Holiday Issue: 2016
JFB Literacy Center: Games for stronger brains
Julie Fischer, a first grade teacher at J.F. Burns Elementary School, has a love for reading, literacy, and learning that started when she was a little girl.
“My mom was a great natural teacher,” Fischer recalled. “She taught my brother and I how to read before we were even in kindergarten. She gave me such an educational advantage, and I wanted to provide students and their parents with the same opportunities I had.”
Providing her students and their parents with expanded learning opportunities is just what she did. In 2003, Fischer received a grant of $2,000 from the Wiest Foundation so that she could put her dream into action. The Literacy Center was a way she could expand off of the annual family reading night she was already in charge of.
“I had researched so many companies with what I had in mind to buy,” explained Fischer. “I wanted games and activities that would focus on comprehension skills, main idea, vocabulary expansion, writing, and sentence structure.”
At first, Fischer’s grant only covered the costs of activities for lower primary grades. But, through lots of individual donations, she was able to add upper primary leveled games to her Literacy Center.
Games for Brains
The Literacy Center works like this: Students or parents can check out a game or backpack during conference evenings or through a setup time between Fischer and a parent. The student takes the activity home and can play it for one week, then they return it to Fischer, just like a library book, and their name gets entered in a school wide drawing for a prize every so often.
There are two different levels of activities children can play. The red level activities are typically suitable for grades one to three, while the blue level games are appropriate for grades three and four. There are also backpacks that include a book and learning activity to go along with it and are suitable for all primary grade levels.
Fischer started by opening her Literacy Center on conference nights, staffed by a volunteer. Originally, she was able to have her own classroom to set the center up in, but due to a growing enrollment of students in the district, let alone at J.F. Burns, it has been moved to the front entrance of the building.
“I’m so fortunate I have great past students of mine who I trust to turn the center over to for the evening and will do a good job at handling it. I really appreciate them,” Fischer said.
Ella Hampton, a fourth grader at J.F. Burns, and a past student of Fischer’s recounts her past experiences with the Literacy Center.
“Every week I would bring home a new game to play. I checked out so many that I can’t remember the names of all the ones I’ve played, but they were mostly reading or social studies which are hard for me so the games helped a lot.”
Luke Hampton, a second grader at J.F. Burns explained how to play his favorite board game from the Literacy Center, called “Following Directions.”
“You pick a random space to start on and then you spin the spinner. If you land on a red space you get to read a card which tells you step by step how to do a simple task like a jumping jack. It’s really fun.”
Allison Hampton, Ella and Luke’s mother also told why she is a big fan of the Literacy center.
“I think it’s helpful because it encourages learning in a different manner. It makes it more fun for children to learn different concepts and learn differently. I think it leads to higher levels of thinking as well.”
That’s exactly what Fischer strived for since she first had the idea to create the Literacy Center.
“Most of the time, the only school work parents sit down and do with their children is a worksheet, which isn’t appealing or as involving as I’d like,” Fischer explained. “I’m a firm believer that parents are the first and best teachers of their children and I just wanted to provide something for them to further advance their children’s learning development in a fun learning situation for both the parent and the child.”
By Madison Lunsford