South Orangetown Central School District

Thirty-five rising first- and second-grade multilingual learners are participating in a two-week learning camp this month. “Our goals are to help our students maintain their school and social connections, maintain their language repertoire, participate in literacy activities that build digital skills, as well as their confidence in both verbal and digital communication,” explained WOS English as a New Language Team (ENL) Leader Elizabeth Apicella.

WOS has consistently offered a literacy summer program to its multilingual learners in recent years. However, the move to distance learning forced administrators and faculty to rethink the purpose of bringing students together and resulted in a language-based, small group and co-taught instructional format to meet both the language and social-emotional needs of students through digital platforms.

Groups of six students or fewer meet for at least an hour of live learning with two teachers each day. Supplies for art projects related to literacy and content were home-delivered to students prior to July 13, the first day of the program.

“We open our Zoom meeting before the official start time to help students connect, reach out to those who may need support and just be available for informal chats,” said teacher Pam Bartell, who is partnered with Apicella to work with rising second-graders. “Once everyone has logged on, students check in on the Mood Meter and share how they’re feeling and what they have been doing. From there, we use Zoom breakout rooms to engage in literacy and language development activities, such as shared reading, guided drawing and lots and lots of conversation! Our group is focusing on nonfiction literature and we’re learning about animals on the African savanna. We’ve found that if we keep groups small, students can remain unmuted, speak freely and be heard. We’re so proud of the growth in our students’ digital literacy and how they have risen to the technology demands and expectations of distance learning!”

Julia Ann Aaron and Rich Lozada have also partnered to work with rising second-grade students. “Once our students have reflected on how they’re feeling, one of us will do a read aloud while the other contacts any students who haven’t logged on,” Aaron reported. Then, students move into their breakout groups.

“Students are practicing story sequencing with picture cards,” said Lozada. “To build vocabulary, we use a mentor sentence from the text and work with students on replacing a key adjective with synonyms. Students also have an opportunity to draw their favorite characters and explain why a character is their favorite. We also share video clips that illustrate various verbs. For example, they have learned that there are many ways that an animal can move, such as slither, trot, flutter or glide. We practice sounds of individual letters and digraphs and practice identifying words that begin with the same initial sounds. To close our daily session, we come back together for a full group activity and for students to share what they learned with each other.”

Rising first-graders work with teachers Jaimie Ehardt and Liz Fearen and have their choice of one of three daily sessions, which target listening, speaking, reading and writing. “We start with an open share during which students may choose to describe an object they bring to the session or talk about something they did or will do this summer,” Ehardt noted. “The morning meeting picture prompt facilitates further discussion by posing a question of the day, such as ‘what is your favorite food?’, or offering a choice of topic.”

“Every two days, we learn about a new animal through text and interactive videos. Students record what they know, wonder and learn on our ‘KWL’ chart,” said Fearen. “Our lessons are text-based and include a phonics review of specific letters, sounds and sight words, as well as experiential vocabulary specific to the text. We wrap up with a how-to drawing experience in which together, step by step, we create our own versions of the focus animal, adding labels and using sight words to write sentences. We take a few minutes to add our own personal touches to the animal we illustrated before sharing our work and giving well-deserved compliments!”

Principal Sheila Beglin reported that the summer program has helped early elementary aged students who speak multiple languages sustain the progress they had made the previous school year so that they are ready to move forward in September. “I am very proud of the work that our team has done in supporting our young learners,” she stated. “This program has provided our students with continued practice with literacy skills, speaking and listening skills and self and social awareness skills. This will help our students start the school year off with confidence as well as having built relationships with peers and teachers that they will be working with in the fall.”

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