First 100 days of school were momentous for Summit first grader

February 15, 2017

Summit Country Day School first grader Leonard Shparberg displays his “First 100 Days” project, a bus made of 100 Lego pieces that represented people who helped him through his first 100 days of school. Photo by Nancy Berlier.

Summit Country Day School first grader Leonard Shparberg displays his “First 100 Days” project, a bus made of 100 Lego pieces that represented people who helped him through his first 100 days of school. Photo by Nancy Berlier.

Summit Country Day School first grader Leonard Shparberg was a hit at the Lower School’s annual “100 Days” celebration.

Leonard built a bus, made of 100 Lego bricks that represented various people who influenced him during his first 100 days at The Summit. And the paper he wrote reflected perfect English. That is quite an accomplishment for Leonard, a native of Moscow, Russia. “When he came into my room in October, he only knew basic color words, a few words about people and things,” said his classroom teacher, Sherry Schneider.

The 100th day of school coincides with a unit of the first grade math curriculum which focuses on a study of place value. As first graders focus on ones, tens, 100s and all the ways they can make 100, they are asked to create a project. Many display 100 items, create a collage or book with 100 images or phrases or draw a picture with 100 objects. Children write about their project, display them and tour the classrooms to see what other students have done.

On Leonard’s school bus, he included Kenzie, the classmate who learned some Russian words to make him feel at home. New friends Sammy and Landen were on the bus. A light post with a wreath represented his first Christmas in America.

“He explained all of the elements in English, sharing how each piece represents a person or memory from his time at The Summit so far,” said Lower School Counselor Elizabeth Drumm. “For example, a Lego policeman reminds him of the police costume he wore for the Halloween Parade, and the classmates who befriended him early on are featured prominently in his creation as well. Leonard also showed off his new English and handwriting skills by turning in a written explanation of his project, emphasizing the Summit community that he has come to love in such a short time.”

Ms. Drumm and Mrs. Schneider tapped into school and community resources to tailor an educational approach that would make Leonard feel comfortable in his knew school while he learned the curriculum in a new language. Russian-speaking piano teachers, a parent, an Upper School student and family members spent time in the classroom with him. Translation tools helped teachers communicate with him. Positive relationships with peers were nurtured early. Inclusion of pictures accompanied by printed English words covering the daily routine of the classroom – such as lunch, book boxes, cubbies – were reviewed every morning and helped ease any anxiety he might have about what happens next. The Summit’s two Lower School literacy coaches had one-on-one sessions with him to help him learn English.

“First grade classrooms are inherently rich with language and visual stimulation, so Leonard quickly began to recognize repeated phrases and took cues from his classmates when he wasn’t sure what to do,” Ms. Drumm said. “Mrs. Schneider arranged the seating in her room so that Leonard always had a positive peer model nearby to watch and interact with. She and I worked together to help foster some peer connections early on so that Leonard would realize how much he had in common with his classmates, despite the communication challenges. It wasn’t hard to find other first graders who loved Legos and Minions as much as Leonard does.”

“Although it’s been fun for the adults to watch how much progress Leonard has made in a few short months, it’s especially exciting to see Leonard take pride in this huge accomplishment,” said Ms. Drumm.