GREENFIELD — Students at Harris Elementary School were hard at work Wednesday morning – though many of them didn’t even realize it.
They leaned in close over board games and reached excitedly for the dice when their turn came around. They lined up eagerly to go to the computer lab, then peered with keen interest into computer monitors bearing colorful pictures and stories.
Summer school kicked off in two school districts throughout the county this week. Elementary school students in both Greenfield-Central and Mt. Vernon schools will be spending the next few weeks getting some extra help from teachers who are hopeful the remediation will prepare them to move forward while energizing them about learning. Students at the junior high and high school level will spend their time working ahead, hoping to make their schedules lighter by getting some coursework out of the way while school is out of session.
Southern Hancock students start summer school Monday. Eastern Hancock is not holding classes this summer.
At Greenfield-Central, summer school remediation on the elementary level is dedicated solely to students who failed the critical IREAD-3 test, which measures reading skills and determines whether a student is prepared to move on to the fourth grade.
The stakes are high: The majority of students who fail the test a second time after the three-week remediation will be retained. There are some exceptions made for those in special-education programs.
But teachers work hard to keep the process from being too intimidating, Harris Principal Jan Kehrt said Wednesday. They plan fun activities and make sure the students’ tasks are varied so they don’t lose interest.
“It is really neat … because the children come out and say, ‘Oh, that went so fast,’” Kehrt said. “They’re engaged, and they’re excited about it.”
Marti Dudley, one of Greenfield-Central’s literacy coaches who are teaching summer school this year, said the children start the program somewhat apprehensive. They already know they have failed a test that many of their classmates passed, and that can be intimidating.
“We kind of let go of it,” Dudley said. “I really see this as ‘show what you know.’ I want to bring out the positives.”
Part of the process is also about building confidence, a process that is easier in a smaller classroom of students who are on a similar level.
“They’re really not competing against each other,” Kehrt said. “They’re bettering themselves.”
The best part is when they have fun doing it.
Wednesday morning, 10-year-old Jerry Thompson huddled over a board game similar to Scrabble, trying to decide which word he could spell next.
“Matthew’s still in the lead!” he declared.
“Ooh, I can spell ‘cat,’ ” Matthew Polk chimed in, examining the letters in front of him.
Some of the three-hour day will be spent doing straightforward reading exercises, Dudley said, but students will also be encouraged to discover other places where their reading skills come in handy.
That can be on anything from a game card to a dinner menu.
“We give them opportunities to experience reading in different ways,” she said. “Every day, I kind of increase the difficulty, so they can continue to see that success.”