By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Students go online for summer school

Submitted photo##
Teacher Chandler Harrison, upper right, leads a small group session on Zoom during summer school. Students meet with their teachers online, then work on studies independently before going online again to review and take part in more lessons during the three-week program -- similar to what they will do when school begins Sept. 14.
Submitted photo## Teacher Chandler Harrison, upper right, leads a small group session on Zoom during summer school. Students meet with their teachers online, then work on studies independently before going online again to review and take part in more lessons during the three-week program -- similar to what they will do when school begins Sept. 14.

“Good morning, Mila! Good morning, Nicholas!” Harrison called out, waving at one youngster and holding two thumbs up as another appeared. “Yair, did you get a haircut? Makylie, how are you?”

The children waved back, returned the thumbs up, held pictures they had drawn or showed off their pets.

Some typed “Hi!!!” or “Good morning” onto the chat screen, greeting their classmates. They said they like seeing other students, even if they can’t be present in the same room.

The greetings and the lessons that followed weren’t all that different from what they would have been if summer school was meeting in a physical classroom — in this case, at Columbus Elementary School, where Harrison teaches during the regular academic year.

She is one of several teachers across McMinnville School District leading summer school classes this month. Together, they are working with about 300 grade schoolers.

By its nature, summer school is somewhat more relaxed than the rest of the year, Harrison said. But it includes plenty of learning and practice, particularly in math and reading.

“We mostly focus on reviewing content from the year before to help build up confidence for the upcoming school year,” the teacher said.

The three-week summer school started Aug. 10 with pre-tests to assess student skills in reading and math. A post-test will follow at the end of the program.

“In between, lessons and assessments focus on some of the skills students will need to feel successful this fall,” Harrison said.

Each day, she and her students work on concepts and review lessons from the previous day. In addition to the synchronous, or real-time, sessions via Zoom, the children work on assignments on their own — “homework” in the truest sense of the word — then review and discuss them with their teacher the next day.

After math and reading sessions each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Harrison said she incorporates some kind of online game on Thursday.

The games are more than fun, though. “They incorporate the topics we covered over the week,” she explained.

In addition to the live Zoom sessions and homework periods, they offer office hours. Students can speak one-on-one with their teachers online, make comments or ask questions about assignments, or exchange helpful emails.

The summertime distance learning works, Harrison said, although she misses seeing her students in person, just as she does during the school year.

“I’m still learning how to build strong connections with my students online,” she said.

She said she’s grateful, though, that distance learning allows her to focus on teaching and learning, “rather than worrying about health protocols for an entire class to keep ourselves, students and their families safe and healthy.”

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