Teachers eat snails to reward reading improvements
Teachers react to eating snails as a reward to students for improving their reading scores. (Kelly Cannon/City Journals)
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Snails were on the menu at Crestview Elementary when teachers voluntarily ate escargot in front of hundreds of screaming students. The unusual lunch was offered up on May 25 as a reward to students who improved their reading scores.
The entire student body gathered in the lunchroom for the end-of-year assembly. After handing out various awards, Literacy Coach Kimberly Panter announced 85 percent of students had improved their reading scores, and as a reward, various teachers would have to eat snails.
“We have a great school with a lot of fabulous teachers who are willing to do a lot of things. We were thinking about ideas to get the kids excited about reading and making it really fun,” said Wendy Lovell, a third-grade teacher and the brains behind the snail-eating idea. “The kids really worked hard. It was a great program all around.”
Names were drawn out of a hat to see which teachers would have to eat the snails, to the roar of the students. The snails were donated by local restaurant La Caille. Alex Hill, a representative of La Caille, demonstrated how to eat the snails by clasping the snail shell using tongs and pulling out the meat with a special fork. After a quick countdown, the teachers gulped down the snails, a few pulling faces and squirming. One teacher quickly began drinking a Diet Coke as soon as she could.
Lovell said the idea of teachers eating snails has been a great motivator for the kids. The concept of the snails reinforced the idea that even if you’re a slow reader, like a snail, you can still be a good reader. Students made paper snails to decorate the hallways and the school put on a “Hunt the Snail” challenge where students would have to find the hidden snail in the school.
“We had about 250–300 kids try to do that challenge and it was really exciting and fun for the kids,” Lovell said.
The reading score improvements were based on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) exam.
“DIBELS is the state-mandated testing required throughout the state of Utah to determine students’ reading levels. It’s a screener to help identify students who are struggling with reading,” Panter said. “We were able to focus on students who need interventions and this helps motivate students to read more.”
The test is given three times a year. Panter took the results from the mid-January test and compared them to the test the students took in May. According to Panter, 85 percent of the students had improved their scores.
“We were telling them to look at themselves to improve their personal scores and not make it so much of a competition. It was just a competition with themselves,” Panter said. “We also emphasized that reading isn’t about reading fast. It’s about understanding what they read.”
Principal Teri Anne Cooper said this event was the most fun thing they’ve ever done in the five years she’s been an administrator. She said the kids were so excited they formed their own after-school reading groups and asked their teachers if they could do extra reading drills in class.
“To see them take charge of their own learning, that was huge,” Cooper said. “Mrs. Lovell was the brains behind it. She sent out an email asking who would be interested and it surprised me how many faculty we had who said, ‘Heck yeah. We are on board. Let’s do it. It’s for the kids.’”