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South Grant Elementary School’s summer program meant to ease the literacy ‘summer slide’

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 10:32 PM CDT
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GRANT PARISH, La. (KALB) - There is no doubt the pandemic drastically impacted students at every level, both in and out of the classroom. Now, schools are looking to close learning gaps coming out of the Spring 2021 semester, hoping to start the next school year stronger.

For three weeks at South Grant Elementary School (SGE), about 35 students from kindergarten-third grade went through a “Wild About Reading” program focused on literacy.

“Literacy touches all subject areas, and we want to encourage a love of reading,” said Danelle Bennett, SGE’s music teacher.

Although the school was looking to address learning gaps left by the COVID-19 pandemic, they were also trying to prevent one that is much more common in education.

“It’s a well-documented fact that there is such a thing that’s called ‘summer slide’ that happens when kids that are used to reading every day in the classroom, all of a sudden don’t read during the summer,” said Sydni Noakes, SGE’s librarian. ”There is a little bit of a regression, and that’s why we always have to focus at the very beginning of the school year to try to get them back on track. So, we’re trying to prevent the summer slide from happening this year, especially with the year being so difficult this past year.”

It wasn’t summer school in the way you might think, though, rather, more like summer camp.

“So, almost where the kids were learning without so much learning,” said Noakes. “They didn’t realize what they were all taking in.”

Teachers created activities in the classroom to improve reading fluency. Students applied those skills in the library and music room through non-fiction research projects on animals of their choosing and reader’s theatre in the library and music room - a hit among many students.

Summer programs are not the norm for many schools. This year, however, programs like the one at SGE were made possible through federally-funded “Achieve Grants” used to address specific needs in schools across the state, providing an opportunity for continued learning during the summer.

SGE was one of eight schools in their district to hold a summer program. Each program was catered to a school’s specific needs. So, while SGE focused on literacy, others might have focused on mathematics or ELA.

These programs were also not mandatory. Students invited to participate were first identified by using data and select, school-level criteria. Though the goal was to provide more support for these students to continue learning in the summer, the message to students across the board remains the same - you cannot go wrong by picking up a good book.

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