For most schoolchildren, the first few weeks of classes mean getting readjusted to a full day of classes, reviewing the things they forgot over the summer and, for younger students, becoming more familiar with and less intimidated by their teachers.
Some students at Woodlawn School have already done all that, despite the fact that classes in the Lawrence school district don't start until Tuesday.
For the last two weeks, 17 students have spent an hour a day reviewing math, and 14 students have spent an hour a day brushing up on their reading as part of a "Skills Review Program." Some students took part in both classes.
The classes are part of the Chapter I program, in which students having difficulties with math or reading receive instruction that supplements what they're taught in the regular classroom.
THE CHAPTER I classes usually are for 20 to 30 minutes a day during the regular school year. However, said Sherry Catt, Chapter I math coordinator, "We thought it was a good idea to give the kids kind of a head start."
Sandra Berman, who taught the math course, said, "I'm a big believer that the summer break is pretty long, and kids forget a lot of their math facts and how to do math. A lot of students need a refresher."
The classes involved students who'll be entering grades two through seven. Second- and third-graders make up one class, and the other students participate in another.
Math activities included figuring word problems, learning to count out change and budgeting to buy a week's worth of groceries.
"WE'RE TRYING to make the kids realize that math exists outside the classroom," Catt said. "We're also trying to get all the kids to enjoy math and not be afraid of it."
Playing a big part in making the math fun were some computer programs. Berman said one program that teaches students about fractions resembles a Pac-Man video game. But instead of trying to munch goblins, the students must try to eat only those fractions on the screen that equal one-half, for example.
In the reading class, students were required to write something each day in response to a book read by the teacher. The teacher worked with students on vocabulary and comprehension. And students were involved in "whole language" reading activities, in which they must read an entire piece of writing, be it a poem or a newspaper article.
"FOR KIDS who have not had a chance to do a lot of reading over the summer or practice their writing, the class will be a big boost for when school starts," said Karen Davies, Chapter I reading coordinator.
Students also engaged in sustained silent reading, which is academic jargon for leisure reading.
"The kids need to get a feel for reading for pleasure," Davies said.
Sue Siegfreid, who taught Chapter I reading for the district two years ago, taught the summer reading course.
Siegfreid, who now teaches third grade, said the summer course allowed her to work with some students who'll be in her class. Therefore, she said, they'll already have an idea of what she expects from them when they start school next week.
SIEGFREID SAID she was impressed with the students' positive attitude toward the summer course, especially considering that the classes began at 8:30 and 9:30 in the morning.
"Some were a little sleepy, but they were still enthusiastic," she said.
The classes ended today.