LCPS adds to summer offerings with two more academic camps

LCPS adds to summer offerings with two more academic camps

Claudia Rivera, director of LCPS’s English Learners Camp at Pink Hill Elementary School, looks on as teacher Traci Howard works with third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students in a class on ‘the language of math.’ English Learners Camp, for students with limited English proficiency, began Monday – also opening day for LCPS’s Read to Achieve Camp at Northeast and Moss Hill elementary schools. Together, the two camps have enrolled about 350 students from throughout the county. Photo and story by Patrick Holmes / LCPS Public Information Officer

Lenoir County Public Schools expanded its offering of summer academic camps by two on Monday, reaching 350 elementary-age students with instruction designed to help them hit the ground running next school year.

The five-week Read to Achieve camp for first-, second- and third-graders began at Northeast and Moss Hill elementary schools, and the four-week English Learners camp for K-5 students with limited English proficiency opened at Pink Hill Elementary School.

About 250 students are registered for Read to Achieve at the two locations. Staff levels – 27 teachers and 10 teacher assistants, as well as a digital learning specialist and camp director at each site – allow for small group and individual instruction in reading and writing that “will most likely move students up one level (of proficiency) through the summer period,” Dr. Deb Winings, the district’s director of elementary education, said.

“School this summer is really focused on learning reading and writing in a very structured situation,” she said. “Small group instruction, guided reading instruction that includes phonics and writing, will help students achieve and move very quickly.”

Monday was what teacher Mary Beth Roberts called “get-to-know-you” day for her class of a dozen students. On the faculty at Banks Elementary during the regular year, she is a Read to Achieve teacher at Northeast Elementary this summer in a program she’s been a part of since its inception.

“Today is more about building a classroom community and setting expectations for the camp for the next few weeks,” she said. “This is an extremely structured program. The procedures are in place so the kids know what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. Hopefully, we can progress them more quickly.”

LCPS has offered a Read to Achieve Camp for five years, but this is the first year that writing skills have been so strongly emphasized.

“They are receiving a mini lesson in writing every day and they will be writing about themselves and things they know and build their writing skills from that,” Winings said. “Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin – one is encoding and one is decoding. If you improve your writing, you improve your reading; if you improve your reading, you improve your writing.”

The some 100 elementary-age students enrolled in English Learners Camp at Pink Hill get a healthy dose of reading and writing instruction too, but within a broader curriculum that also increases their use and comprehension of the vocabulary used in math and science classes.

“The main focus is on the reading and writing, which is the way to language; but we also emphasize students’ being able to explain things, using their academic vocabulary,” Claudia Rivera, the EL Camp director said.

The students rotate into different learning areas, with students in kindergarten through second grade guided by their group of six teacher and students in third through fifth grades having their own teachers at six different “stations.”

In a typical rotation, students work on reading comprehension and good reading strategies, get a reading assessment to check for fluency, focus on the language of math and the language of science, work on their writing and use their iPads to improve reading skills through the Imagine Learning app.

“We need to make sure the students are capable of explaining things thoroughly, not only in written form but also verbally,” Rivera said. “In these small settings, the students get an opportunity to explain themselves.”

Rivera and her teachers are assisted by 12 middle and high school students who were accepted as volunteers after a screening process that included an application and a referral from a teacher at their school.

“I think the program has grown in popularity. The students in middle school and high school see us as an opportunity for them to develop their leadership skills,” Rivera said.

Each older student is assigned a class and travels with that class to the learning stations, providing clerical assistance to the teachers as well as assisting with the iPads that are employed in each class.

“They do every little thing,” Rivera said. “They are great helpers.”

Both Read to Achieve and English Learners camps have enrolled students from throughout the county, who are provided transportation and breakfast and lunch. Both camps operate four days a week.

This month and into August, LCPS is also operating Teach for America Summer School and STEM Summer Camps, both held at Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School.

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