Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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5K goes all day at Woods School

by Steve Targo

September 29, 2011

GENEVA — The bristles of Barbara Mueller's paintbrush tickled the bottoms of young feet belonging to the children in her kindergarten class at Woods School.

As she painted their soles orange, red or blue, they giggled, threw back their heads and shook their hands.

Once the paint glistened off their feet, they walked across a large rectangle of white paper, then soaked their feet in a plastic container filled with water.

Mueller said when she was little and they did this kind of thing in school, they called it a "footprint freeze." It's the kind of thing she can do now because of the newly expanded all-day program at Woods.

"Finally," Mueller said, indicating this is something she's wanted for some time. "See? This is the nice thing about an all-day program. We can take time to do stuff like this."

It's more important than some might expect for kindergarten students to have their feet painted then to leave their footprint on a gigantic sheet of paper.

The purpose of the exercise, according to Mueller, is to reinforce her lessons about feet and the letter F.

Also, it's just fun for the kids.

"School isn't all about learning to write and ABCs," Mueller said.

Judging by her smile whenever her paintbrush touched those little feet, she enjoyed it as much as the children.

"She has wanted to do this for almost as long as she has been here," Woods Administrator Ed Brzinski said during a Sept. 7 interview.

He said they looked at going all-day to gain more time with kindergartners.

Brzinski said as a result of going all-day, they hired a new 4-year-old kindergarten teacher Katelyn Mabry. Making use of limited space, 4-K takes place in the art room on Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays. Mueller, who used to teach both kindergarten classes, now focuses on 5-K.

Although Brzinski said this change allows them to offer more "academics," his sentiments about the other aspects coincide with Mueller's statement, at least in the sense that school isn't just "ABCs."

"There's social and emotional preparation involved with kindergarten students," Brzinski said. "We're training them to be students, basically, but we're fitting in academics, too. Now, this gives (Mueller) more time to do the developmental, social and emotional activities to help them develop and to become academic."

With two kindergarten classes, Woods teachers engage their students in different ways to prepare them for first-grade.

According to Brzinski, the school's 4-year-old kindergarten class emphasizes basic language skills and reading and math readiness in addition to standard material such as recognizing numbers and shapes.

5-K treads into the social aspects of school along with an introduction into academics. Now, these students keep daily journals and are part of a sustained math program.

"Our direct hope is the kindergarten kids will be more advanced when they get to first-grade," Brzinski said.

The bigger picture

That dovetails into another change this year at Woods School — a new math program.

"The new math program, Math Connects, was for sixth- through eighth-graders last year," Brzinski said. "This year, it's K-5 as well."

He said he believes teachers felt consistency was lacking prior to adopting this standardized program to help in preparing a core curriculum for students. It also takes advantage of new technologies, such as SMART boards in Woods classrooms to access the Web.

"On some levels, the (Math Connects) software is adaptive," Brzinski said. "If a student, say, does well, it will keep pushing that student. If a student is having a problem, it backs up and keeps drilling them on that (lesson)."

According to Brzinski, the software gauges a student's performance. Teachers receive performance data and will use it to tailor their lessons.

He said for several years, Woods teachers have been looking for other materials to help students reach their maximum potential.

With Math Connects being used last year for sixth- through eighth-graders, Brzinski said he looked at last year's data from standardized tests.

"The greatest growth last year was from sixth-grade on," he said. "Teachers like (Math Connects) for its consistency and success, and the School Board was supportive of that."

Brzinski said Woods also is using Voyager, another adaptive software, but this one helps below-level students in reading.