Rymfire Elementary's Future Problem Solvers sending two groups to internationals

Vocab Lab helps students improve their vocabulary with theme days and other resources; Team WINS helps ease the transition for new students.

Rymfire Elementary School's Project Vocab Lab: Elissa Griffin, Kenan Davis, Evelyn Sheifer, Elisei Volkovskiy and German Kabaloev. Photo by Brent Woronoff
Rymfire Elementary School's Project Vocab Lab: Elissa Griffin, Kenan Davis, Evelyn Sheifer, Elisei Volkovskiy and German Kabaloev. Photo by Brent Woronoff
Photo by Brent Woronoff
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Rymfire Elementary School’s Future Problem Solving teams swept first and second place in the Community Problem Solving Junior Division at the state competition in March.

Both teams of fifth graders are headed to the International Conference on June 5-9 at Indiana University in Bloomington. The two projects are related, both helping to solve problems that are somewhat unique to their school.

Rymfire regularly receives large numbers of new students, many of whom are English Language Learners. One group helps them and other students with language skills. The other group helps make the new arrivals feel welcome.

Vocab Lab, coached by Caryn Taylor, have helped improve vocabulary levels school-wide by getting all of the teachers to participate in three vocabulary themed days a week. Team members Kenan Davis, Elissa Griffin, Evelyn Sheifer, German Kabaloev and Elisei Volkovskiy won first place at state in CmPS.

“Our project is about how we want to increase exposure to reading and vocabulary because 71% of the (students) were not on grade level,” Elissa said.

The group instituted “Wear A Word Wednesday,” in which all of the teachers attach an index card to a lanyard that they wear around their neck. Each teacher’s word of the day is written on the index card.

“When a student asks them about their word, (the teachers) give a definition and they explain about their word and they give examples,” Kenan said.

Other theme days include Morphology Monday and Figurative Language Friday.

“We went to the SAC and faculty meetings to present our ideas,” German said. “With the money, we bought figurative language books for all the classes in our school.”

They also bought index cards, lanyards and posters. 

“When the kids go to the faculty meetings, the teachers are very supportive of their projects,” Taylor said. “You want to do it for the kids.”

The results speak for themselves. From the team’s first diagnostic to the third, test scores improved from 27% on or above grade level to 54%.

Taylor, the team's teacher/coach said there are 97 English Language Learners at Rymfire. Two of them are on the Vocab Lab team.

“For me and German, English is not our first language,” Elisei said. “For me it's my third and for him it's his second. So we also use this project for our needs.”

Elisei, who speaks Ukranian and Russian, came to Rymfire in VPK and couldn’t speak any English at the time. German, whose first language is Russian, has only been in this country for a year and a half, he said.

“I only knew the alphabet and a couple of words,” he said. “Our Vocab Lab group helped me a lot because English vocabulary is a lot different than Russian vocabulary.”

On Literacy Night, Elissa said, the group passed out newsletters and vocabulary games. The group made posters with prefixes and suffixes, Elisei said. They have a wall of idioms in the school, Kenan said, where people can add idioms or take them off.

Through teacher surveys, the group discovered that Wear a Word Wednesday was the most beneficial of the theme days. In fact, Principal Travis Lee said Wear a Word will stick around next year, after the Vocab Lab team members move on to middle school.

Monday’s theme of morphology (the study of word parts) had the least participation, the group members said. But Figurative Language Friday has also been a hit.

“Some people like firefighters walked into the lower grades and read figurative language books to the classes,” Kenan said.

“Some of the teachers said they loved the figurative language books,” Coach Taylor said. “Just saying it's Figurative Language Friday reminded them to hit some figurative language, because that's an area that we usually score poorly on in state testing.

“These are things we can continue,” she said. “It’s a sustainable project.”

Rymfire Elementary School's Team WINS: Jaycob Griffin, Gia Rego, Ryan Sugart and Alijah Pressley. Photo by Brent Woronoff


The other Rymfire group competing at internationals is Pronject WINS — “Welcoming In New Students.”

The group includes Ryan Sugart, Jaycob Griffin, Gia Rego and Allijah Pressley and is coached by Judy White.

“We did some research,” Ryan said, “and we thought that new students didn't feel as welcomed as they should, because everyone should feel welcome at school, and that’s something we all kind of relate to.”

The group makes goodie bags containing supplies and snack tickets for new students.

“To make the new students feel welcome,” Gia said, “instead of adults walking them to class, we walk them to class ourselves.”

“We meet them in the front office,” Alijah said. “And we walk them to the class and introduce them to the teacher and give them a goodie bag.”

Robin Alverson, Rymfire’s cafeteria manager, helped resupply the group’s goodie bags and shared the project with other schools, the group members said.

The group also made videos showing virtual tours of the school.

“So instead of just learning on the way, they can watch it and learn more about our school,” Jaycob said.


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