Cherry Valley Elementary Staff, Families Help Remote Students Grow
The 2020-2021 academic year began with many uncertainties for our full-time remote students, families and staff. We all wondered, how will remote learning work? How will our students continue growing academically, socially and emotionally? What about technology problems? This uncharted territory could not feel more intimidating. The big question was, “How will we get through this?”
Weeks passed by and the answer became clearer. There is only one way to get through this unprecedented year: With a supportive community.
So what is a day in the life of a remote learner like?
A large portion of kindergarten is centered around learning social skills and making friends. My 26 kindergarten students surprise me every day with their abilities to navigate technology, follow classroom expectations, learn and socialize with their peers. These young learners are eager to learn and grow together. I am especially proud of my students for taking their new friendships to the next level by helping each other learn. They work together to sound out words to read and write, give ideas for a project, count in small group math, and respectfully agree or disagree with an idea. Our kindergarten students are resilient, and together, they will do wonderful things.
Encouraging Social Interactions
It is safe to say that socialization is crucial for all remote learners, regardless of grade. First grade at Cherry Valley has also seen encouraging social interactions. Donene Sand, one of our first grade remote teachers, has used Zoom to create playdate opportunities for her students. Sand said, “We love our Zoom playdates. Every week we have a Zoom playdate after school. The class enjoys time to play with toys and chat with their friends. It adds some fun socialization to an experience that can be a little lonely. We use breakout rooms to play with friends from kindergarten, make new friends, or play with similar toys. Sometimes we have Play-Doh rooms, action figure rooms, and LEGO rooms. It is a great opportunity to have fun and build friendships.”
Measuring Academic Growth
Our first grade remote learners have also seen a great deal of academic growth. First grade remote teacher Megan Clauson is overjoyed with how much her students have grown in reading this year! In September, Clauson’s class had 5 of 28 students reading at or above grade level. She could see how much her students were capable of and put many things in place to help her students grow. With additional support from families, Clauson’s first grade students have overall had excellent attendance, especially for Reading Horizons and Integrated Literacy lessons. Students have done a wonderful job participating in guided reading groups and have consistently logged into Reading Horizons Clubhouse daily. All of this hard work has led her class to currently have 14 students at or above grade level for reading, with three more students close to reaching that same level. Clauson is excited to see how much more growth her students will have by the end of the year!
Of course, we would not see all of this academic growth without the support of families at home. Kaitlyn Smith, Cherry Valley’s grades 3-5 Cross-Categorical teacher, says the most important element to her class’ remote learning success is from the abundance of parent support, engagement and communication. Smith’s classroom has students with a variety of eligibilities who require individual accommodations and modifications. Her students use point charts to hold themselves accountable for their remote learning. She is especially proud of her students for making gains in both their reading levels and sight words. Five of her nine students have improved their reading levels since September! Smith, along with the classroom paraprofessional, Kim Carlson, work very hard to keep their students engaged. They do not let remote learning stop them from fun, hands-on activities to continue learning!
Cherry Valley parent Aaron Goodin said, “Remote learning has given me the opportunity to use my son's strengths to help him continue to grow and to develop new ways for him to learn from home."
Cherry Valley’s fourth and fifth grade students have been quite impressive throughout this year. They have taken charge of their own learning and have shown great versatility. The older students have also taken part in engaging activities. Fourth grade teacher Janet Blatchford says her students have been working on creating Google Slides to represent figurative language. They have learned to use text boxes, search websites for appropriate images, and paste an active link to share a video for each slide. Blatchford says, “I am so proud of the effort and problem solving skills that these fourth grade students build upon daily. Their perseverance and hard work is paying off!”
Keys to Success
Natalie Sommers’ 32 fifth grade remote learners have been attendance rockstars! Sommers says, “I could not be prouder of my fifth grade remote students! One key to success in education is attendance, and this class has done a dynamite job. We average between 92 to 100 percent student attendance daily! These kids have been amazing with the skills they have shown using technology. We have done a great deal of research and projects with our Integrated Literacy and writing. We have created many slideshows, research projects and newspapers to show what we have learned. We have worked on many math skills and found our math kits to be extremely helpful in helping us visualize these skills. I can’t wait to see what the remainder of the remote learning year looks like! Keep it up Cherry Valley Chargers! You are doing a fantastic job!”
It truly takes a village to raise a child. Here at Cherry Valley Elementary School we have not only developed the strong village, but we have become a family. We have been invited into the homes of nearly 240 remote students. Teachers, parents, siblings and guardians have worked together diligently to provide the best education to our students. We are proud to be Cherry Valley and RPS 205 strong! #GoChargers #OurKidsRock #RPS205Proud
Gracie Caltagerone is a second-year teacher and proud to be teaching kindergarten at Cherry Valley Elementary School. She was born and raised in the greater Rockford area and attended St. Norbert College near Green Bay, Wis.
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