Looking around her kindergarten classroom before school recessed for the summer, it was common for Lori Ludwig to see students tapping out words on their desks.

Looking around her kindergarten classroom before school recessed for the summer, it was common for Lori Ludwig to see students tapping out words on their desks.

Children enrolled in the Kindergarten Literacy Intervention Program (KLIP) at Hoffman Trails Elementary School this past year broke down each word into sounds.

With the word "fox," she said, some of her students took one fingertip and tapped it on the table for the letter f, then a second fingertip tapped the "ahh" sound and a third fingertip tapped x until the word was spelled out in their minds.

"They knew the sight words like 'the' or 'said' by memory," said Ludwig. "The unknown words they would tap out with phonemics."

KLIP has grown in the Hilliard City School District as well as in the successes of its students, according to Director of Elementary Curriculum Jill Menchhofer.

"It was a program that began several years ago at Horizon (Elementary School) when Vicky Clark was the principal there," Menchhofer said.

Clark searched for an opportunity to provide kindergarteners with needed extra literacy.

Research showed that the sooner educators intervened, the better off students were academically.

"Thirty minutes of intervention in kindergarten," said Menchhofer, "is equivalent to two hours for a fourth-grader. It takes twice as long in fourth grade, because they have moved along and struggled for so long, the gap increases."

The goal of KLIP, according to Menchhofer and Ludwig, is to close the gap.

Two and a half hours a day of instruction, or KLIP, is provided to at-risk kindergarteners. For instance, if the youngsters attended morning kindergarten then he or she stayed an extra two and a half hours to participate in KLIP.

Soon the students identified themselves as "KLIPPERS."

Once Horizon got the program off the ground, Beacon Elementary School followed suit.

Principal Craig Vroom was proactive in offering the intervention program in his building, according to Menchhofer.

She said the KLIP experience is not the same as the full-day kindergarten offered at Alton Darby Elementary and Norwich Elementary schools. It is completely different.

The first four weeks of the new school year the kindergarten students are assessed.

Menchhofer said it takes that long, because kindergarten students are often shy when they enter the school system and it takes a while to determine what they already know and if they are keeping pace with their peers.

KLIP teachers move in and out of the classrooms on a regular basis making assessments, and once the students are acclimated it is determined who participates in the program.

Menchhofer and Ludwig said parents of student who are not at-risk want to see their children enrolled in KLIP.

"A parent has the option to accept," Ludwig said. "We had 100 percent acceptance. It is probably true at every building, although every building puts its own twist on it and every building has been successful."

Group sizes are kept at about 12 or less, according to Menchhofer.

"Small group intervention is more effective," she said.

All KLIP teachers are trained in phonemic awareness strategies.

"It is a different way of getting there," Menchhofer said of the learning technique. "Kids are more manipulative with letters. They tap out each sound and maybe make a swoop across their arm and say 'hat.' For some kids that would slow them down, they do it mentally and move on. It is just something for the teachers to have in their tool kit."

Today KLIP is offered in 12 of the 14 elementary buildings of the district, and the other two have all day kindergarten.

As the program was developing, Menchhofer said, the elementary principals came together as a group and agreed to move their intervention teachers down to kindergarten from third, fourth and fifth grades.

By targeting students right out of the chute the educators are convinced they are setting the youngsters up for success in the later grade levels.

"Two hundred and sixty-three of our most at-risk kindergarten students have some type of intervention," Menchhofer said.

This past year KLIP was offered for the first time at Hoffman Trails.

"The affects are so far reaching," Ludwig said. "It affects every grade level. It will require less intervention as they go through the grade levels, at least that is the hope. It also allows intervention teachers more time to work with other children."

Without the entire school staff - including cooks who provide breakfast, custodians who set aside space, secretaries who keep everything organized and media specialists finding specific books - Ludwig said the program could not be a success.

She also credits parents for working with their children at home

Eighty-seven percent of the KLIP students are now at or above grade level, according to Menchhofer.

"The piece that is very exciting is the social and emotional benefit," she said. "It is giving them confidence."

One little girl approached Menchhofer with regard to the celebrity status of the program.

"She said 'Mrs. Menchhofer you want to know something? We are the only class of KLIPPERS in the building'," said Menchhofer. "They are very proud of that opportunity."

Ludwig said her daughter, Reece, joined her at the KLIP camp held this summer and is now begging to be part of it as she enters kindergarten.

"I wish we could have it for everybody," she said, "but then it wouldn't be called KLIP."