WMS, WLC students share a day of reading
By Angie Landsverk
Waupaca elementary and middle school students turned Read Across America into Read Across the Parking Lot.
On March 2, about 650 students from Waupaca Middle School walked to Waupaca Learning Center to read with younger students there.
“I think it’s just great for them to interact with each other and practice their reading skills. They were both excited,” said Renee Draeger, who teaches kindergarten at WLC.
Read Across America is held annually on March 2, the birthday of children’s author Dr. Seuss.
In Draeger’s classroom, her students wore crazy blue hair on their heads, created earlier that day out of paper for the occasion.
Fifth-grade students from Brad Hedtke’s class read Dr. Seuss books with Draeger’s students.
His students also read with Faye Klismet’s kindergarten class.
“We’re coming back,” Hedtke said. “My students have been so excited about it. For them to be leaders and come here and visit is awesome.”
Establishing a long-term relationship with a partner class is something many teachers want, said Joan Holman, the technology integrator at WMS.
When English teachers at WMS were asked if they wanted to encourage reading on Read Across America Day by partnering with elementary students, Holman said the middle and elementary school teachers all said, “Yes.”
The idea to walk across the parking lot and read to WLC students grew out of an attempt to use a piece of technology currently on loan from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, she said.
The Cisco Telepresence Device is part of the Wisconsin Technology Initiative.
Last August, Sheila Kroseberg, the middle school’s Family and Consumer Education teacher won the “loan” in a raffle at a workshop.
Since receiving the machine in January, the machine has been used for virtual meetings for staff, meetings with experts for students and for things like skits shared virtually with others, Holman said.
Some students in Mary Ann Snider’s WMS English class read virtually with students at Chain O’ Lakes Elementary School by putting on headsets with microphones and joining an online meeting room with their partners.
During Read Across the Parking Lot, the students spent 20 minutes reading together.
Jan Bergen’s kindergarten class at WLC read with Kate Gambsky’s fifth-grade class.
“Five year olds really admire older kids,” Bergen said.
Often, the younger students see the older students playing sports and associate them only with athletics, she said.
In this instance, her kindergartners saw the fifth graders using their brains.
One of the books kindgartner Gavin Swisher read with fifth grader Abigail Gilson was “My Day.”
Bergen described the book as being from a “we both read” series, which involves the older reader reading a page and then the younger reader reading the next page.
Logan Thompson, a fifth grader, sat in a rocking chair, reading to kindergartner Kylar Ayres.
Both students said it was fun to read books together.
Gambsky said it was a way for her students to be a good example to the younger students, because “the kindergartners look up to them.”
She said, “It’s always good to build a relationship between the younger kids and set a good example as role models.”
Holman said the idea is to also have the students work on social skills and communication skills as part of distance learning.
“I hope it’s a lasting relationship,” she said. “Our network is beefed up enough to handle virtual relationships, virtual connections between classrooms. That’s what we want to encourage.”
Bergen said, “It’s fun to have somebody who is interested in your learning. We’re encouraging all this learning.”
She said a timid child may easily be drawn out by an older child.
“Another child is learning. It’s not so scary,” Bergen said. “It’s one-on-one, someone paying attention to them.”
Holman said when younger students partner with older students, it provides an authentic audience for writing, plays, demonstrations and singing.
“It’s all about connections we make that will enrich lives and enrich education,” she said.