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Amherst kindergarten families get a glimpse of their children’s reading lessons

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Janaki Ewoton, 5, picks out a pencil for a special bag full of writing supplies Wednesday morning in Deborah Felix's kindergarten classroom at Fort River School in Amherst. Felix invited parents to come to class for a family literacy workshop, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    Janaki Ewoton, 5, picks out a pencil for a special bag full of writing supplies Wednesday morning in Deborah Felix's kindergarten classroom at Fort River School in Amherst. Felix invited parents to come to class for a family literacy workshop, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>The results of a poll in Deborah Felix's kindergarten classroom at Fort River School in Amherst indicated that most of the students were looking forward to having their parents come in for a literacy workshop Wednesday.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    The results of a poll in Deborah Felix's kindergarten classroom at Fort River School in Amherst indicated that most of the students were looking forward to having their parents come in for a literacy workshop Wednesday. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Connor Graff, 5, reads words on the classroom wall while his mother, Beatrice Hutchins, watches Wednesday in Deborah Felix's kindergarten class at Fort River School in Amherst. Parents came in for a family literacy workshop, in which Felix demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    Connor Graff, 5, reads words on the classroom wall while his mother, Beatrice Hutchins, watches Wednesday in Deborah Felix's kindergarten class at Fort River School in Amherst. Parents came in for a family literacy workshop, in which Felix demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Parents and students work on reading exercises in Deborah Felix's kindergarten class at Fort River School in Amherst Wednesday morning. Felix held a family literacy workshop, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed parents ways to work on literacy with their children.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    Parents and students work on reading exercises in Deborah Felix's kindergarten class at Fort River School in Amherst Wednesday morning. Felix held a family literacy workshop, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed parents ways to work on literacy with their children. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Hattie Holabird, 5, works on a writing exercise with her mother, Kursten Holabird, Wednesday morning in Deborah Felix's kindergarten classroom at Fort River School in Amherst. Felix invited parents to a family literacy workshop, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    Hattie Holabird, 5, works on a writing exercise with her mother, Kursten Holabird, Wednesday morning in Deborah Felix's kindergarten classroom at Fort River School in Amherst. Felix invited parents to a family literacy workshop, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Joe Hazlip, 5, and his mother, Liz Hazlip, do a writing exercise together Wednesday morning in Deborah Felix's kindergarten classroom at Fort River School in Amherst. Felix invited parents to attend a family literacy workshop in the class, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    Joe Hazlip, 5, and his mother, Liz Hazlip, do a writing exercise together Wednesday morning in Deborah Felix's kindergarten classroom at Fort River School in Amherst. Felix invited parents to attend a family literacy workshop in the class, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Kindergarten teacher Deborah Felix speaks to students and parents in her classroom at Fort River School in Amherst Wednesday morning. Felix invited parents to join their children for a family literacy workshop, in which Felix demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    Kindergarten teacher Deborah Felix speaks to students and parents in her classroom at Fort River School in Amherst Wednesday morning. Felix invited parents to join their children for a family literacy workshop, in which Felix demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Kindergarten teacher Deborah Felix points to words for 5-year-old Sophie Ziomek to read Wednesday morning at Fort River School in Amherst. Felix invited parents in for a family literacy workshop, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children.

    SARAH GANZHORN
    Kindergarten teacher Deborah Felix points to words for 5-year-old Sophie Ziomek to read Wednesday morning at Fort River School in Amherst. Felix invited parents in for a family literacy workshop, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children. Purchase photo reprints »

