently offers the TCRWP writer’s workshop and recently launched the phonics units of study in all K-2 classes.

Principal Lee and Kaplan offer daily support in the new reading and phonics workshops.

Kaplan refers to the units of study programs as the “secret sauce in teaching” with the precise teaching methods followed by direct application.

“Coming back from the year and a half, we’ve had students who were just hungry to learn and be with one another,” she added.

“Our goal is to provide them with the best of what works in terms of getting kids to love and want more of reading.”


Westhoff Elementary first graders pair up with kindergarteners during a reader’s workshop celebration on Nov. 5. 

Westhoff ELS Therapi Kaplan offers support to young readers during the Nov. 5 reading party. 

First grade teacher Amy Leinen guides her young reading teachers on Nov. 5.