Beyond the Books : High Goals and Huge Strides
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Big things are happening in the K-4 elementary program at East Wake Academy. Known for its academic excellence and small neighborhood school feel, this K-12 charter school boasts a strong network of students, teachers, parents and community leaders. East Wake Academy is also quickly becoming a model charter school by providing a challenging and creative environment for children in eastern Wake County. The faculty and staff are constantly looking at new ways to engage the students and have implemented a few new programs that are making huge strides.
Barton Tutoring and Letterland
One of the programs that has had a significant impact at the elementary level is the Barton Tutoring program. Before this program started, many students were unable to read at grade level and falling behind. Now, assessments are done very early on so the students can get the help they need right from the beginning. The Barton Tutoring program is available at no extra charge to eligible students at East Wake Academy.
“Before the Barton Tutoring program started, we had a significant number of students not reading at grade level and struggling with reading challenges, such as dyslexia,” said Jennifer Hinton, a first grade teacher at East Wake Academy. “Now we are seeing issues and special needs addressed much earlier so they are not falling behind in second and third grade.”
East Wake Academy is also in its third year of Letterland for students in Kindergarten, first and second grade. Letterland is a systematic, scientific research-based instructional program designed to support literacy learning. Letterland includes multi-sensory methods for reading and spelling. This highly acclaimed program has helped bring the alphabet to life and make reading fun for the younger students.
The elementary classrooms at East Wake Academy look quite different than the typical arrangement you would expect to see in a first grade classroom. Studies show that children often learn better and have greater focus when their environment is more interactive, so the elementary teachers at East Wake Academy implemented a cutting edge layout for their classrooms. Desks and chairs are configured differently to allow for more collaboration, and you might even find bouncy balls and trampolines so the kids can take breaks and move. It’s no surprise this flexible seating plan has been a huge hit with the kids, but it has also done wonders for productivity in the classroom.
According to Hinton, one of the best things about East Wake is that the leaders fully support individual creativity and programs like flexible seating while still including common core standards and administering required benchmarks.
If you let kids use their imagination about something they are interested in amazing things can happen. We have all seen that the best ideas and initiatives are often rooted in something about which we are passionate.
Fourth grade teacher, Shavonda Scales, introduced Genius Hour to give students a chance to pick a topic or issue that interests them and to think big and research these ideas. Today, she and the other fourth grade teachers include Genius Hour as a part of the instructional day, and the results have been inspiring. Kids are working and reading together and learning about research. One of the ideas that came out of this group was an anti-bullying club that is now being rolled out at the school-wide level.
Additionally, Mrs. Scales recently accompanied two of her students to the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Chapel Hill. The students used a bakery and other fundraising efforts to raise money for goodie bags for children staying at the RMH. The students hope to return and volunteer.
“We earned the title of an Honor School of Excellence in the 2011-2012 school year,” said Hinton. “The title affirms the efforts and determination of our students, teachers and parents, and we continue to strive for excellence while remembering that relationships and perseverance is the key to student success.”
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