HillRap and A+ Training Strengthen Individualized Reading Instruction at Read to Achieve Summer Camp

RTA Reading 450

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.”

Drama at Reader’s Theater Builds Literacy Skills at Read to Achieve Summer Camp

RTA Drama 450

by Jeanna White

“Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand”

This old Native American proverb expresses the impact that active play can have on a child’s ability to learn and exemplifies why Davie County’s arts-based Read to Achieve Camp has been so successful.

Enhancing reading skill and creating confidence are important goals of the intensive four-week camp. Davie County Schools uses a unique approach to its summer Read to Achieve Camp. In addition to traditional reading exercises, the school system incorporates visual arts, music, movement, and theater to create a holistic experience for each student.

“Dramatic activity is a natural part of most children’s lives before they start school in the form of make-believe play, enabling them to explore meaningful fictional situations that have parallels to the real world,” said Brenda Mosko, who taught drama during Davie’s Read to Achieve Camp. “This can be integrated into school through the use of structured play and drama which encourages children to learn actively and interactively throughout their education and across the curriculum.”

“Children like to move and to interact with others,” she said. “In drama we ask them to do exactly this. Rather than sitting still and listening they are encouraged to move, speak and respond to one another. Students who are challenged by reading and writing (including those with English as a second language) often respond more positively to the imaginative and multisensory learning offered by drama. This in turn helps them develop such skills as creativity, inquiry, communication, empathy, self-confidence, cooperation, leadership and negotiation. Most importantly, drama activities are fun – making learning both enjoyable and memorable.”

“Drama is ideal for cross-curricular learning and is a valuable tool for use in many subject areas. In particular, drama develops literacy skills – supporting speaking and listening, extending vocabulary and encouraging students to understand and express different points of view. Dramatic activity also motivates children to write for a range of purposes.”

“Drama encourages children to think and act creatively, thus developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can be applied in all areas of learning. Through drama, children are encouraged to take responsible roles and make choices – to participate in and guide their own learning,” Mosko said.

Using a “Reader’s Theatre” format, Mosko combined students’ desire to perform with their need for oral reading practice.

“In Reader’s Theater, students “perform” by reading scripts created from grade-level books or stories. The objective is to enhance reading skill and confidence through practice with a purpose,” she added.

During one session, students enacted a “live” weather report, complete with TV anchors wearing red blazers and weather reporters clad in raincoats. All class members played a role and wore a costume. All seemed eager for their turn to read.

“Reader’s Theatre not only offers an entertaining and engaging means for improving fluency and enhancing comprehension; but also helps readers learn to read aloud with expression as well as build reading confidence,” she said.

“Reader’s Theater motivates reluctant readers and provides fluent readers with the opportunity to explore genre and characterization. In Reader’s Theater, there is no risk, because there’s no memorization required. There’s enough opportunity for practice, so struggling readers are not put on the spot,” Mosko said.

“Although costumes are not a requirement for Reader’s Theatre, students tend to get more into character and enhance their role playing through the use of simple costumes.  Reader’s Theatre helps a child use their imagination to create a character. By nurturing a child’s imagination, we are also enhancing their creativity, a skill that will help them throughout life.”

For complete details on the Davie County Read to Achieve Summer Camp, please visit https://www.mebanefoundation.com/news/read-to-achieve-camp-it-truly-is-amazing/

Using Creativity and Movement to Build Literacy Skills at Read to Achieve Summer Camp

RTA Movemnet 450

by Jeanna White

Ribbons streaming, the first-graders glide across the stage. Although moving in unison, students perform their own dance.

Each student created their dance based on things they like to do, such as swinging a bat or swimming, and then taught it to a partner who acted as a shadow.

This exercise teaches tracking, concept identification, visualization, and sequencing. According to Noel Grady-Smith, movement instructor for Davie County Schools Read to Achieve Camp, these are important skills that influence reading.

Improved literacy skills are the ultimate goal of the intensive four-week camp.  Davie County Schools uses a unique approach to its summer Read to Achieve Camp. In addition to traditional reading exercises, the school system incorporates visual arts, music, movement, and theater to create a holistic experience for each student.

“Our premise is that students need to learn about themselves and their strengths,” she said.

Strengths come in many different forms. Developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, who created Multiple Intelligence Theory, said that every individual possesses several different and independent capacities for solving problems and creating products. He described these intelligences as verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist.

Movement is a powerful learning tool, particularly for students who are bodily-kinesthetically inclined.  

“We get to focus on the things that really drive teachers crazy, the motor skills, because this is the age group where children want to move all of the time,” Grady-Smith said with a smile. “We give them a lot of permission to move, but with a tremendous amount of structure built in.”

In addition to free movement, students manipulate props such as hoops, ribbons, and bean bags to help help them understand the impact of their movement as well as to create a connectivity to the space around them.

“As we are moving we are naming the words that describe our movements, which gives them terms they are beginning to understand. These become vocabulary words they will never forget. We are also connecting it with the literature they are seeing in their classroom,” she added. “Today we began the Corn Dance which is also being taught in music and mirrored in the first- grade curriculum and will be part of the camp’s celebratory Pow Wow.”

Third graders participate in morning stretch, a program designed to develop intense focus and collaborative skills.

“Teachers want to go into the classroom and find students who already have some of those skills. If I can build them here, it is a lot better.”

For an introductory overview of Read to Achieve Summer Camp 2017, please visit https://www.mebanefoundation.com/news/read-to-achieve-camp-it-truly-is-amazing/

Music Helps Build Literary Skills during Davie County Schools Read to Achieve Camp

RTA Music Internal

by Jeanna White

Using wooden blocks, metal triangles, and drums, Erin Penley’s students tap out the words of the poem printed on the smartboard.

