Educators at a Chicago elementary school spent the summer redesigning their reading program for the first and second grades.
They came up with the “CY-BEAR.” This fall, each student will receive a stuffed animal to read aloud to.
Sounds goofy, but principal Shawn Jackson says it reduces the anxiety to read in front of others and can help improve scores for the many children whose parents don’t read to them. That accounts for a lot of Jackson’s 930 students at Spencer Elementary Technology Academy. About 85 percent read below grade level and nearly all are from low-income homes.
It took about two months to come up with the plan — an example of how schools increasingly are seizing the summer break as an opportunity to innovate.
“During the school year, there are so many other variables that can come into play. Day-to-day operations, sometimes we get into their own silos, teachers have to worry about the 30 students in front of them,” Jackson told the Associated Press.
According to a story by AP reporter Philip Elliott, Jackson and his team competed in the Chicago Public Education Fund’s Summer Design Program, an innovation challenge that offered educators up to $10,000 to test their ideas.
“Most people would take the time to relax,” Jackson said.
Instead, he and his team rewrote the school’s reading program, overhauling how his youngest students spend two hours each day.
Elsewhere, educators are seeking to prevent the learning loss that many students experience while school’s out for summer
Without classes to attend, most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.
That’s according to the National Summer Learning Association, But summer learning programs targeted to low-income students can help close the achievement gap, the association says: “The effects of summer learning programs endure for at least two years after participation,” long-term studies indicate.
In Harlem, 40 students attended a day camp this summer intended to keep up their reading skills. At LitWorld Camp, they could read whatever they wanted over the six-week period.
If students show an interest in cooking or animals, hip-hop or vintage toys, leaders find books that match up with their interests. Students wrote songs based on books on hip-hop and designed their own toys based on the ones they read about from the Depression, Colonial times and ancient Egypt.
Read more about creative uses of summertime here.
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews: Youngsters attending LitCamp.