Summer Literacy Camp helps students, U of A teacher candidates
Summer Literacy Camp on the University of Arkansas campus is intentionally held about two weeks before K-12 school starts.
One-on-one focused tutoring at the camp helps elementary and middle-school students mitigate summer learning loss and eases kids back into the rigors of the academic school year, said Linda Eilers, camp director and a clinical professor in the childhood program at the U of A.
The camp not only helps participating students, but it’s also an opportunity for U of A graduate students to put their classroom learning into practice.
This year, the two-week camp runs through Aug. 2.
Each student-graduate student pair is doing something a little different in their daily tutoring sessions. That’s because the U of A teacher candidates have tailored their lessons based on their individual students’ needs, Eilers said. Initial reading and writing assessments helped determine which teaching materials to prep. U of A students involved in the program understand the science of reading and use a variety of evidence-based practices with camp participants.
Some literacy camp participants need reading and writing intervention, while others need enrichment.
“We have some kids who need support and some who need to be challenged,” Eilers said.
The one-on-one learning they receive accelerates growth either way, Eilers said.
Carla Martin, an employee on the U of A campus, has enrolled her 10-year-old granddaughter, Alessa, into the Summer Literacy Camp every year since it started four years ago. Martin said she was grateful for the timing of the first literacy camp because Alessa, a first-grader back then, was struggling to read.
Martin said the teacher candidate who worked with Alessa that first year zeroed in on what was causing her to struggle. Identifying that gap was essential at a pivotal moment.
“The results were almost an immediate improvement after that first camp,” she said. “She loves books now. Literacy Camp is such an incredible community resource.”
Teacher candidates write reports every day to present to parents at the end of the two-hour camp. The reports also include what they’ll do the next day. On the last Thursday of the camp, students are post-tested to determine whether progress was made in reading and writing. On the final Friday, student teachers have conferences with parents to compare the two assessments and share any gains that have been made.
Sarah Caroline Halford, who graduated from the Master of Arts in Teaching program at the U of A last year, was back for Summer Literacy Camp again this year to assist Eilers.
She said serving at the camp was amazing for helping her feel prepared to enter her last year of college and to start student teaching.
“This is one of the first times we can dive into working with real kids and to assess and intervene,” she said. “That’s why I love this program. We had so many opportunities to work in practical settings before getting our own classrooms.”
She said it’s also their first foray into holding parent-teacher conferences, which is a great skill to learn.
This fall, Halford will be a Gifted & Talented Facilitator, splitting her time at two Fayetteville elementary schools.
Halford was among teacher candidates who shared their Literacy Camp experiences at the Arkansas Reading Association Conference last year. She said it’s particularly noteworthy to see how fast interventions work to help students.
“A lot of growth in a little amount of time,” she said.
Martin said she sees literacy gains every time her granddaughter attends a fall, spring or summer literacy camp. Plus, she said, Alessa maintains that growth.
Martin said she especially appreciates that the teacher candidates share tools with parents to help them continue working with their children at home.
“They share real examples of things to do to help strengthen their particular problems,” she said. “Most of them are games that are fun and you don’t need any equipment.”
The U of A Clinic for Literacy is based in the College of Education and Health Professions and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction teacher certification programs. The clinic’s mission is to provide opportunities for improved achievement in reading and writing.
The clinic also hosts literacy camps for kindergarten through sixth-grade students during the fall and spring semesters. The fall camp classes are held on Saturdays and the spring camps are scheduled during the week, after school hours.