In the Classroom
Camp Seeker: Decreasing the Summer Slide
September 5, 2018
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Beth Gotcher
@b_gotcher

During the summer, while many students were far from their classrooms, 15 students in Maryville were in the middle of their writer’s workshop. The district was fortunate enough to receive a Read to be Ready Summer Grant. This experience was a wonderful learning experience for both teachers and students. Six key takeaways from this experience could benefit future Read to be Ready Camps.
  1. Committed Staff: The attitude and quality of the teachers will directly impact the tone of your camp. Even before camp began these teachers had a high level of excitement for this program. Each day the teachers arrived ready to go and remained positive throughout the entire camp experience.  Having staff buy-in on the front end went a long way to creating student buy-in.
  2. Intentional Student Selection: Our school elected to target rising third-grade students who were most at risk for the summer slide based on assessments such as STAR Reading and Case 21. Feedback from the students’ current teacher was collected to further target the students who would most benefit from the camp. To promote daily attendance, bus transportation was provided along with breakfast and lunch.
  3. Purposeful Planning: Purposeful planning occurred to ensure the experience was engaging and meaningful for students. A common theme of discussion among camp teachers was a desire to promote a love for reading and the adventures students can experience through books. Thus emerged the name of Camp Seeker. In addition, time was devoted to selecting a curriculum that would support this vision. Scholastic Lit Camp was chosen as the curriculum and came with twenty texts representing a variety of genres and cultures.  Each day, one of the texts was used for an interactive read aloud and corresponding writer’s workshop focus. Each student received a copy of this book to keep which helped to promote interest among the students.
  4. Meaningful Field Trips: To support our theme of Camp Seeker and promote a continued love for reading beyond the camp, weekly field trips were taken to our public library. Students had the opportunity to check out self-selected books. Many were astounded by the number of choices and the realization that they were able to choose any book they wanted.  It was amazing to see their excitement for reading grow firsthand. Parents were encouraged to continue library trips with their child after camp.
  5. Parent Buy-In: Parent response to our program was phenomenal! Our daily camp attendance averaged over 95%, and many students did not miss a single day! At the conclusion of camp, a family celebration occurred, including lunch and a student share time of a writing sample. At the celebration, many parents shared their initial worries about their child’s motivation to participate in the program but that their child woke up each morning ready and excited to attend.
  6. Student Engagement: In addition to daily reading and writing, students also participated in hands-on learning opportunities. Examples included balloon popping with sequencing, creating their own tennis shoes for creative writing, and designing and testing their own airplanes in conjunction with studying Orville and Wilbur Wright. These hands-on activities promoted student engagement.

From start to finish, Camp Seeker was a truly wonderful experience for our students, families, and teachers. It was amazing to see students so excited about learning during the summer. The hope is to reapply for the grant next year and expand this opportunity to more students. Reading scores of students who participate will be evaluated to determine if the program was effective in decreasing the summer slide so as to make adjustments for next year.

  • What has your experience been with the Ready to be Ready Summer Grant?
  • What was effective in your summer program?
  • What would you change in you held the summer program again?

Beth has taught in Maryville City Schools for 10 years. She began her teaching career in 2nd grade for two years and then moved to 4th grade for four years. For the past four years, she has taught Kindergarten. Beth earned her Bachelor of Arts from Maryville College in Child Development and Learning. She furthered her education and earned a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Lincoln Memorial University as well as an Educational Specialist’s degree in Educational Administration and Supervision also from Lincoln Memorial University. In 2017, Elizabeth completed her Ph.D. with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The title of her dissertation was The Role of Administrators in Facilitating Change and Establishing a Positive Culture in a New School. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

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