Summer program focuses on literacy skills
Summer program focuses on literacy skills
Posted on 07/24/2014
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WEST HAVEN, July 17, 2014 — A West Haven School District summer reading camp is helping around 70 youngsters master basic literacy skills before first grade or second grade, while also tackling tasks that previously stumped the students.

The four-week-long program, which is held at Savin Rock Community School, aims to strengthen Savin Rock and Forest Elementary School students’ reading and writing skills and reinforce key concepts that will be necessary for success in first and second grade and beyond.

The initiative targeted students from last year’s Forest and Savin Rock kindergarten and grade one classes because both buildings have been labeled as “review schools” by the state and need additional assistance. Teachers recommended students for the program based on academic need.

“The kids seem to love it. The day is very structured, with writing, computer lab time, and MEL (movement-enhanced learning) in the gym, so it’s keeping their attention. Classes are mixed between Forest and Savin Rock kids, so they’re meeting new friends and there’s a social aspect as well,” said Kristen Morin, program director. “We try to do fun game-type activities and a lot of small group work, so they’re definitely getting a lot of individualized instruction.”

The weekday sessions, which are four hours each, also include lessons with interactive white boards and small group work with Savin Rock literacy teacher Kim Gifford to aid students in fully grasping the basic building blocks of literacy. Lessons are phonics-based and focus on understanding letter sounds, making words, and breaking word sounds into parts.

“We looked at the group of kids and determined whether they had attendance issues or weren’t native English speakers or any other challenges they were having, and we’re giving them that extra time they needed to make sure they can be successful when they get to first grade and have a solid foundation to build upon when they enter higher grade levels,” said Morin, who has worked as a teacher at Alma E. Pagels Elementary School and will start this fall as a reading consultant at Forest.

Research has shown that students who don’t read at grade level by third grade likely won’t catch up to an age-appropriate reading level in later grades and may struggle in other subjects as a result, Assistant Superintendent Anne Druzolowski said.

“Reading and comprehension skills are required for every subject, even math, which is why we’re placing an emphasis on literacy in the early grades. These skills will be essential as students advance through school,” she said. “It’s an issue that has rightly demanded a great deal of our attention as we’ve reviewed curriculum over the past few years, and operating this summer reading camp is just one way we’re addressing student needs in this area.”

The program is also providing enrichment activities. Traveling teachers from the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium recently held story time at Savin Rock and gave students an opportunity to examine sea creatures, such as crabs. The children will also visit the Yale Peabody Museum and attend an educational and interactive show at Southern Connecticut State University. Additionally, each student receives a book every Friday to keep.

“To them, it’s a camp because it’s not your normal school day,” Morin said. “The kids like the routine of it, and the parents have been very receptive.”

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