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For WollerVille students the sky is the limit

For WollerVille students the sky is the limit For WollerVille students the sky is the limit

“Give as much as you hope to get in return.”

That challenge is one that students in Scott Woller’s classes at Medford Area Elementary School (MAES) are familiar with and one that many of them take to heart.

It is a challenge to keep pushing yourself, to keep learning and that you might be surprised with the outcome you will have.

That challenge results in some fantastic results as students in Woller’s class took part in the Prodigy March Madness Competition.

Prodigy is an online math skills program that presents math problems in a game setting. Each March, Prodigy holds a tournament with classes around the world competing with teams scoring based on the number of questions teammates answer correctly during the tournament period.

According to Woller, there were 2,162 classes that participated in the tournament with the competition split in grades 1-2, 3-5 and 6-8 with competition going in March. Woller said that new this year, the company broke the teams into smaller groups to increase the competitiveness.

MAES fielded three teams from the students who wanted to participate in Woller’s class — WollerVille Ladies, WollerVille Wombats and the WollerVille Wolves.

The WollerVille Ladies took first place in their bracket with an average of 1,953 questions answered. The success didn’t stop there with Wollerville Wombats taking second place in the bracket with and average of 1,880.6 questions answered. In addition, the WollerVille Wolves took fifth place overall in the competition with an average of 960 questions answered. Woller noted that even the fifth place team’s score would have beaten the teams that placed first in the other two divisions.

What is even more impressive for Woller is that much of the student work was while Medford was on break and when school was closed due to COVID-19.

Woller said the competition was tough with the 48th Queendom out of New York City pulverizing everyone during the beginning. In addition, a team from Austria appeared to have a lock on the fifth place spot through much of the tournament.

Woller said he would have talks with the students who were discouraged by the points being put up by the competition. He encouraged them to log in at home and on the weekends. Soon Medford’s teams quickly rose to the top. This continued even through spring break and the notification that students would not be returning to their classrooms.

For Woller, the program allows him to monitor the performance of the students and see where they are having trouble. In response he would create online lessons targeted to those skills and shared them with his student.

Woller said at times he was having trouble keeping ahead of the students as they always were striving to advance. Individual students started to pull ahead with the challenge of outdoing one another to get the top score in that day. He said one student would get 600 problems and another student would top it at 690, and another would do 707 and then 776 in one day.

“These kids are unbelievable,” Woller said, noting that it was amazing to see 1,000 math questioned answered by kids who otherwise would have said they didn’t like math.

Woller said the kids have a lot of fun in the competition and along the way learn a lot of math.

For winning, the WollerVille Ladies get a trophy and a sub-sandwich party for their class. Woller said they plan to have a “reunion” of his students sometime next fall to celebrate the victory together and have their sub party.

Woller praised the students who were willing to put in the extra time and effort and who were motivated.

Woller believes it is essential to keep kids motivated to learn, whether it is in the traditional classroom setting or in the new normal where learning has had to go on-line. While some may see barriers to learning, Woller chooses to see challenges and opportunities both for himself as an educator and for his students.

One of the biggest challenges is keeping kids connected to their classmates and to learning. Woller has held “Family Adventures” virtual fieldtrips and recently had nationally-recognized author Bruce Coville on a virtual classroom visit with his students.

Coville has written more than 100 books for elementary school level readers including the “Moongobble and Me” book series that Woller includes as part of his class reading every year.

With schools across the country closed, Woller decided to reach out to the author and see about the possibility of him talking with the class.

“I emailed him one more to ask and about an hour later I got a response from him,” Woller said.

In talking back and forth, Coville told him that he would typically appear by Skype in the classrooms and what is typical speaking fee would be. With students primarily using Blackboard, Nearpod and Fligrid at the elementary school level, they talked about how they could make things work.

Woller said that Coville was unfamiliar with those programs and they worked out a trade with Woller teaching the author how to use the software in exchange for him speaking to the students.

The date was set to meet with Coville on April 22, the day before he had 22 of his students on blackboard to work on coming up with questions to ask. Working together they came up with 25-30 good questions to ask, Woller said he was impressed with how the kids did during the online visit switching between tabs and asking the questions.

One of the things the students learned was that Coville enjoyed alliteration, which is something Woller’s classes are also into. He said they enjoyed interacting with the author. “It was a great chance to meet a pretty big-time author,” Woller said. The lesson didn’t stop there, like any good teacher Woller took it one step further meeting with the students after the visit to write and record thank letters and include what each student learned and took away from the educational experience.

While this new normal in education continues to be a challenge to teachers, students and families, Woller said it all goes back to giving as much effort as you hope to get in return. Whether it is excelling in math skills or reaching out for new opportunities, the key is to keep reaching for the stars.