Bilingual Coach Becca Menke has been with Reading In Motion since 2015. Both inside and outside the classroom, she brings with her a love for taking on new challenges and helping others do the same. When she’s not at work, Becca trains for marathons and ultra-marathons, works as a personal running coach, and keeps a vegan food and fitness blog called Rabbit Food Runner. We caught up with her recently to learn a little more about her experiences in the classroom.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part about the job is seeing students light up with excitement when they sing the songs from the curriculum. They enjoy the music and the movement and they don’t even realize they are learning! It’s just pure fun for them.
Can you share a memorable moment you’ve had in the classroom?
Last year, I worked with a particular student in kindergarten. He struggled to identify letter sounds and also got in trouble a lot. This year in first grade, he started off well behind the other students and still had some behavior challenges. Before winter break, his teacher began to use our Reader’s Theater scripts. She assigned a group of high-scoring readers to memorize and act out the script for the rest of the class. Upon watching their performance, the struggling student was mesmerized. He wanted to perform a script like the other students had. His behavior improved, and he constantly wanted to read. Pretty soon, he was reading at grade level, and working really well in a group to perform the script for the other students. It was amazing to see his transformation, reading growth, and overall maturity over the course of a few short months.
What improvements do you wish you could see in CPS K-1st grade classrooms?
I wish that art was more of a focus in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade classrooms. Art integration enriches instruction by helping students deepen connections to their learning and express themselves in ways that worksheets and tests don’t capture.
Do you have a tip you could share for parents with young children who struggle with reading?
Story dictations are great for supporting literacy. Have your child tell you a story while you write it out, word for word. The story can be complex like, “What did you do at the park?” or something as simple as asking, “What do you like?” and they respond, “I like ice cream. I like green. I like the dog.” After writing it out, ask them to read their story as you point to each word. Re-read the story a few times (it can be a few times in a row at once, or once a day for an entire week). Using their ideas and stories supports word recognition and letter-sound connection. Eventually, the skills will transfer over to books and passages.
Have you read any books in the past year that you’d recommend?
Thanks to my hobbies, most of the books I read are related to the fitness realm. One of my recent favorites is called Peak Performance. It’s about how to avoid burnout and sustain success in all aspects of life. The lessons can apply across the board to both fitness and non-fitness focuses.