A Wonderful (Reading) Thing

Kids dash across the playground to update Ms. Pollett-Boyle on their progress. Since I’m the lucky one to distribute certificates when students complete a level, I’m swarmed daily with messages of “I’m done Level 5!” or “I’m now travelling in Egypt!” or the rather direct “Where’s my certificate?” The first week after Christmas holidays I heard more about levels achieved over the break than about presents under the tree.

Lexia at KCSLast year we piloted a new online reading program called Lexia Core 5. It is offered as a supplement that students can use at school and at home, even on holiday if they so choose. It’s an adaptive program that helps develop core reading skills at the level and pace that’s individualized to be just right for every student. It includes re-teaching after mistakes, compelling graphics, and enticing little interludes, all designed to support, motivate, and optimize learning. The pilot was an evident success. One family was so impressed they generously offered to purchase a 3 year school-wide license. Each week, between 40 and 105 young students log on to accelerate their reading skills. — A heartfelt thank you to this family!

It’s wonderful to watch students learn. It’s not always adrenaline-fueled. The pace can be slow. On skills that are difficult, the school includes a fair amount of push and pull on the teachers’ part. So imagine the pleasure watching dozens of students driven to read (even learning the boring stuff like ‘dipthongs’ and other pesky vowel rules!).

Full disclosure, some runaway enthusiasm has led to excessive competition. That was a topic for a recent class meeting, and one more worthwhile lesson thanks to this powerful tool.

Lots of wonderful things happen at KCS and we’ve written about many of them already – the proof is in our blogs. Children swarming me with their achievement in reading? This certainly counts as one more.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

Build Pride and Confidence in Reading and Watch Self-Esteem Soar

There’s a young student at school who I have worked with for a couple of years now. When I first met her, she was a bright-eyed, energetic child, with a wonderful imagination, who delighted in challenging me to games. When she was able to surprise me or beat me at a game, the laugh that rang out of her was pure joy.  She was an absolute delight – confident and happy.

But the next year, she was less enthusiastic, especially when it came time to read out loud. In fact, she would often have spontaneous aches, pains, or itchy bug bites that would prevent her from reading to me. I soon realised that she was no longer feeling confident about reading, and no amount of reassurance from me seemed to help for more than a few minutes.

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Ms. Pollett-Boyle working with Lexia. Her holiday outfit courtesy of KCS Spirit Day – Beach Day.

Mid-year, I introduced her to Lexia.

At first, she needed encouragement to use the program, and a little support to help her understand the instructions. But once she had a little taste of success, that started to change. Soon, she was regularly coming up to my desk to tell me about the 20-second humorous videos that tell the student they have met the target number of correct responses for that task.  (As we know, brain research shows that humour creates new neural pathways which help move new knowledge to long term memory.)

Passing a level in Lexia is the equivalent of a third of a grade level – or one term. Each level has scenes from a particular place, and the mini videos are connected to that location. Students travel the world as they progress. The day this student received her first visit from our Assistant Head, Academics, Mme Fanjoy, to congratulate her on moving up a level in Lexia, it was a real turning point in her motivation. It was an enormous achievement, and she knew it – and it also meant she was leaving London and going on to explore Paris!

Her new motivation to pass another level was evident. Each day she would stop me or Mme Fanjoy to tell us she had worked on Lexia the night before (a fact I already knew, because teachers can check on their students’ progress online). One day she came into class and told me she was having “Lexia dreams” at night, in which she passed 30 levels all at once.

Then, on one sunny spring day, I was out on yard duty for recess. I watched as this student ran full speed toward me, all the way from the entrance of the park, with a huge smile on her face. Of course I already knew what she was going to tell me (I had been rooting for her at home the night before, when I checked in to Lexia to see how she was doing), but nothing could have beat that look of pride and confidence that she had when she told me she had passed another level. Goodbye Paris – hello NEXT LEVEL CITY!

Teresa Pollett-Boyle
Learning Strategies Teacher, Drama teacher, Arts Coordinator

Who We Become

“The quietest people have the loudest minds.”…This is exactly how I would describe myself. It’s like it was written for me. But KCS has helped me express all that creative energy swirling through my mind by teaching me about the importance of communication, the importance of patience, and most of all, the importance of being yourself.” — A grade 6 student

LearningEach May, our grade 6 students write a final five-paragraph essay describing the most important ways in which they’ve grown over the course of the year. The three paragraphs that followed the one above described in detail how the myriad of lessons, projects, opportunities and personal choices throughout the year led to this student’s self-assessment. It’s all part of how this one student came to know more about what matters in life. All of our students have their own story of growth.

That’s half of what I love about KCS. Each day we’re surrounded by students growing, whether in reading, writing, math, research, public-speaking, confidence, leadership, service, performance, creativity, empathy and every other possible way that matters.

The other half of what I love about KCS is how, as a member of staff, we also get to grow. While we collectively bring many strengths to our jobs, and we gladly share them with our students, we’re all also constantly growing, whether through curriculum reviews, workshops, returning to university, endless online courses, professional learning networks, professional reading, and frequent meetings, formal and informal, to address challenges, seize opportunities, and just become better every day.

This summer had me learning about design thinking, electronics with Littlebits and programming with Arduino. Three years ago, I never would have imagined I’d be learning those things! I’ve also been learning a lot about all the creative energy that can be expressed with these in the KCS tool kit, and I look forward to sharing more about how this will increasingly happen at KCS in upcoming blogs.

There’s actually a lot more I love about KCS, but watching students grow, and having the opportunity to grow alongside them, is what I anticipate most as the new school year is set to begin. KCS students can look forward to a great year of learning ahead. KCS staff look forward to the same.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy