The summer has finally begun for students that attended one of the two Read to be Ready camps that were hosted by Johnson City Schools and funded through grants from the Tennessee Department of Education.
For 20 days in June, rising first graders and third graders who needed a little extra reading support were able to participate in the teacher-nominated camps hosted at Fairmont and South Side. This was the first year that Johnson City Schools hosted two Read to be Ready camps and each operated with their own curriculum.
However, each site focused on helping students become better readers, writers and storytellers. The camps allowed the children to preview what they will learn in their next grade level, while also bolstering their confidence.
“It’s been great to have the funding to be able to provide students with intense, small-group instruction,” said Johnson City Schools Literacy coach Tiffany Hogan, who oversaw the camp at Fairmont along with Johnson City Schools Literacy coach Dr. LaDonna Boone. “We’ve been able to have one teacher for every five children, so that has allowed us to differentiate between their needs and to help propel them forward so that they can feel successful in third grade.”
At Fairmont, rising third grade students used science texts that dealt with local plants and animals to try and spark their love of reading. Keeping the focus local allowed guest speakers to visit from Evergreen Nursery, Bright’s Zoo, while rangers from Warriors Path State Park dropped by to talk about different plants and animals.
“Those guest speakers and guest readers have helped to build excitement about reading,” Hogan said.
Students at both camps were able to bring home over a dozen books to add to their home libraries. More importantly, the students will take home a better understanding and a newfound confidence as they enter their new grade.
East Tennessee State University professor Dr. Ed Dwyer said his granddaughter thoroughly enjoyed the program, as demonstrated by her many stories afterschool.
“When we picked her up from school every day she would have a wide smile and would tell us all about her day and the things she learned,” Dwyer said. “The way that the teachers were able to get children excited about reading, it is very important today. This grade is a great age to begin falling in love with reading and the adventures it will take you on.”
South Side third-grade teacher Nancy Miles wrote the grant for the program at her school and it focused on rising first graders. She said the low student-to-teacher ratio and guest speakers were important variables, but Miles also utilized volunteer students from Science Hill. She said those volunteers seemed to spark students’ interest when it came time to read aloud.
“Having some of the younger kids from Science Hill definitely helps with more hands-on and a lot of the younger students get excited about reading to an older child, because they feel like they can connect with them better,” Miles said.
While also making the students better readers, Boone said that the Fairmont program also allowed the teachers to work alongside one another and learn techniques that they can apply to their own classrooms.
“I feel that the learning was reciprocal for both teachers and coaches,” Boone said. “With professional development delivered within an apprenticeship approach, it allowed teachers and coaches to learn alongside each other. Many instructional decisions that teachers make occur ‘in the moment.’ As students’ spontaneous and diverse needs arise, it is imperative that teachers instinctually respond in ways that propel students forward.”
The third-grade teachers who helped with the Fairmont program included Sherri Smith (Fairmont), Carolyn Rose (Woodland), Melissa Jervis (Mountain View).
And while those teachers and volunteers spent the first half of their summers in the classroom with the students, the smiles and well wishes on the last day of class on Thursday seemed to show the bond that was formulated and the confidence that was gained.
“It’s been interesting to see not only their skills develop but also their confidence and affirming themselves as readers and writers,” Miles said. “I just can’t help but think that going into first grade in about six weeks that they are going to have a lot more confidence.”