Most kids would dread the idea of going to school in the summer. However, students attending summer school at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School seem to cherish the opportunity.
The program is unique to TJ in the district. Most other schools just have Extended School Year or ESY, but TJ does summer school in addition. A total of 25 students are divided amongst three of TJ’s special education teachers, Lucinda Sinclair, Nicole Lequia and Barb Hackworth, to help retain some of the knowledge they learned in the previous school year and prepare for the next one.
Students go for six weeks total, three when school ends and three before it starts back up. They go three days a week, depending on district events, and go from 8 to 11:30 a.m. The class sessions are block scheduled and consist of reading, writing and math.
“Reading is (about) comprehension, fluency and accuracy,” Sinclair said. “Writing is just sentence formation, punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure and basic stuff like that. Math is just maintaining their skills that they learned. So like, we really hit on facts a lot, multiplication, divisions, addition, subtraction. And then story problems and time measurement so that they are really strong in those when they start fourth grade.”
This is Sinclair’s second year teaching in the program, and she said she wouldn’t even think twice about continuing to teach partially during the summer. Her enthusiasm in teaching is reflected by her student’s responses to the program.
“It’s been good. If I wouldn’t have went to this, I wouldn’t remember how to spell and all that,” Gaven Slycord said. “And sometimes we get to have fun in here. Ms. Sinclair is the best, and I’m happy for her to be my teacher in summer school.”
Some of the fun things Slycord referred to are the “Dance Parties,” which is Sinclair’s reward for her class on Friday’s during the regular school year. However, to break up the block scheduling during the summer, Sinclair and the students usually have their dance party from 9:30 to 9:45 a.m. as a way to keep their minds fresh.
For Thursday’s dance party, the kids rocked out with AC/DC, sang-a-long to the “Cup Song” by Anna Kendrick and enjoyed the lyrical prowess of 10-year-old rapper MattyB.
Another way she made learning fun for the kids was teaching them how to share and by providing actual candy for the kids to share. She also still uses the old school, yet effective, method of handing out work sheets.
“It’s really been helping me a lot with my writing,” Shelby Kenney said. “Ms. Sinclair has done a great job of teaching us. I feel like I’m getting better at my writing and my reading. She’s helping me with my phone number, how to spell Newton Iowa and all of that. She’s doing a really great job of teaching.”
The program seems to be going well and Sinclair believes it is making a difference.
“(It is) obviously, very impactful,” Sinclair said. “We have to give weekly tests, called Progress Monitoring, but they are in all three of those areas. We compare them to where they were at the end of the year, where they were at the end of the summer and then when they start the fourth grade, they will do the same test.”
“We are comparing it every week to see if they are improving or if they have lost skill,” she continued. “We are constantly looking at do we need to change our instruction? Beef it up, if it’s working or keep it up if it’s the same.”