My love of books began when I was a little girl. I remember my mom and dad reading to me as a child. After taking a bedtime bath, brushing my teeth, and putting on cozy flannel pajamas, I’d jump into my canopy bed ready for a story. I remember Dad reading Dr. Seuss books. I remember Mom reading poetry. Either way, I was drawn to the rhyming words. Dr. Seuss’ books were a gateway to a love of rhyme, and the rhyming words sustained my attention as they paired with colorful graphics on the page. The nonsense words that covered the pages filled me with wonder and laughter as I’d try to discern what they meant. The poetry Mom read to me fostered a sense of connection to those Dr. Seuss books. I noticed the similarities in the sounds in words. As I grew up and went to college to become a teacher, I’d learn how language develops and how the components of teaching reading (and a love of reading) fit together. For early learners, it all starts with sound. Sounds and symbols are connected the same as sounds, symbols, and meaning are connected. The delivery of the words helps us make personal connections to the words and help us make meaning of stories and books. These components can be sorted into five main areas: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. 

English Language Arts

I’ve been an ELA tutor and Executive Function coach at Wright Academics since 2018. My background before Wright Academics included early childhood and elementary teaching. I am also the parent of two dyslexic children. When Ev Wright, director at Wright Academics, approached me about leading a Summer Program to support young readers, I just knew I wanted to take the Big Five Reading Components and make them into a fun engaging camp for our youngest clients. I start each new program with an interest inventory of the students. This helps me figure out what makes them tick, and allows me to pair engaging literature while teaching supporting skills. We start a session by working on the skill(s), then we play games to support the skill(s). For example; If we are working on phonological awareness, we may follow up the skills with a rhyming or syllable counting game. If we are working on phonics, we will reinforce the skills with a game like Blah, Blah, Blah, or Whizizzle Phonics (just think UNO but with phonics skills rather than colors or numbers). If we are working on fluency, we may follow with some choral read-aloud or Reader’s Theater. 

Teaching reading is only half of the equation. It is my firm belief based on personal experience that reading and writing should be taught together. Children need to interact with the words as they read (decode) and write (encode) in order to make the skills as sticky as possible. The goal is to “make it stick”, and what better way to make it stick than to teach reading and writing together. 

In my Big Five Summer program, the students and I have collaborated to create group writing projects. This has included creating the characters, setting, conflict, and resolution together. We also work on the dialogue between the characters, and the expression or delivery of the dialogue. We talk about appropriate punctuation, and how to let punctuation guide our delivery. Fluency and comprehension are integral to one another and these components are fun to develop in a group setting. Vocabulary games are also a great way to fuse the five components together as well. 

The icing on the cake- seeing the children learning with and from one another!! It is the most joyful and rewarding experience to see the kids learn from one another.  This was especially true in the midst of a pandemic, and when the children had fewer ways to interact with one another while many were in distance learning settings. Yes, we are all for the most part, back in the classroom, but the collaborative story making and telling transcend distance learning formats, and has proved to be valuable anytime!!n It’s especially important to have a group of kids spending some time in the summer to work on literacy skills development, and have a great time with their peers.

I would be remiss if I did not highlight the importance of brain breaks during this time of summer skill-building. A typical summer program session begins with an ice breaker- such as a book or activity, skills development- such as phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, or comprehension, a brain break- such as playing ping-pong, Connect 4, or running around outside for 5-10 minutes, and skills reinforcement in-game format- such as Can-Do! Comprehension, Quiddler, Splat, Sight Word Chutes and Ladders, Silly Sentences, or Scrabble Jr. At Wright Academics, our tutors and coaches are well versed in the benefits of movement as well as multisensory education.

Multisensory education techniques are motivating to students and can be quite effective in increasing engagement, especially if a student tends to deal with attentional issues. Teaching phonics lends itself to many multi-sensory opportunities as seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, and sometimes tasting can scaffold the learning. For young students, creating a sound basket that focuses on a specific sound- (/c/ cat, car, carrot, camera, computer, cupcake) may support connections to this sound. For other students- playing Twister and counting syllables (or word parts) may help reinforce dividing words into syllables- a very important spelling skill. 

For older students, playing Scrabble and moving around the letter/sound tiles may help students lock in spelling patterns. Traveling back into my own childhood, I remember my 1st-grade teacher playing a game called Word Bag. The students were basically sorting words into word families and putting a word card in a corresponding word family  ‘bag’ (-og, -ild, -onk, etc…). But it was the experience of getting up, moving around, and learning all the while that made it fun and sticky. When children make personal connections to the language, interact with one another while they are moving and learning, it supports a life-long love of reading and learning.

We have all the 2022 Summer Programs up here in the Wright Academics, including ELA (English, Language, and Arts). Please go and check them out, you’ll see the dates and age levels we are offering on each program. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate and message us. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to get all the upcoming discounts. 

See you there!