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Summer Reading Academy helps students make transition

July 29, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Going from elementary school to middle school is both an academic leap and a cultural rite of passage, one that about three dozen students in the Chambersburg Area School District are spending six weeks preparing for this summer.

This is the first year for the Summer Reading Academy program, which has two-hour sessions for students making the transition from elementary to middle school and from the middle school to junior high, Anne Corwell, the program's coordinator said last week.

"This is an enrichment program," Corwell said. Some of the students do have special needs, but others were identified by the district as just needing some help in sharpening certain skills, according to Corwell.

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Students circulate between groups at Chambersburg Area Middle School, working on transition skills, comprehension and writing and the reading academy, Corwell said.

"We're giving them some tips on how to do well at their new school," Corwell said of the transition sessions. A big part of that, especially for those entering the middle school, is getting used to going from one class to another through the day, along with study skills and organizing assignments, she said.

Comprehension and writing is aimed at helping the students improve their scores on state standardized achievement tests, according to Corwell.

In the reading academy, Corwell said some students are "re-taught phonics strategies," getting down to the basics of what sounds vowels, consonants and combinations of letters produce.

"You've got to keep the rhythm to it. You have to get faster to pass it," said Kayla Rotz, 13, as she went through a computer exercise on word recognition. A short while later, having maintained the same rate on the test three times, the computer allowed Rotz to print out a certificate attesting she was ready to move on to the next level.

At the next computer station, 16-year-old Meghan Ray was working on her comprehension skills.

"They give you a paragraph to read and then you answer five questions. Then you find out which are right and review the paragraph again," Ray said. She went five-for-five on one and moved on to another.

After Rotz asked if there was any pizza left, Corwell said the Chambersburg School District Foundation put up $500 to pay for some incentive gifts for the students.

The program is staffed by learning support teachers who volunteered to give up some vacation time themselves, Corwell said. "I knew from the get-go the concept of the program was awesome and I wanted to be a part of it," she said.

"There were enough staff that wanted to volunteer that not everyone had to do all six weeks," said Barb Eshelman of Fayetteville, Pa., who is putting in three weeks with the academy.

The students also are getting first crack at technology that is new to the district, Corwell said. That includes a wireless laptop computer lab, which allows them to access the reading academy, do word processing or go on the Internet without having to be plugged in.

Rotz and Ray used one to access a Web site to put together an organizational notebook.

"It's kind of weird. I never thought I'd be going to school in the summer, but it's all right," Ray said of the voluntary program. Fortunately, all the classes are in the morning and students are back to summer vacation by about noon.

"As soon as I leave here, I usually go to the pool," said Jessica Batzel, 13, who has been honing her reading and writing skills.

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