“There is a large body of research that shows a direct correlation between building oral fluency and performing rhythm exercises through musical performance,” said Penley, who is teaching music during Davie County Schools’ Read to Achieve Camp. “This research asserts that through building oral fluency, students are developing their literacy skills.”

Improved literacy skills are the ultimate goal of the intensive four-week camp.  Davie County Schools uses a unique approach to its summer Read to Achieve Camp. In addition to traditional reading exercises, the school system incorporates visual arts, music, movement, and theater to create a holistic experience for each student.

“The arts-based approach in camp is child-centered; this approach allows children to learn through the arts, including visual art, movement, drama, and music,” Penley explained. “Further, these artistic modes of learning are natural ways that children play, learn, and grow. Through this child-centered approach, many students in camp experience success, some for the first time, and feel excited about their learning.”

For an introductory overview of Read to Achieve Summer Camp 2017, please visit https://www.mebanefoundation.com/news/read-to-achieve-camp-it-truly-is-amazing/

Building Literary Skills through the Visual Arts at Davie County Schools Read to Achieve Summer Camp

RTA Art Internal

by Jeanna White

Armed with paint brushes, some students add personal touches to pictures that will be joined together to create a totem pole for the end-of-camp celebration. Others are applying the final layer of glaze to ceramic tiles bearing their personal symbols. Containers of hand-made clay beads and medallions cover the tables and floor.

What may appear like chaos is actually learning in its highest form.

“In the arts, we start with creativity, which is at the top of the intelligence scale,” said visual arts teacher, Lauren Rieth, referencing Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains, which promotes higher forms of thinking in education, such as analyzing and evaluating concepts, processes, procedures, and principles, rather than just remembering facts.

“The ability to see in many different ways and to solve problems are important 21st-century skills,” she added

Davie County Schools uses a unique approach to its summer Read to Achieve Camp. In addition to traditional reading exercises, the school system incorporates visual arts, music, movement, and theater to create a holistic experience for each student.

This summer, all camp activities are centered around the reading of The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin. In the story, a Native American girl is looked down upon because of her looks, but in the end, she is recognized and admired for her inner beauty.

“Read to Achieve Camp is full of boys and girls who sometimes don’t feel respected because they have different strengths and different ways of learning,” Rieth said.

“In this class, we use the creation of personal symbols and power necklaces and medallions to help them find the inner fierceness and strength needed to become the leaders they were meant to be.”

For an introductory overview of Read to Achieve Summer Camp 2017, please visit https://www.mebanefoundation.com/news/read-to-achieve-camp-it-truly-is-amazing/

Read to Achieve Camp – It Truly is Amazing!

read to achieve start int1

by Jeanna White

They started arriving at 7:45 am. Some were eager, some nervous, a few a bit teary, but all were ready for fun and success during Davie County’s Read to Achieve Camp.

“Mrs. Eggleston (3rd grade teacher at William R. Davie) told me the camp is awesome! I can’t wait!” said a third grade girl. Clutching shoeboxes for an upcoming camp project, she and another third-grade girl shared their enthusiasm about the first day. Both proudly showed the star stickers that identified which school bus they would ride home; one was excited because it would be her first time, likely only one of a number of exciting firsts during the camp.

Read to Achieve Camp is designed to help third graders who have not met state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade. The intensive four-week camp also includes first and second graders who demonstrated the potential of reaching grade-level proficiency in reading with extra help in the summer, as mandated by the North Carolina Department of Instruction. This year’s camp will serve 80 third graders, 30 second graders, and 30 first graders.

read to achieve start int2With $90,000 provided by the Mebane Foundation combined with state funds, students attending the 2017 Read to Achieve Camp will actively learn through visual arts, dance, drama, music and creative writing, in addition to tailored instruction through Hill Center Reading sessions and small group literacy circles. Campers develop self-confidence and learn techniques to reduce test anxiety. This is the fourth year Davie’s highly successful RtA will use this holistic approach to reading.

Raymonda Shelton, an instructional coach at William R. Davie Elementary who also serves as the Read to Achieve Camp’s curriculum coordinator, loves the camp’s multi-faceted approach.  “Students who have had difficulty learning one way, are so good at learning other ways. They discover that they really can learn this information. It becomes magical.”

read to achieve start int3During last summer’s camp, more than 27% of the county’s non-proficient third-graders  reached the required reading achievement score to move on to fourth grade and a remarkable 76% showed positive growth on one or more reading assessments. In addition, over 65% of the youngest campers demonstrated strong growth over their initial scores on formative evaluations.

Parents are excited about the positive impact the camp can have on their child’s learning and future academic success.   

“I think this is a really great opportunity,” said the mother of a rising 2nd-grader. “I wish I had this camp when I went to school.”

One father said his son was nervous because he didn’t know anyone, but added,”This is going to be good for him. I think he will learn a lot and have a great time.”

Shelton said, “Read to Achieve Camp is truly a lot of fun. I think a lot of times families are apprehensive about their child having to go to summer school, but by the end of the first week we are receiving phone calls from parents asking how they can get their child into the camp. The word travels fast so we know it is a good experience.”

“We spend several weeks in advance defending the camp and trying to talk some of the parents into it and then five days after we get here we are having to turn people away,” she added.  

“This camp is really a good thing. Kids start feeling better about themselves and better about school. It truly is amazing.”