July 31, 2008

Stepping Stones Teaches Classroom Expectations and Fundamentals

By Laura Collins, The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.

Jul. 31--DURHAM -- If the lights aren't working in the restroom, it must be because of a monster.

At least that's the conclusion a group of future Durham Public Schools students arrived at during their playtime Wednesday at E.K. Powe.

Throughout the day phrases like "mushroom feet," which instructs children to walk quietly in the halls, songs inspiring cleanup and cooperation and group reading can be heard in the halls of the school. All are in effort to prepare young students for their first day of school.

About 30 incoming kindergartners at the school are participating in a four-week "transition to kindergarten" summer program called Stepping Stones. The program is geared toward students who have had little or no preschool experience and works toward teaching first-day-of-school fundamentals and classroom expectations.

"The idea that arose was to fill that gap and meet their needs," said Andrea Hamilton, program coordinator and Duke University graduate student. "If students know what's expected of them in terms of social skills and behavior, then they can focus on learning."

The program is sponsored by the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, which is part of the Office of Durham and Regional Affairs at Duke University.

The program also provided three evening workshops for parents and families on the topics of literacy, developmental milestones and getting your child ready for school.

The students are wrapping up their final week and have been going from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Each day the students focus on a few primary objectives: developing their prereading, math and kindergarten readiness skills. This includes learning the alphabet, recognizing their name when it's written, colors, the proper way to hold a book and tools for learning how to read, among many other things.

This year the program is also helping about 15 rising first-graders who were identified by their teachers as needing a little extra help before the start of first grade.

Though both groups of students' academic progress won't be evident until pre-program tests are compared to end of program assessments, the social progress of the students is already evident. One student had two firsts Wednesday: He apologized to another student without being prompted and he apologized in English, his second language.

Candy Howard, co-director of the program for the district, said the program benefits the children as well as their new teachers.

"A great thing that's going to come out of this program is that we have now so much information for the teachers that have these children," she said.

The program's teachers are also teachers or assistants at E.K. Powe during the school year.


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