by Jeanna B. White
During Davie County’s intensive four-week Read to Achieve summer camp, each camper experiences 128 hours of instruction with over 28 hours spent in individualized learning sessions with only three to four students in the group.
Tailored instruction through Hill Center HillRap reading sessions, as well as small group literacy circles and reading groups are essential aspects of the camp’s holistic approach to reading. Campers also actively learn through visual arts, dance, drama, music, and creative writing.
“HillRAP is a research-based multisensory structured language approach to teaching reading and when you combine that with A+ Schools training, it provides the students with a well-rounded approach to literacy,” said Kerry Blackwelder, who has taught HillRap to third graders at the camp for the past four summers and has taught the Hill Methodology to students at Cooleemee Elementary for the past 13 years.
“Instruction is individualized to meet the needs of all of the students and this allows us to make the most of our sixteen days at camp. We are able to work with each student in the area of phonics they need. The exciting thing about HillRAP the past two summers is that we have been able to use the Hill Learning System and implement HillRAP on the iPad. This keeps the students engaged from the beginning of the 45 minute session until the end. They are excited about mastering their word lists, reaching their fluency goals, and answering comprehension questions on the iPad.”
“I have a passion for this program because I have seen students improve their literacy skills and become confident readers,” Blackwelder said.
Using this Hill Learning System (HLS), seven specially-trained teachers guide these small groups through exercises in phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Progress is continually monitored as students work toward mastery of skills.
Students are also assigned to a reading group of 4-8 students led by a reading coach. These groups provide extra practice and expand upon the skills learned during HillRap sessions.
Each day focuses on a different genre of reading: fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. The main focus for each genre is understanding the text and being able to retell the story in the proper sequence.
“All of our reading activities incorporate A+ Schools strategies using dance, visual art, or music,” said Lori Culler, a third grade reading coach. “This promotes high engagement from the students. The Read to Achieve Camp provides opportunities for third grade students to shine and succeed in an area where they have often struggled.”