Learning Language at Summer School

Four weeks of language development helps both students and teachers learn

Teacher Delores Hastings gathered a group of third-grade students in front of their parents to show off some songs they learned at summer school.

The student wrote the words themselves, and applied them to simple melodies while they researched, discussed, and wrote about the impacts of plastics on the environment. The walls of the classroom were covered with sheets of paper that reflected their learning of the topic -- and how they crafted the language to describe it.

Hastings' students were in just one of several classrooms at the Demonstration English Language Development Summer School in Stockton that wrapped up in June with an open house for parents and community members.

Focusing on long-term English learners, the program teaches language skills while students delve into projects that capture their interest and imagination.  The third- through eighth-graders from schools across Stockton Unified School District included a focus on learning about plastics and pollution. Students from transitional kindergarten through second grade had a focus on multicultural fairytales.

The projects and activities over the four weeks required students to listen, read, write, speak -- and sometimes sing -- allowing them to develop their English skills.

"They are engaging in all these activities which focus on improving their speaking and writing and since they appear game-like, students are often unaware that they’ve just read a passage five times or discussed which verb tense makes sense," SJCOE Language and Literacy Director Karin Linn-Nieves said.

The teachers in the class also came from schools across the district. They learned new strategies to better teach students the skills they need to become fluent in English.  The teachers all plan to take these strategies with them back to their schools to share with their colleagues and upcoming class of students.

"We are learning so much about the strategies," said Diep Nguyen, a kindergarten teacher from Fremont Elementary School. "I would do it again in a heartbeat."

A joint project of the San Joaquin County Office of Education and Stockton Unified, this is the third year of the summer school program. It's a collaboration that includes SJCOE's Language & Literacy, Math, and Migrant Education departments plus Stockton Unified's Language Development Office and Science Department. The summer school was held at the district's Pittman Charter School.

During the four weeks, visitors from the California Department of Education, Sacramento, Butte and Santa Cruz county offices of education, and districts from around the region came to observe the teaching strategies being used at the summer school.

This year's summer school also included an increased focus on science and engineering. The plastic pollution problem exposed students to many Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) via hands-on activities and experiments, while the younger students focused on adding engineering into their fairytale projects.

That's why their Little Red Riding Hood projects imagined how an elevated zipline could help make the journey to Grandma's house a whole lot safer. 

Second-grader Joseline's stack of projects from the four weeks of summer school included a drawing of Little Red Riding Hood's path, complete with a zipline string connecting two towers made from cardboard tubes. While showing her mom all around and describing the posters on the walls, she said her favorite part was reading the stories and writing one of her own.

She wasn't the only student in Angelique Salcedo's class who said the best thing about summer school was the stories. The stories and hands on activities engage the students, said Salcedo, who teaches at Hoover Elementary School.

"Our focus is on literacy. We make sure the kids have enough information to speak about what they read and write about what they read," she said. "We also did it in a way that was fun."



Posted: 7/1/2019