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posted: Wed, Dec 3rd, 2014
All photos courtesy of Heather Fairbairn

Bring Your Parent To School Day

Kindergarten classes in both the a.m. and p.m. sessions recently held a Bring Your Parent To School Day. The special event allowed parents to see firsthand how teachers Tracy Church and Christine Trevorrow work with their children.

While there were a number of activities done, the primary focus of the day was to show parents effective strategies that can help their kids be better readers. 

“Parents don’t know what to say when kids come to a word they don’t understand,” said Ms. Trevorrow. “They use what we were taught – sound it out – but that works for less than 50% of the words in the English language.”

The parents were taught the two primary techniques that Ms. Church and Ms. Trevorrow use – visual clues and primary word sounds. Beginning readers benefit most from looking at the pictures before reading a page and when they are stuck on a word; it’s a strategy that helps children with comprehension too. The rich drawings and graphics in storybooks don’t just illustrate the text, they provide a context for the words on the page.

Another strategy the teachers often use is to have students focus on the first letter of the unknown word and make just that one sound. Often, the students will be able to take that sound and combine it with the visual clues and what makes sense in the story to come up with the tricky word.

As part of the event, each class also read a Pete The Cat book aloud together and completed a craft project with their parents as a remembrance of Bring Your Parent To School Day. Each project featured handprints of parent and student, a photo of the two taken earlier in the school day, and a short poem about togetherness.

“This was really a great opportunity for parents to see exactly what their kids do in the classroom,” said Ms. Church. “We went over some things at Back To School Night, but that’s so short. Here we had time to fill the day with fun, love, and learning, and give parents real tools to help their kids too.”

Ms. Church and Ms. Trevorrow created and gave out short brochures that included descriptions of effective reading strategies and questions that parents can ask their children to get them talking about books they’ve read or are reading. These conversation starters also help students to understand and process what they’ve read.

Sandshore sizzles in the morning

Sizzle, Sandshore’s new before-school program, provides breakfast for the brain. About 20 students in grades 3-5 are participating in Sizzle to reinforce their language arts skills. The content of the early morning program mirrors what students are learning in their regular classrooms.

There are two distinct components to Sizzle. Students use Acellus, an interactive online learning system that customizes instruction based on their strengths and weaknesses. In Acellus, students watch videos of actual teachers teaching and then answer questions to test what they’ve learned. The videos are brief and cover a range of topics such as grammar, vocabulary, parts of speech, sentence structure, and components of a story –really everything that is included in the language arts curriculum for a student’s grade level. 

“What’s really special about Acellus is that everyone advances at their own pace,” said teacher Janet Greco who is coordinating the program. “Acellus lets students move forward only after they have mastered whatever step or skill they are on. We also have a live student monitor to see what kids are studying and identify who may need extra help. It’s a great way to individualize instruction. Kids are really enthusiastic about it because it provides positive reinforcement at key times.”

The second component of Sizzle consists of story readings, group discussions, and writing assignments. The students read short folk stories and fables from the Junior Great Book series then participate in a shared discussion group. The teachers guide the students through the process of interpreting the stories themselves and determining the meanings. The students often are asked to write their own opinions and conclusions too or compare and contrast characters. All four core language arts skills are covered: writing, speaking, reading, and listening. 

“We had a vision to not just teach facts and skills, but to get kids thinking,” said Nicole Musarra, Sandshore principal. “We’re already seeing success with the program. Internal assessments show that literacy skills have jumped.”

Sizzle meets four times a week for 45 minutes per day, beginning at 8 a.m.

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Sandshore School
498 Sandshore Rd Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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