It may have been the bananas and apples that got them going after school, but it was certainly the encouragement they received from Principal Rachael Postle-Brown that kept them moving forward. That’s because these students are staying after school with a goal: to increase reading fluency and mathematical know-how. And they’re doing it with the help of dedicated volunteers from Grand Valley State University, parents, and their principal.
Pinewood Elementary School’s math and reading support groups offer the additional academic practice some students need to hone skills and solidify new concepts. They explore strategies covered in class but approach them in new ways to increase their staying power. Using dice to conceptualize mixed numbers and working with number cubes to reinforce the significance of numerators and denominators were just two of the activities planned for this session.
While students whose learning styles are more tactical and hands-on appreciate the a more creative take on math, Mrs. Postel-Brown says it’s not just the techniques employed that help make the math stick — it’s the fact that parents are involved in supporting the process.
“Our parents are fantastic and so encouraging! We do our best to keep the lines of communication open and work together.”
The other component of the academic after-school program is focused on reading fluency. Mark Boersma, a Master’s Student at GVSU, uses the Read Naturally curriculum to help strengthen comprehension and reinforce the use of expression in reading.
“I’ve noticed a definite change,” Mr. Boersma says. “Right now we’re working on writing summary responses and are focusing on punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. We’re monitoring their progress, and by using a lot of repetition and reading interesting stories, we’re making advances.”
Over in the Pinewood gym, Dee Perry is providing care and individualized attention to kids in the before- and after-school program. Affectionately called “Mrs. D” by her students, this beloved woman spends her energies not on academics (although they do read many books!), but on childcare.
With hours of care from 6:45- 9 in the morning and again from 3:45 – 6 after school, Mrs. Perry has spent the last decade loving kids by providing them with a quiet reading space, help with homework, a snack to munch on, and playtime right at Pinewood Elementary. Currently there are forty-two students registered and thirty-eight actively attending. “Mrs. D” says she can’t wait to be with her group each and every day; they have truly become “her kids.”
“I just love interacting with and working with the kids! They make me laugh. I love seeing them grow and advance as people. It’s a great job!”