Small class, big results

Published 7:09 pm Saturday, August 7, 2010

This summer at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, there are 10 students to a class, students are engaging in hands-on activities and teachers are acting as facilitators of information instead of lecturers.

You might call it the ideal classroom setting.

It is all part of the first STEP program to be held at the school and it runs through Aug. 12.

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“Walking by the classrooms, I’ve seen high student engagement, teachers acting as facilitators of information rather than the lecture style we were all raised with and storytelling, drama and kids responding and reflecting about everything they’ve been reading,” Elephant’s Fork Principal Veleka Gatling said. “It’s been outstanding to watch.”

STEP is the 2010 Summer Transitional and Enrichment Program hosted at Elephant’s Fork, with teachers and students from Booker T. Washington, Elephant’s Fork, Kilby Shores, Mount Zion and Mack Benn Jr. Elementary schools.

During the first week, students focused on reading. Next week, they will concentrate on math.

“We chose to target reading and math for upcoming third through fifth graders to help them with upcoming SOL tests they’ll be taking,” said Kimberly Barrett, STEP coordinator. “They’re both areas that students get the lowest SOL scores on. It gives them a little taste of what they’ll see in their new grade level during the fall.”

Besides improving test scores, the program also helps bridge the gap summer vacation creates between school years.

“With the absence of year-round schooling, children often learn information, and if they’re not constantly brought back to it, they lose it,” Gatling said. “Often times, teachers have to spend the first two weeks of their school year reminding kids what they were taught the year before. This can help bridge that gap and get them started for the next grade level.”

To increase the program’s effectiveness, class sizes are limited to 10 students to each teacher.

“Teachers get a better feel for what students do and don’t know and can get a better idea of where their students are,” Gatling said. “No one can hide in a classroom of 10.”

Teachers also focus on making the lessons hands-on and fun for the kids.

“Especially during the summer, kids don’t want to come to school,” Gatling said.

“Some of these students already went to summer school,” Barrett said. “We try to make everything as creative and hands-on as we can. This past week, teachers read books with students and acted out different scenes with them. Next week, students will practice arithmetic with dice and playing cards.”

There were about 95 students who participated in the program this week, but as long as new sign-ups don’t cause class sizes to exceed 10 students, parents are still able to sign their children up for next week.

Classes are 8:30-noon, Monday through Thursday and include breakfast, snack and transportation.