The Huntington School District’s campaign to lift academic performance has been embraced by students, who have signed onto several after school programs designed to improve their skills.
The current series of after school academic programs are focusing on students in grades 1-8. Superintendent James W. Polansky and his central office and building level teams have been relentless in their quest to provide every student with what they need to succeed.
The English language arts program that ran from October 11 through November 15 drew 130 students spread across grades 3-8. The after school math program that kicked off on November 29 has attracted 123 students on the same grade levels. Another 59 first and second graders are participating in an after school reading program that began on October 10 and will continue through January 11.
Huntington Assistant Superintendent for
Curriculum and Instruction Beth McCoy.
“In our English language arts after school extended learning program, students in grades 3-8 were engaged in reading, writing, listening and speaking activities related to different genres of books,” said Beth McCoy, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction who is overseeing the after school initiatives. “Depending upon their grade level, students were exposed to trickster tales, Greek and Roman myths or non-fiction titles about animals. Children practiced reading strategies that increased their skill as reader while developing knowledge related to the genre study. Through a book club model, students were exposed to different titles and authors in these units under the guidance of our skilled faculty.”
Improving Language, Vocabulary and Reading Skills
First and second grade students who are participating in the after school reading program are working with non-fiction texts to increase their oral language, vocabulary and reading skills. Small groups of students are studying a science or social studies topic. They may be studying different biomes or working on developing biographies about people who work in their school. Through these units of study, students generate questions for that focus research and develop note-taking skills to record facts. The end result of their work is a writing project that allows the children to share what they are learning.
Even after a long day of regular classes, students participating the program still find the energy needed to derive benefits from the extra instruction.
“While all of these programs are working to promote important literacy skills, the children also have an opportunity to work with friends and develop collaborative skills,” Ms. McCoy said.
Having Fun with Math
Third through sixth graders in the after school math program are participating in a variety of math activities. They will start with number talks to enhance their mental math skills. Number talks are viewed as an effective way for students to improve fact fluency while reinforcing number sense. Students are given a problem that they solve mentally. They share with a quiet thumb up when they have an answer and are encouraged to find other solutions while their classmates are still thinking. They then share their mathematical thinking while the teacher records a visual representation of their thought process. Students typically get very excited when they see all the different ways there are to solve the same problem.
Students will also be playing math games to reinforce concepts they have learned. After game time they will participate in an open ended math task or a math project geared to reinforce math at grade level. Some of the projects include designing a zoo (calculating area and perimeter of the cages to accommodate animal needs), planning a school pizza party (adding, subtracting and multiplying decimals), creating designs and then calculating the fraction of the whole and placing them on a number line.
Sixth graders will work on calculating the number of calories in a fast food meal and the required exercise it would take to burn off those calories. They will consider whether people would be more or less inclined to purchase a meal if they knew the amount of exercise it would take to burn it off.
On the middle school level the focus will be on the mathematics of construction as the seventh and eighth graders go about building a gingerbread house. Finley teachers Melanie DeMarco, Denise Grodzicki and Annette Stracuzza will be guiding students through this exploration that will center on such math concepts as surface area, ratio and proportion, unit rates, scale drawings and other topics involved in construction. Participants will be able to bring their own completed gingerbread house home with them.
“The after school math program is designed to help students see that math can be creative and fun, while reinforcing math skill that they need to succeed in the real world,” Ms. McCoy said.
As students head home from the after school academic programs they still manage to have a spring in their step. Where do they get their energy from?