USC ReadersPLUS Graduate Student Danica and Carla at work

ReadersPLUS Program Continues to Elevate Experience with Innovative Changes

ByKathrin Rising

In its remarkable 25+ year legacy, the ReadersPLUS program has seen continual evolution to enhance the experience for all participants. This fall semester marked a significant chapter, with senior student staff members Carla and Danica leading the implementation of impactful changes.

An overhaul of the lesson plan template was a key focus that had already been set in motion in May. During their work in the spring semester, professional staff member Beth Levinson and then-graduate student Abbie Hitzeman, focused on addressing the evolving challenges educators and tutors face due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ongoing impacts on both undergraduate and K-12 students.

The previous lesson plan template, characterized by numerous sections, was replaced with a simplified version that facilitates easy comprehension and replication. Tutors focus on one measurable skill identified in the California State Standards of Learning and provide their students with the opportunity to practice this skill through engaging and hands-on activities. The addition of a “post-assessment” component aims to gauge tutor effectiveness by having their young students demonstrate their ability to perform this skill during an independent activity. Tutors are encouraged to offer students additional opportunities to master this skill in following sessions. While this adjustment is a work in progress, the mini-assessment tool allows tutors and program leadership to assess student progress and adjust sessions accordingly. We are also able to share with teachers more specific information about the progress the students are making in our program. 

In addition to the changes to lesson plans, the “paperwork” components that ReadersPLUS tutors complete throughout the semester have been reviewed with an eye toward making the program more collaborative and impactful. 

The creation of a “Newspaper” added a creative dimension to the program. Each site collaboratively worked on producing a newspaper to showcase their unique characteristics and progress. This group project not only encouraged reflection but also serves as a tool for presenting site achievements to new tutors during training. Tutors embraced this initiative, expressing a desire for additional editions, highlighting the enjoyment and camaraderie experienced while working together on a positive portrayal of their respective schools.

An introduction of a “Tips and Tricks” session also fostered collaboration between seasoned tutors and newcomers, providing a platform for valuable insights and experiences to be shared. This initiative received positive feedback, with tutors expressing appreciation for the opportunity to connect and enhance their understanding of the program.

Cross-site learning was another impactful aspect of the fall changes. Tutors formerly interacted mainly with other tutors at their school were encouraged to engage with other sites, creating a unique opportunity for program-wide knowledge exchange. The “Discussion Board” emerged as a dynamic space where tutors share challenges, successes, and seek input from their peers. This platform not only provides diverse perspectives but also fosters a supportive ReadersPLUS network, enabling tutors to connect and assist one another beyond the confines of their respective sites.

The feedback on these changes has been overwhelmingly positive, with tutors finding value in feeling seen, appreciated, and connected through the enhanced program structures. As ReadersPLUS continues to evolve, these innovations contribute to a more collaborative, supportive, and creative learning environment for tutors and students alike.


To read more articles that were featured in the Fall 2023 Edition of “What’s new at the JEP House?” please click here: What’s New at the JEP House? – Fall 2023 – USC Joint Educational Project