How to Offer Engaging Academic Support at Every Grade Level
When students of all ages enter the classroom, setting academic goals and finding motivation is crucial to their success. For students who enroll at Milton Hershey School, they are entering a new school and a new home. Many students have never received individualized academic instruction or have never learned proper study habits.
“We work with a lot of students who feel defeated and have almost given up on themselves,” said Lucie Weaver, an elementary learning assistance teacher at MHS. “When we give them time, space, and good instruction, they begin to see that they can achieve success. It’s very empowering for students, and as a teacher, it’s excellent to be able to witness those successes.”
Whether students are making monumental strides or noticing tiny improvements, each and every gain contributes to their success. At MHS, we empower students and invest in their success through engaging remediation programs at every grade level.
Elementary Remediation Programs
No matter their backgrounds, many elementary students have gaps in their learning. To help fill in these gaps, MHS has a speech and language therapist and six learning assistance teachers who support reading and math for kindergarten through fourth grade students. For reading support, elementary students leave the classroom to work in small groups with six to eight students.
“Our students are always looking for individualized attention. They want to make connections with their teachers, so at the elementary level, they love the small group instruction,” said Weaver. “We strive to make the learning fun so they feel good about themselves in a comfortable environment.”
To address students’ individual learning needs, the Learning Assistance team follows the Response to Intervention (RTI) framework. They complete assessments and benchmarks throughout the year to determine which tier of support is best for each student:
- Tier 1— Students are functioning in the classroom and don’t need additional support.
- Tier 2—Students leave the classroom for additional reading or math support for 40 minutes per day.
- Tier 3— Students leave the classroom for additional reading or math support for 80 minutes per day.
Teachers continue to progress monitor students on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis so they can seamlessly move students in and out of these tiers quickly. The ultimate goal is to provide the support necessary to get them caught up and back in the classroom.
The other goal is to personalize the learning process and make it meaningful for younger students. In learning assistance classrooms, elementary students enjoy hands-on activities and one-on-one instruction, including technology and multisensory learning.
“We try to delve into all the senses because every student learns differently,” Weaver said. “We may have a student who only needs auditory teaching, but [that strategy] may not work for another student in the same group. We have to be able to provide whatever the student needs.”
Middle School Enrichment
At the middle school level, MHS students have opportunities for before and after-school tutoring to address specific skills. Staff also follow a tiered framework to determine the amount of support a student requires.
Each day, students can participate in 30-minute “Power Periods.” They receive reading, math, science, and other academic support in an individual or group setting based on the student’s needs. For students who require Tier 3 support, they are part of a highly supported program called What I Need (WIN) to gain reading and math support for 72 minutes a day.
To make middle school remediation programs more dynamic and enriching, MHS staff also incorporate learning technology into the classroom—including online practice sessions for various subjects.
Student-Run High School Writing Center
For ninth through 12th grade students, they can request academic support—specifically with writing—at the on-campus Writing Center. Tutoring sessions at the Writing Center are typically 30 minutes long and help extend the learning process beyond the classroom.
“We’re here to teach students [writing concepts] and to partner in the challenge,” said Jody Sheaffer, Writing Center coordinator at MHS. “Whatever the student needs to leave the Writing Center with a better product and a better understanding of how they developed that product is really our goal.”
The Writing Center offers cross-curricular support for a variety of writing assignments students experience at MHS. They can request tutoring sessions specifically focused on:
- College Essays
- Resumes and Cover Letters
- Research Papers
- Creative Writing
- Independent Work
Students also learn in a collaborative, peer-to-peer environment. Responsible high school students can volunteer to be writing tutors and complete informal training to understand common writing challenges. Tutors help answer their peers’ questions about the writing process, educate them on word choice, help them brainstorm ideas, and model the editing and revising process.
“College and places of employment both appreciate good writing skills. And as a student gains confidence in their writing skills, their self-esteem starts to rise,” Sheaffer said. “There seems to be a certain weight that’s lifted when they master reading, writing, problem-solving, and all the other [lessons] MHS encourages through education.”
The Writing Center has held approximately 300 tutoring sessions in the 2016-17 school year, which is a significant increase from last year. By having this service available at the high school level, MHS students learn how to advocate for themselves once they graduate.
At all grade levels, academic support programs are helping MHS students take ownership of their goals—and celebrate the little victories on their path to success.
MHS Professionals Blog
No matter what level of interaction MHS staff members have with students, everyone’s work contributes to our goal of building brighter futures through a top-notch education. Read the blogs of our professionals and hear from the talented individuals who live out the school’s mission.