Humbolt launches into three R's with kindergarten students

Humbolt Elementary instructional assistant Judy Grubbs coaches students with spelling and pronunciation of words and sentences. The kindergarten students include (from left) Taylor Edgar, Kaila Jensen and Will Meyer. The Eagle/DAVID CARKHUFF

CANYON CITY - The famous trio of reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic introduces itself early at Humbolt Elementary. Kindergarten students intermingle crafts and recess with stints of number memorization and recitation of the letters of the alphabet.

"What I really think it is, is we use curriculum-based measures here," said Humbolt Elementary principal Mark Burrows, explaining the school's success on state assessments. "We do running records and reading probes so we can tell you exactly how well your child is reading. We do the same thing in mathematics."

Faculty also make learning fun. Teachers and instructional assistants provide a lively interaction with children by bantering with flash cards and letter boards. Burrows dons a wizard's outfit to test students' math comprehension. He rewards students for meeting reading goals by playing self-deprecating pranks such as dying his own hair.

On the more serious side, progress is reflected in stars posted in the cafeteria bearing students' names and level of advancement and with running assessment reports. Students all the way down to kindergarten level practice basic math and reading.

Every road leads back to understanding and improvement within the structured lesson plans, Burrows said.

"We're giving them real-world tests in the terms of the curriculum they're studying," he explained.

In the third year of the "Optimize" program, Shermayne Boethin's kindergarten class stays on task, with the help of instructional assistants Judy Grubbs and Carla Zinn and helper Dorothy VandeHey, who participates in the foster grandparent program. Fifteen students break into groups of five to write and recite words and sentences. At one table, they advance from words like "lap" and "pal" to "apples" and "fantastic."

The daily schedule includes time for other less strenuous activities such as sharing, crafts and, of course, recess.

But school employees recognize that numerical recognition is the launch pad for math comprehension; a phonics-based curriculum is a key toward students becoming more and more aware of what they are reading.

"The end game is comprehension," Burrows noted.

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