Summer school has shed its negative connotations to become a favorite time for teachers and students to work more closely on reading and writing.
Jeffco Schools Foundation began its Jeffco Summer of Early Literacy (JSEL) program four years ago, …
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Jeffco Schools Foundation began its Jeffco Summer of Early Literacy (JSEL) program four years ago, and this year expanded to 30 Jeffco elementary schools at 12 sites to help more than 1,200 students improve literacy skills.
“It’s pretty typical for teachers to notice a summer decline in reading. During the break, kids aren’t reading at home and their parents aren’t able to engage with them,” said Robin Weikel, program coordinator with the foundation. “Not only do these classes prevent that summer slide, but nearly all the students make additional growth because the classes are so small and focused on the students.”
The classes also help advanced students who are reading ahead of their grade level get a jump start on the kind of work they will be doing in the fall.
At Lasley Elementary in Lakewood, about 100 students are participating in the classes, which began June 11 and run through July 24. There are six classes for the students, and they are at the school from 8 a.m. to noon daily. While there, the students spend three hours in intensive and inventive work, learning about such topics as transition words through hands-on activities.
“We offer not only the kids, but their parents and families, free breakfast and lunch as part of the school day,” said Harry Chang, an administrative intern at Lasley. The meals give parents a chance to interact with their children and hear about what they’re learning.
The JSEL program is structured not by grade level, but rather by reading level. So even though teachers are working with children of different ages, they are all facing the same challenges, which makes teaching easier.
“The way classes are structured, we spend two days looking at a book to work on the reading aspect, and then the following two days doing other writing work,” said Carol Skinner, Lasley’s instructional coach. “There is both a structural and independent level of learning for students in the classes.”
Students also have incentives and prizes — including Rockies and Bandimere tickets — to encourage attendance, Lasley principal Lisa Nolan said. For the most part, however, student morale isn’t a problem.
“Students go to schools near them, so they feel safe and comfortable in the buildings, and I can’t say enough about the low class sizes,” said Kim Ballantyne, a JSEL coordinator. “There are a lot of smiles because these kids are getting so much more one-on-one time, and teachers are able to tailor their instructions to specific students.”
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