Russell Elementary School teacher Shannalee Finlayson wanted to brighten her classroom environment with new instruments and a mural on the white sound panels lining her east wall. The KEF funded project was awarded last Fall with help from an anonymous donor who wanted to positively impact the learning environment at Russell. LEC Teacher Laura McCann working with her art student Becky Goodloe (pictured) completed the mural this past week.
Russell Elementary School
Susan N. Hanson, a teacher at Russell Elementary School, recently sent an update on her project funded by the KEF in the Fall of 2012. Here is her report:
Ready to Read – Home School Collaboration- Project Report
KEF grant awarded Fall, 2012
Susan N Hanson, Russell Communication Preschool
The Ready to Read project was funded by the Kalispell Education Foundation in the fall of 2012, and was designed to extend learning into the home by providing books and specialized information for parents to use. Children enrolled in Communication Preschool, a Special Education preschool program for 3 & 4 year olds with significant speech language delays, were the targeted student population. Books were purchased for the children to use at home on a weekly basis. The books, in a specially created book bag, included parent information on ways to use that specific book to improve early literacy skills as well as information on kindergarten readiness skills in general.
Book selection and purchase was completed in January 2013 with the support and assistance from the staff at Bookworks (our local bookstore). Orientation occurred during parent conferences in late February and “Fun Bags” were sent home weekly beginning the second week in March.
Response was positive from both parents and children right from the start. Each book was selected to help reinforce a letter/sound that was presented the same week. The book bags were created and donated by a good friend and former teacher, Jane Crawford. The children loved the bright red bags and parents reported that they provided a place to safely keep the books and also helped remind them to return the book each week.
Some program logistics evolved as the program was implemented. How to keep track as books were returned, what to do about missing books, who would fill bags (and when), were all problems that solved themselves as they arose. Preparation was time consuming this year as each activity unit and parent information sheet had to be created (see attached). Book units for the first half of the alphabet as well as 12 more parent information sheets will be finished for next year. A parent orientation meeting will take place during fall, 2013 Open House at Russell Elementary and Fun Bags will start going home in early October.
In an end of the year survey, 100% of the parents responding indicated they had read each book with their child at least twice, with over half reading books 3 or more times each week. 100% also reported completing at least one of the suggested activities and finding the information related to kindergarten readiness helpful.
One parent said, “We read it [the book] in the car before we leave school the day he receives it!” Another parent commented “It has really helped him develop an interest for books. He won’t let me sit down and read one of our books to him, but he loves these from school”. “My child loves the Fun Bag because she gets homework like her sister. [My daughter] has tried so hard to be responsible for and keep track of her book to bring back every week.”
As a teacher, I agree with parents that I have noticed an increased interest in books as well as the ability to answer more in-depth, higher level questions and comprehend more difficult vocabulary as the children become more familiar with each story. It appears to me that when parents are provided ideas on ways to extend learning and information on the kinds of things children need to know, they are willing to spend more time and become more involved with their child’s education. Although testing of incoming kindergarteners will not be completed until fall this year, I feel that my students will move on to kindergarten more prepared than ever and the Fun Bag program is part of the reason.
I have appreciated the opportunity to implement this program for the students in Communication Preschool. Thank-you to the Kalispell Education Foundation for your support.