Making summer reading, math fun

Students and teachers gathered at Linden Street School for the annual summer celebration to show parents what the kids in the Plainville Schools Reading and Math Summer Program (RAMP) had accomplished this summer.
The hallways were covered with art projects, which is one of the ways the school system was able to make lessons more fun and reinforce what they had learned.
“It’s not a teacher standing in front in a whole classroom of kids listening,” said Program Coordinator Philip Sanders. “It’s watching a video. It’s breaking into small groups for discussion. We differentiate our instruction.”
Sanders said that the reason the RAMP program is so successful is because the children are screened during the school year before they are invited to the program.
“What we really try to do is get the third of the kids who need it most and try to hit on their areas of need,” said Sanders. “We figure out where the kids are and we teach them at that level, so that they can make the most gains.”
The program coordinator said that the summer school teachers track the students and give that information to their incoming teacher, so that they know the strengths and weaknesses of that student. The teacher will use that information as a guide to differentiate their learning needs as they move on to a higher level.
According to many of the teachers, the majority of the students in the R.A.M.P program responded well to summer school.
“I think part of what  you want to do in summer school is to keep the students practicing the skills that they have already learned, but you have to make it interesting,” said Amanda Brown, who taught reading to fifth graders going into sixth grade.
Brown said that most of her students came to school everyday and she believes her effort to make topics interesting helped with attendance.
Every week, the students in Brown’s class had a theme they were learning and did projects and presentations on those themes. The group covered everything from sports, natural disasters, traditional literature, and different countries.
They were able to learn how to use a table of contents, research a topic, and develop critical reading and writing skills.
Brown said there is a big advantage for students who participate in the reading program, because they have a sort of bridge over the summer.
“You get a little dip in the summer for kids who don’t do a lot of reading,” said Brown. “They’re used to reading everyday during the school year, but then they stop and don’t read as much. So having this connection between the end of the school year and the beginning of the school year definitely keeps their confidence and to keep some of those skills up, so that way they’re a little bit more prepared for the next grade.”
Program Coordinator Sanders agreed reading is a necessary skill for students to keep sharp, because it is a central part of learning and life.
“A kid who doesn’t know how to read, who doesn’t love reading in second grade that makes life very difficult for them for the next 10 years,” said Sanders. “So we really try to get the skill set down, get them confident and comfortable so that they love learning and continue on.”
The smaller class size in the RAMP program also may contribute to making students more confident readers and mathematicians.
Brown said she is definitely able to give her students more one-on-one attention then she is during the normal school year.
“I was able to meet with all of them everyday and help them or just take a look at their notes,” said Brown about the R.A.M.P program. “They get the attention that they need during the school year; it just might not be for as long or everyday.”
RAMP students also got the attention of art teacher Jessica Ryan everyday for a half an hour.
Ryan collaborated with the other teachers to find out what students were working on in their reading and math classes and integrated the subjects into their art lessons.
Whether students were reading zoo animals or learning what symmetry is in math class, Ryan created an art project to coincide with it.
She said it was helpful to combine the subjects, so that they understand that all subjects are integrated, whether its math or reading. Art became the tool for reinforcement.
For many students, the light bulb went off that the two were related.
“When I’m starting a lesson and I’m using math terms and I say, ‘Are you familiar with parallel?’ And many times they would say, ‘Oh I know parallel. We learned that in math,’ said Ryan. “Then I’d ask, ‘What is parallel?’ So when I’m going through the steps it kind of reinforces what they’re learning in the different subjects.”
For Lauren Incognito’s 5 year old daughter, Georgia, these tactics really worked.
“I love that they integrated fun with the learning aspects to make the kids feel like they were at a camp and not just summer school,” said Incognito.
According to this Plainville mom, the most exciting thing about the program was hearing her daughter say math is fun.
“I’ve definitely seen an improvement for her,” said Incognito. “I think with her, it’s just a matter of slowing down, but the very idea that she said math is fun tells me that they were spot on with this program.”
Comments? Email lcarey@Southington

Georgia Incognito poses by some of the artwork Plainville Schools Reading and Math Summer Program at Linden Street School.

Georgia Incognito poses by some of the artwork created in the Plainville Schools Reading and Math Summer Program at Linden Street School.