Young Doctors of Reading at Kent Primary School

When the students in Corinne Phillips’s first grade class donned their lab coats, adjusted their masks and assembled their new stethoscope kits, they looked like a group of very young doctors.  

“We got real stethoscopes,” said Fiona, as she turned to her classmate, “Did you try hearing your heart? It’s amazing.”  

To an outsider this may not have seemed like a reading lesson, but that was the point.     Corrine Phillips and her first grade class at KPS 

Carmel Central School District instituted a new reading program for kindergarten through sixth grade this year. Core Knowledge Language Arts, or CKLA, is a science of reading-based program that emphasizes skills like phonics, decoding and blending sounds. It introduces young readers to a wide vocabulary while building on topics like science and social studies, said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lauren Santabarbara.   

For the past three years, we have partnered with The Reading League to train and learn about The Science of Reading, which led us to our new reading program, CKLA. We have dedicated our time to training our kindergarten through sixth grade teachers in CKLA last year, Santabarbara said. This year, teachers in grades seven through 12 are learning the method so that they can support the language, comprehension and vocabulary skills of students as they move up through the grades.  

At Kent Primary School, Phillips’s class had just finished its first CKLA unit, which was on the human.  

“The reading in this unit is all about our bodies,” Phillips said. “The vocabulary is about the five body systems: muscle, skeletal, nervous, circulatory, and digestive. It is sophisticated but it is presented at their level.”  

To wrap up the unit, Phillips outfitted her students like doctors for the day.  

“I decided to do hands-on activities that review all the things we learned before giving students a written assessment with questions about the body.” 

Dressed like young interns, the children moved around the classroom and worked at tables with a variety of activities – the board game Operation, a human body model, puzzles of skeletons and other body systems. 

One girl put on an apron while her partner attached internal organs onto it in their correct places with Velcro. 

“What’s this?” she asked, holding up a purple shape.   

Phillips answered with a question: “What are the first two letters?  


“And what is the sound ‘st’ makes?”  

“Sss-ta, sss-ta, sss-ta, stomach!” she said, and stuck the stomach onto the apron right above the large intestine.  

Phillips has taught for 17 years. Last year, she taught kindergarten at Kent Primary and now has nine of the same students in this year’s first grade class.  

“I love this program,” she said. “I see tremendous growth. The kids have really gotten wonderful vocabulary from it.” 

Not to mention fun.  

Six-year-old Ronin put the skeleton puzzle together on the floor.  

“I just put a body together!” Ronin said.  

Then he adjusted his stethoscope, turned to his classmates, and said: “I am Dr. Ronin, pediatrician. I’m coming to help you, kids!”