Parents can learn a lot from their kids. That’s the philosophy of the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district, which recently held its third annual Celebration of Learning.
The event featured 4-year-olds in pre-kindergarten leading parents in a discussion concerning the child’s progress. The students explain using a data folder.
The data folders contain records of a student’s progress. It includes such things as coloring projects, letters of the alphabet, various shapes and counting number, said Shea Stanfield-McGarrah, the district’s pre-K coordinator.
“We’re asking students to be accountable for their own learning,” Stanfield-McGarrah said.”Our little bitty ones can go through their data folder and articulate really well, even ones who came to us with problems speaking English.”
There are about 645 students on 16 campuses in pre-K in the district, she said. The program is also geared toward parents getting more involved in helping their children advance their education. This is where the data folder plays a key role, she said.
The children sit on their parents’ laps and “take them through the folder step by step, going into detail, “ said Stanfield-McGarrah.
“Let’s just say a kiddo knows numbers 1 through 8 and there’s 10 spaces,” she said. “He’s able to color eight spaces and knows he’s missing two numbers. He can tell his mom and dad he doesn’t know those numbers, but he knows there are two more learn and they can help with that.”
Nam Ngo is a parent whose son Franklin is in the program at Viridian Elementary School.
“We’re glad we got our son in. He didn’t even know how to hold a pencil, and now he can write his name legibly as well as read a few words and he knows his ABCs,” Ngo said. “He can identify shapes like hexagons and octagons — and this is a 4-year-old we’re talking about.”
These youngsters know where they are on the learning scale and are able to talk about it.
“It tells the family of gaps in learning and what to work on over the summer before landing in a kindergarten chair in August,” Stanfield-McGarrah said.
Promoting discipline and success
Stanfield-McGarrah said the H-E-B pre-K program also promotes conscious discipline. Students learn how to self-regulate behavior, another area in which parents can help.
“The most important thing to us as teachers is the look of pride in a child’s face,” said Kristina Conner, who was Viridian Elementary Teacher of the Year in 2015-16. “When they open that data file, it is so cute to see, and they are so happy to share it.”
Conner said the students are “writing in journals, drawing letters and writing numbers.”
Just as students with English as a second language have progressed in the program, Stanfield-McGarrah said the Celebration of Learning is also positive for adults who are still getting comfortable with the language.
“We try to break down barriers where many parents are uncomfortable coming into the school,” she said. “We welcome them and accept them, whatever language or culture they are from.
“We want to get all parents hooked early so they will stay with the child all the way through high school, working together side by side for the progress of that child.”
“It’s all about partnering with the parents. After all, parents really are their kids’ first teachers,” said Stanfield-McGarrah.