Christian academy pilots remedial program

By Josette Keelor

STEPHENS CITY — A remedial math and reading program at Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy is only five days old but has already sparked the enthusiasm of new test takers.

Preparing for their first computerized test on Friday morning, first grade students Shiloh Jenkins, 6, and Braxton Peschken, 7, sounded out words with teacher Jodi Shollenberger and played a spelling game that featured prop telephones, prize tickets and the rolling of a giant die.

“We’ll do two more and then we’re going to take our test,” Shollenberger told her students as the game was nearing an end.

Braxton gasped his excitement before pronouncing an elongated “Yay.”

“I want to do that, too,” Shiloh said.

When test time finally came, Shollenberger explained the rules.

“Since we’ve not taken a test so far, this is going to be new,” she said. Students sat at separate computers, wearing headphones so they could hear the pronunciation of words they would type into a spreadsheet document. They had the option of hearing the word spoken again independently or in a sentence.

“It’s not something Valley’s offered before,” Shollenberger said. “It’s a brand new pilot program.”

Not to be confused with a special education program, she said the remedial classes help students catch up to the level of their classmates throughout the school year so they can return to their classes full-time.

Using the PACE curriculum through Accelerated Christian Education program, teachers instruct students two at a time in the school library, a separate building on the campus north of Stephens City that includes Shenandoah Valley Baptist Church. Shollenberger, who taught third grade at the school last year, instructs seven 45-minute classes a day with remedial aide and librarian Carianne Combs.

The school offers instructional classes for children beginning at age 3, and the one-on-one attention for grades K through six helps students who previously received remediation studies from their regular classroom teachers.

“And with large class sizes, that could prove difficult,” Shollenberger said.

The program is intended to last through the school year, but Combs said if students are excelling and no longer need the program, they can stop remediation classes early.

Based on the knowledge that at least 10 percent of students in the general school system need remedial education, Combs said, “It’s so needed.”

So far, students at the school have been receptive, Shollenberger said.

On Friday of the program’s first week, reading students followed their practiced routine, reading silently with a stuffed animal for a few minutes before taking “picture notes” on what they read and reviewing reading fluency and comprehension.

Shollenberger told Braxton he got 28 out of 29 words in his reading selection correct — much more than the 11 words he knew in Monday’s cold read of the same reading passage. Shiloh, too, improved by the end of the week, doubling the number of words she was able to recognize.

Next they moved on to spelling, adding consonants to the beginning of words like “at,” “an” and “ad” and speaking into PVC pipes Shollenberger purchased at Lowes and rechristened “phonics phones,” which students held to their ears to hear word sounds emphasized as they pronounced them.

For each word correctly chosen, students rolled a die to determine the number of tickets he or she would earn. On the last Friday of the month, they can use their tickets to purchase items from a classroom store.

But the spelling review game only forestalled the inevitable — a fact that Braxton knew even before the game started.

“I can’t wait to do the test right now,” he said.

Contact Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy at 540-869-4600 or at http://www.svca.net.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com