WASHINGTON COUNTY — Sitting in a little chair at a table with three incoming second-graders, teacher Julie Grimm provided tips to one student for an illustration for his book, then turned to another to check out his writing.
“When the seeds grrrrrrrow,” she said as she read his writing. “What are you missing in grow?” she asked Carlos Vicuna.
“Oh, ‘R,’” said Carlos, 7, leaning forward to add the letter to the page.
Creating their own books about a nonfiction subject, or their own story based on the character “Scaredy Squirrel” were among the activities students in a new summer school program undertook recently at Rockland Woods Elementary School.
The new summer program was created to help incoming second-graders who were reading below grade level catch up before the start of the new school year on Aug. 22.
While the school system invited approximately 400 students to participate in the new summer program, only about 170 enrolled, said Steve Wernick, director of elementary schools for Washington County Public Schools.
The program began July 2 and will end Thursday, Wernick said. In addition to Rockland Woods, which is south of Hagerstown, the program is being held at three other Hagerstown schools: Bester and Salem Avenue elementary schools and Ruth Ann Monroe Primary School.
Wernick said the students’ progress during the summer program will be measured through a benchmark assessment exercise they take at the start and end of summer school. That information, which includes how students are doing in specific areas, will be shared with the students’ regular classroom teachers for this school year, he said.
During a recent visit to two classrooms at Rockland Woods, the students were enthusiastic about sharing what they had been working on in class.
Grace Haney, 6, of Hagerstown, jumped out of her chair to point out a list of text features written on a large piece of paper hanging on the wall. Students were supposed to include those features, such as a table of contents, a glossary and diagrams, in the books they were writing.
Grace was sharing a table with Sean Cornell, 7, of Sharpsburg.
“I can write about the life cycle of a brown bear,” said Sean, who was using an iPad to find information about those animals.
In another classroom, teacher Kayla Saunders was helping three students as they wrote their own “Scaredy Squirrel” tale.
Kai Fairhall, of Keedysville, was writing about what is needed for a trip into haunted woods.
Kai, 7, asked Saunders how to spell “bow and arrow.”
Saunders pointed out that “bow and arrow” were three separate words, and Kai needed to add a space between each word as he was writing.
Many times a student just needs encouragement, to boost confidence, because he or she knows the answer, Saunders said.
In Grimm’s class, students gathered around when Dominique McCreesh, 6, took a book over to Grimm to show her a picture of what he described as a two-headed toad.
Grimm said the book was above Dominique’s reading level, but students were digging into deeper text because the books were about subjects that interested them.
“It’s exciting to watch ’em learn. And they don’t even realize that they’re doing it,” Grimm said.
Hagerstown couple Flavio Parra and Sandra Ortiz beamed when asked about the effect of the summer school on their son, Diego, 7.
Parra said Diego is reading more at home now. Although he was reading before, now he’s reading for fun, Parra said.
“That’s big progress,” Parra said.
Diego, who speaks Spanish at home, said he was having fun reading and writing this summer.
“I write. I write hard,” Diego said.