  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Janaki Ewoton, 5, picks out a pencil for a special bag full of writing supplies Wednesday morning in Deborah Felix's kindergarten classroom at Fort River School in Amherst. Felix invited parents to come to class for a family literacy workshop, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children.
  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>The results of a poll in Deborah Felix's kindergarten classroom at Fort River School in Amherst indicated that most of the students were looking forward to having their parents come in for a literacy workshop Wednesday.
  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Connor Graff, 5, reads words on the classroom wall while his mother, Beatrice Hutchins, watches Wednesday in Deborah Felix's kindergarten class at Fort River School in Amherst. Parents came in for a family literacy workshop, in which Felix demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children.
  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Parents and students work on reading exercises in Deborah Felix's kindergarten class at Fort River School in Amherst Wednesday morning. Felix held a family literacy workshop, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed parents ways to work on literacy with their children.
  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Hattie Holabird, 5, works on a writing exercise with her mother, Kursten Holabird, Wednesday morning in Deborah Felix's kindergarten classroom at Fort River School in Amherst. Felix invited parents to a family literacy workshop, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children.
  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Joe Hazlip, 5, and his mother, Liz Hazlip, do a writing exercise together Wednesday morning in Deborah Felix's kindergarten classroom at Fort River School in Amherst. Felix invited parents to attend a family literacy workshop in the class, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children.
  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Kindergarten teacher Deborah Felix speaks to students and parents in her classroom at Fort River School in Amherst Wednesday morning. Felix invited parents to join their children for a family literacy workshop, in which Felix demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy.
  • SARAH GANZHORN<br/>Kindergarten teacher Deborah Felix points to words for 5-year-old Sophie Ziomek to read Wednesday morning at Fort River School in Amherst. Felix invited parents in for a family literacy workshop, in which she demonstrated some of her techniques for teaching reading and showed family members ways to work on literacy with their children.

It was Family Literacy Day, an event Felix holds each year to give families a glimpse of what goes on in her class.

“It’s teaching them how we do writing and reading and just making a connection for them with the room,” said Felix, as she circulated among little round tables that served as work stations for the children and their parents.

The tables were filled with materials for writing sentences, matching sounds with pictures, reading the children’s journals and examining books.

The room, which has 21 students taught by Felix, paraprofessional Susan Raker and student teacher Lizzie Hendsbee, had more than double its usual number of people as family members congregated for the hour-long session.

As visitors arrived, Felix encouraged the youngsters to greet them: “If you see your grown-up, you can say hello and give them a hug,” she said, unleashing a flurry of activity.

“And remember, if your grown-up didn’t come, there is another family here who will be glad to have you join them so you get to do all the special things,” she said.

Soon Felix had them all settled down on a rug at the front of the room while she went through a familiar drill seeking clues about a book by looking at the pictures on the back and on the end pages.

“We call it a picture walk,” she explained. “It’s good to talk about a book because they’re not reading yet.”

She also demonstrated with the students how a book with a repetitive story line, in this case “Witch, Witch Please Come to My Party,” can easily be memorized by youngsters and then that memorization is used to help them recognize the words on the page.

“It’s the very first step of reading,” she said.

She went on to advise the families that reading books with just a little bit of text is better than reading chapter books to kindergartners because it allows them to pick out words, which they cannot do in a sea of type.

After a few more lessons, including the reciting of the alphabet and the accompanying sounds, dancing the Macarena while saying the months of the year, and showing how they sound out words, the children clustered around the tables to work with their family members.

Tim Hope, who was reading aloud to a group of children from their journals, said he was enjoying the morning. “I love it,” said Hope, who has twin daughters, Charlotte and Evelyn, in the class. “I love how excited they are about learning to read.”

Hope, who also has a daughter in fourth grade, said Felix and Raker represent what he has observed in many teachers in Amherst. “They’re positive, they care deeply about their students and they invite the community in,” he said. “It works really well.”

Beatrice Hutchins, who was watching her son, Connor Graff, match sounds and pictures was equally enthused. “It’s wonderful. I love it,” she said, adding that she appreciated getting tips on how to read with her son at home.

A Latin teacher herself, Hutchins liked getting a look inside Felix’s room. “It is great to see other veteran teachers at work,” she said. “These kind of events do so much for the kids. They make learning thrilling for them.”

Brian Scully, a writer from California who moved his family here from the West Coast last June, said his daughter, Kaelyn, loves school and was disappointed when there was no class on Columbus Day. He said he and his wife, Anna, a psychotherapist, were drawn to Amherst because its schools have a good reputation and he has been happy so far.

“This is the best school experience she could have,” he said. “If they love learning, it sets them on a great path for first, second and third grade. You have to credit these teachers for that.”

Debra Scherban can be reached at dscherban@gazettenet.com.

I am so proud to be the teacher for this class. It was a great day and I appreciate all those that helped make it so, from parents to paras to interns!!! (and adorable K-2 friends!!!)

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