Summer School has received a make-over for the second-year
Posted on 08/07/2019
A group of students attending LitCamp reading in a tent

The lights are out in Barbara Sharp’s kindergarten through second-grade English Language Learners (ELL) classroom at Ellis Elementary School, but the room is not empty. Some students are sitting in Lake-Read-A-Lot, a small pool that has no water; instead it has pillows. Others are gathered in a tent in the corner of the room. Each student has a flashlight and a book, because this is flashlight reading time. The classroom environment is set to mimic camping, which is the theme of this year’s summer school language arts program.

“Shifting the focus to a learning experience made the students excited about coming each day and open to learning in a new and exciting way,” explained Dara Dugger, director of the Office of Student Management and Alternative Programs (OSMAP), which oversees summer school programs. “Additionally, the camping theme allows students an opportunity to escape their normal routine as a traditional summer camp may not be available to them.”

In Cassandra Kernville’s first-grade classroom, students have lanterns at their tables. They also spend time reading in a big tent in the classroom.

Ellis Elementary summer school Principal Lauren Stephenson explained, “This is the second year that the School Division has had a themed summer school session and it has helped with retention. Less students are dropping out of the program as compared to past years.”

At the beginning of the four-week session, each class decided on a ‘camp’ name. The names include: Open-Minded, Thinkers, Risk Takers and Reflective. The session at Ellis Elementary is also hosting Loch Lomond Elementary and West Gate Elementary base school students. The students are divided into classes based on need. Some students spend the entire four-hour school day in the language arts program, whereas others spend half of the day in the language arts program and half of the day sharpening their math skills.

Staff members from the seven-offices that comprise the School Division’s Student Learning Department, which includes the offices of special education and ELL, sought out a program that could be used at all 22 elementary and middle school locations offering language arts summer school classes.

Dugger explained, “It was important to make sure the materials used were consistent across the School Division and provided quality experiences for students with different needs. Scholastic Books’ LitCamp was chosen as a tool because it focused on the use of authentic text and rich experiences for diverse students.” LitCamp was created by Scholastic Books, the literacy organization LitWorld and best-selling author and literacy advocate Pam Allyn.

This past spring, “Teachers participated in professional development led by Scholastic’s staff and each classroom received resources that provided innovative, research-based reading and writing lessons that had an engaging and an interactive summer camp approach,” Lynmara Colón, director of the Office of ELL Programs and Services, explained. Approximately 300 teachers attended this professional development, making Prince William County Public Schools the largest training audience for Scholastic this past spring. This caught the eye of Allyn, who visited Lake Ridge Middle and Ellis Elementary during the last week of summer school to see the program in action. Scholastic is producing a video about the program featuring Prince William County Public School teachers, administrator and students.