ROXBURY, NJ - Franklin and Nixon elementary schools recently held their second Student Academic Intervention and Learning (S.A.I.L.) Parent Academy, a session designed to make parents feel comfortable and welcome.

The programs are organized and coordinated by Kelly Freund, a Franklin and Nixon technology teacher.

The district strives to remove any possible obstacles to participation. Toward that end, translator services are available for non-English speaking families, free childcare and a hot meal catered by Aramark, the district’s food services provider.

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The format was similar to previously held academies where parents and their children were split so parents had a focused learning experience with district staff and/or specialized instructors unlike December’s academy that had everyone learning together doing Super Science Stations.

The latest Family Writing Night academy kicked off with dinner where families could enjoy a hot meal together before being split-up.

More than 40 families pre-registered and there were more than 100 people in attendance. After dinner, parents were invited to spend the evening with Meredith Alvaro of Staff Development Workshops. Alvaro is a trainer for the district staff on literacy. She has been working with Roxbury Schools for the past five years and returned once again to work with families to provide tips and strategies to help enhance the child’s writing ability.

Alvaro explained that no matter the child’s age, the district was striving to make sure the four key umbrellas of literacy were taught. All four umbrellas are vital to college and career readiness skills that start with our earliest learners. The four umbrellas included opinion pieces, informational pieces, explanatory pieces, and narrative pieces.

Learning these four umbrellas will allow families to communicate more with each other as it relates to their child’s education not only when speaking but in their writing as well.

Alvaro shared that learning these types of writing is touched upon in state tests. Prior to PARCC, students had writing assessments on state tests that they had to come up with on their own, with no prompting, often causing children to have a “mind freeze”.

With the PARCC, which is administered to grades 3-11, one writing portion provides two texts the students have to read and then asks their opinion using facts from the articles to back up their reasoning. There is no memorization needed as students can refer back to the reading.

“It’s a much more student-friendly test,” said Alvaro.

A second writing portion of the PARCC has students watch a video and then be able to relay what they learned. Students are allowed to take notes while watching and then they are asked to coherently explain what they saw using the explanatory method of writing, or the “how to.” This method is used more often in real life situations since the invention of YouTube and How To videos.

During the last five minutes of the parent portion, Alvaro also touched on some helpful tricks to help students struggling with spelling.

The last half hour of the evening brought children back together with their families for a special writing portion. Some of the students were even confident enough to share their writings with Jessica Fessock, the PreK-5 Humanities Supervisor.

Families seemed to come away with a renewed sense of understanding of what their children are learning in regards to literacy and look forward to next parent academy.

The next Parent Academy for Franklin and Nixon School families this year is Google Night and will take place on Feb. 22 at Franklin School.

As with all of these academies, it allows the district to foster inclusive and collaborative cultures with families as well as internal and external stakeholders. In an effort to increase participation in these workshops, the district actively strives to eliminate as many barriers as possible. For instance, registration forms were distributed via email, hard copy and Facebook in both English and Spanish.