Enter Room 208 at Clara Barton Elementary School, at 4600 Rosehill St., and you will see first-grade students writing non-fiction books.
“What we’re doing in class right now is writing a book,” said first-grader Alex Calderon. “We all have to write our own books. My teacher, Mrs. Melendez, wrote her book on yoga. She told us how she started to write her book, and we have to follow tips to write our own. It’s a lot of fun. I really like writing.”
First grade teacher Donielle Melendez is using this lesson with students to help enhance their literacy skills.
“We were doing a writing workshop where I was doing a mini lesson just to teach them another strategy to make their non-fiction teaching books more interesting,” Melendez said. “I talked about it, I modeled it, we practiced it together, and then I sent the students off to write their own teaching book. In our classroom, we embrace the balance literacy. Balance literacy is when we incorporate reading and writing workshops into the strategies that we teach.
“Through this concept, we give them the support that they need to allow them to go off and try to practice that independently — both with the reading and the writing. It’s something that the students can utilize in the classroom with what they’re doing that day as well as tuck it away for another point in their life. We also utilize best practices in our building and we have a relationship with the Children’s Literacy Initiative. Through that, we get support with coaching and professional development. It’s just to enhance our existing literacy structure in the classroom. My goal for them is to have them be life-long learners.”
First-grader Yaindhe Razo not only likes her school, but also her teacher.
“I like everything about my school,” Razo said. “I’ve really learned a lot from my teacher. We’re always doing something different in class. She really is the best teacher ever.”
Barton is a K-2 school and currently has 820 students. The school has 10 kindergarten classes, 10 first grade classes, nine second grade classes and one autistic support class.
The school was built in 1924 and is a standard design for that time period. In 1930, the wings along Wyoming Avenue were added. From its inception until the middle 1990s, services were provided to children through the eighth grade. Because of the large school-age population in this neighborhood, it was divided into an elementary and a middle school. In 2006, the school was again divided.
Barton is now part of the Feltonville Educational Community Campus. Next to Barton’s building is Feltonville Intermediate, which serves grades three through five. Feltonville Arts and Sciences, which serves students in grade six through eight, is behind the intermediate school.
“This is a really good school,” said kindergartner Emani Roye. “I have a lot of friends and my teacher is great. I really like going here.”
The school’s main focus is literacy across the curriculum as well as an innovative program for providing interventions to students. Some of the things students participate in at Barton include Barton Braggers; a program that promotes reading, where students must read for 20 minutes each night, PAWS; a behavior system where students can earn prizes; and read to the principal, where teachers will pick one student once every couple months to read to principal Collen Bowen.
“Since we’re a K-2 school, we focus on a lot of literacy,” said school-based teacher Maria Louvans. “We’re the only K-2 school in the whole district. We have great teachers and a great support system at the school. Reading is the most important thing that you could do. We always stress to the students the more you practice the better you will become at reading. Our other goal this year is to have all of students reading at grade level.
“We just focus a lot on literacy, especially reading and writing,” she added. “Our teachers do reading and writing workshops. That’s a 90-minute block where the students are listening to stories, read-out-loud with the teacher, reading independently and working on different reading skills. We’re making sure that we we lay down the foundation for literacy, so that when they do get to other grades in elementary school they have that base, so that they can do better in the higher grades.”
Second-grader Jayla Berrios loves reading and writing.
“Some of the things that I like doing at my school is reading and writing,” Berrios said. “With reading, you can go to anyplace in the world just by reading a book. With writing, I’m able to express myself through words. I really like writing about my family. They inspire me a lot.”