Friday, October 13, 2023

WPS Summer Technology Program motivates student learning, improves comprehension

By Lorraine Glowczak

According to ID Tech, research indicates that about two months of reading and math skills are lost by students over a single summer. Often referred to as “summer slide” or “summer learning loss,” the students most affected by this educational shortfall are in Grades 1 through 8. Many elementary school teachers across the nation find that they need to re-teach basic math and reading skills when students return to classes in the fall.

WPS Principal Dr. Kyle Rhoads initiated a summer
technology program to keep students excited about learning
during the summer, preventing possible summer learning loss.
Students Leah Leighton, and her sister, Addison, stayed on
track with math and reading skills and show off their
certificates of completion. PHOTO BY BETH LEIGHTON 
However, that is not the case for many students at Windham Primary School (WPS) who have participated for the past three years in the free Summer Technology Program there. The students not only gain learning targets once school begins in the fall but develop a love of learning and can easily engage in the regular classroom setting.

WPS Instructional Interventionist Debbie Greenlaw has led this innovative summer program since its inception. She said that students who participate in at least 35 to 60 minutes a week of reading and math exercises during the summer months continue to make great educational strides.

“Since starting this program, I have noticed that students are more inspired to stay engaged in the classroom and the overall testing scores have improved,” she said. “Students have also increased in phonemic awareness, meaning they can recognize and master the spoken parts of words, syllables, etc.”

Students can choose to participate from among one to three online summer classes. Two include reading programs, one known as Lexia and the other as Raz-Kids, and one math program known as I-Ready.

“Part of the reason why the Summer Technology Program works so well is because the three online curricula promote fun learning adventures with computer-generated animation that young students love,” Greenlaw said. “They don’t even know they are learning, improving their math and literacy skills. Also, each program creates personalized learning paths for students with scaffolding activities to use at their own pace.”

There are several reasons that parents encourage their children to participate in the program. One parent, Beth Leighton, had both of her daughters, WPS second grader, Addison and her sister Leah, a fourth grader at Manchester School, join the summer program because they were receiving additional help during the school year and had made considerable progress.

“I didn’t want them to lose it over the summer and thought this would be the best way to keep them going since they both enjoy the online programs,” Leighton said.

Leighton believes the summer program prevented her daughters from summer learning loss.

“I do believe the program helped them when it comes to being excited and engaged in the start of the new school year,” she said. “In the past years there was a lot of anxious feelings about starting back up and struggles in getting back on track with the reading and math, and this year they were both excited to start school and so far, no emotions over school being ‘too hard.’”

WPS Principal Dr. Kyle Rhoads initiated the idea for promoting the Summer Technology Program and reached out to Greenlaw to lead it.

“We experienced that during the school year, the use of academic technology programs by many of our learners was a motivating learning tool,” he said. “Many of our learners were engaged by the gamified nature of the programs. We believed there was an opportunity to expand the use during the summer and at home. We felt strongly that we would need a staff member to oversee and facilitate the use by families and Mrs. Greenlaw was just right for leading this program.”

Greenlaw said she enjoys observing the triumphant feeling that the students experience.

“Every student has their unique way of learning, and it is my personal goal to figure a way to help the students become more confident with their reading,” she said.

Greenlaw is quick to point out that the success of the summer technology program is a team effort.

“I had a lot of support and assistance from the WPS Technology Department and teachers Matt Calder and Rebecca Miller. I couldn’t have done it without their assistance. I also want to give a big shout-out to Kellie Sampson at Central Office who helped me stuff all the envelopes with gifts for the students and mailed them out for me so efficiently,” she said. “And of course, the parents who supported their children along the way. But most of all, it was the students themselves who worked so eagerly on their own literacy and math skills during the summer months that moves me most of all.” <

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