Summer Academy offers support to English Learner students, families

Ricardo Vaquero, 9, center, smiles as he helps classmate Carlos Vicente, 12, with an activity on Rosetta Stone as teacher Jennifer Borges watches during an English Language learning academy at Canyon Springs Elementary on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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Nearly 100 English Learner (EL) students from all of Sulphur Springs Union School District’s schools spent two weeks of their summer vacation brushing up on their English, math and reading skills at Canyon Springs Community School.

The two-week program, titled “Summer Academy: Find Your Voice,” placed fourth, fifth and sixth grade students in 10 small classes where academy teachers focused on the knowledge EL students have to offer their families and communities.

“This year’s theme is ‘Voice,’ in giving the students a voice and giving parents a voice to support the different avenues of their children’s education,” technology Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Stephanie Cruz said.

This year’s Summer Academy also included a Parent Academy which informed parents on how to support the academic and social emotional needs of their children.

“We’re excited to have this component,” said Kathy Harris, the district’s assistant superintendent of instructional services.  “If you support the parents and help them understand the system, then they can buy into it later.”

English language learning students highlight connecting words on a smart board at Canyon Springs Elementary on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. Students were invited to attend a two-week academy to help them gain confidence in their language abilities. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

With research-based practices and pedagogy, academy teachers focused on lessons that were culturally responsive and highlighted the assets diverse students and families bring into classrooms.

Each morning, the entire group of parents and students begins the day in a circle where they focus on different skills and talk about the day’s core lesson before breaking off into groups.

“We focus on the growth mindset to keep things positive, to learn that mistakes can be good,” Cruz said.

In the younger classes, fourth and fifth grade students created their own biography project on Google Slides after reading a complex passage, completing research, filling out a biography deconstruction worksheet and watching a film.

“We made a Martin Luther King, Jr. project,” fifth grade student Richard Martarmoros, 10, said.  “It was made by me and my friend Brian and it tells where he was born and what he did.”

In the sixth grade class, students learned new math skills, focused on sentence structure and studied historical figures who overcame adversity.  These include men, women and figures students would recognize from their culture.

“We’ve been learning about math to add in different ways and to multiply. We learned how to make unknown words known by using context clues,” sixth grade student Christopher Serrano, 11, said.  “Now we’re finding strong verbs, adjectives and commas and what words can connect a sentence.”

Eduardo Okada, 9, smiles as he looks over to classmate Jose Vicente’s, 10, computer during an English language learning academy at Canyon Springs Elementary on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The Summer Academy also included a multi-grade level class for newcomers—students who are new to U.S. schools for less than 12 months—who used Rosetta Stone to learn the English language.

“It [Rosetta Stone] is a new tool we’re bringing into the classroom to help newcomers and their parents next year,” Harris said.

Students who use the Rosetta Stone software during the Summer Academy will have access to it for the rest of the year to help with their studies.

A favorite for students was learning how to code robots like Dot and Dash or Bee-Bot to make sounds, change colors and drive.

“We were controlling a Bee or a Bot to code so it followed your directions,” Martarmoros said.

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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