Education

Next level: summer school hits the virtual platform

Summer learning, it is said, strengthens student success, so parents don’t just look forward to the school break as a “child-sitting service” but as an opportunity to keep their child engaged while at the same time giving them a jumpstart on the year ahead. It was with this in mind that primary school teacher Shanae Sweeting last year hosted summer school for her first-grade students who were moving on to second grade, to reinforce what they learnt in first grade while at the same time giving them a jumpstart on their grade-two learning. Sweeting’s summer session was so successful, she decided to host it for a second year, albeit this year’s summer session which begins today will be held differently in the wake of COVID-19 and social distancing. Sweeting will host her summer sessions virtually.

In an effort to provide quality instruction on the virtual platform, the primary school teacher offers two-hours-per-day sessions five days a week, with a maximum of five children per session.

“I’ve limited it to two hours per day, because I know it is the summer and trying to keep kids entertained [virtually] for more than two hours may be challenging for me. And I’m limiting my classes to five students so that I can provide them with quality instruction.”

Keeping the number maxed out at five students per session, she says, will allow her to give each student the quality time they need.

In an effort to not overload the children, she has one subject scheduled daily. Mondays, they engage in reading assignments. Tuesdays, the focus is language. Wednesdays are set aside for math, with a focus on going back to place values. Thursdays, the focus is on reading again, because she feels children lost time with reading when the final term of the last school year was interrupted by the global health pandemic and education moved to the virtual platform. Fridays she has set aside for art.

Sweeting says the small virtual summer sessions will allow for the children to make up what may have been lost.

She says the sessions will also be fun.

“We’re also going to play games. I used quizzes through the previous semester which seemed to work with them very well, because they get excited. They’re doing a test, but it’s in a game format, so that tends to get them excited about who is going to get the most points.”

Children signing on for the virtual summer session should also expect to receive homework, even though Sweeting says they will have a good time.

Her next level tutoring summer program is only available to first grade students she would have taught this past school year, to help them prepare for second grade.

She also stressed the importance of children continuing to learn through the summer break.

“Summer school is important, because kids tend to be at home and they’re more focused on the television and games, so they lose focus sometimes. Summer school just reinforces what they have learnt and teaches them new things that they can take into the next level with them. So, it gives them an advantage going into grade two, and their brains aren’t too relaxed,” she said.

Last school year, Sweeting taught 30 students in the physical classroom. When they initially switched to an online platform, she says, she found it challenging reaching out to each of her 30 children virtually.

“When I have too many students it’s hard for me to actually monitor each student and follow their progress. The virtual learning did challenge me earlier, but we got through it.”

Knowing what the online platform now entails, she says she wants to stick to the smaller number for each of her summer sessions.

“I just want to stick to five [children] because I want to make sure they understand that I’m not doing this just as a formality, but I need them to understand the content that I’m giving them going into second grade.”

And then there’s the fact that corralling 30 six-and-seven-year-olds virtually is tough.

Sweeting will start her students off with the second-grade curriculum – writing essays and figuring out how to write paragraphs, as well as use of descriptive words, and nouns and verbs.

She said after summer school, parents should expect their child to adapt easier in second grade. She hopes by the start of the new academic year that learning won’t be done virtually.

Sweeting’s virtual summer classes will run through July 16. The cost is $5 per hour, $10 a day or $50 a week if a student is signed up for the week.

“Because it’s virtual and I know and understand what’s happening right now, I’m trying not to stretch people’s budget too much,” she said.

Sweeting’s virtual summer sessions adhere to social distancing protocols being practiced in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. And they are being offered at a time when education nationwide wrapped up an unprecedented year in the wake of the global pandemic.

Schools closed their doors on March 16, with in-person, face-to-face learning suspended after The Bahamas confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus.

The Bahamas had 104 confirmed COVID-19 cases including 82 on New Providence, eight on Grand Bahama, 13 on Bimini and one on Cat Cay up to yesterday.

There have been 11 deaths, 68 recovered cases, two hospitalized cases and 25 active cases; 2,294 tests have been completed.

The last confirmed case was yesterday – the first positive test since June 6, when there hadn’t been any confirmed cases in eight days.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis in his Communication to Parliament on Wednesday, March 28, said the current accumulation of COVID-19 cases in-country showed a slowing, or a flattening of the epidemiological curve, and implied that measures of physical distancing, hand washing, curfews and lockdowns had been working.

Worldwide there were 7,845,048 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 431,269 deaths.

In the wake of the global pandemic, nothing is normal. Education to complete the third term was done by online instruction from pre-school through university.

In his address, Minnis said as the country prepares to “open up” domestically and internationally, that it is important for people to remember that we are still in a pandemic. He encouraged people to continue to apply all preventative measures recommended for COVID-19.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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