Hilliard teacher Tami Remington wrote on a strip of paper: "I like to play with my friends."

Hilliard teacher Tami Remington wrote on a strip of paper: "I like to play with my friends."

As Remington cut apart the words, Horizon Elementary first-graders Megan Taylor and Kamree Boulware read them aloud. Their teacher then jumbled the scraps on the desk.

The two girls worked together to reassemble the sentence, giggling as they went.

This all happened Tuesday, Jan. 5, before the sun rose, before the school-zone lights began flashing out on Renner Road, before their classmates showed up for the day.

Hilliard's Horizon Elementary School calls it the Power Hour: before-school individualized reading and math instruction Monday through Thursday for students who can use the extra help.

Many are in small groups, while a few get one-on-one attention. Of the students invited to participate, about 95 percent accepted, said Holly Meister, coordinator of the Power Hour.

School buses pick up about 50 students and bring them to Horizon at 7:30 a.m., more than an hour before school starts. The children learn for an hour from their classroom teachers, and then the school feeds them breakfast.

The program, including transportation, is funded through a U.S. Department of Education 21st Century Learning grant. This is the second year of the $200,000, three-year grant. It helps schools to expand academics beyond regular school hours for students and their families, and to give the youngsters enrichment opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have.

Using the grant, Horizon also hosts an after-school enrichment program, called New Horizons. All of the 635 students at Horizon are invited to participate in the six-week sessions, which have included cooking classes, tae kwon do, guitar classes, dance, sports with the YMCA, a Lego League and a community-service group called Horizon Cares. More than 400 students have signed up.

"Our superintendent has given us the nickname of the 12-hour school," said Horizon principal Hilary Sloat.

For the early-morning academic sessions Monday through Thursday, 17 teachers have agreed to come in early.

"I think a lot of teachers are realizing the difference it makes," said fourth-grade teacher Kelly Infield.

The younger grades focus on reading, taught using the method teachers have determined suits each of them best. They also work online on the self-paced program Imagine Learning, which the district paid for with the grant money.

The third-, fourth- and fifth-graders also get help in math, using a small-group method called Do the Math.

"I like how I'm getting to know math better so I don't forget," said 10-year-old Lanie Queen, who has been working with her fourth-grade teacher, Stephanie Force, since the beginning of the year. "I just remember it coming here."

Justin Flemming, 10, said that learning math was harder for him in a full classroom, but because of these mornings, "I'm getting better at it."

The extra attention provides students with a needed boost of self-confidence, said Infield.

"These are the kids who think, 'I can't do this, I can't do this.' ... That was the best thing, watching them light up when they realized they could do it."