Kennesaw State’s Academy for Language and Literacy has been helping elementary school students hone their reading and writing skills since 2000. The summer program often drew about 30 participants, largely through word of mouth.
But the approach changed significantly in 2015 when Megan Adams and Sanjuana Rodriguez stepped into leadership roles.
“We both felt it was important to focus on students who received free or reduced cost lunches and were behind on reading,” said Adams. “The first few years, we had about 20 students. When it was digital in 2020, it got a lot smaller with 14.”
This summer marked a renewal and expansion of the program. Not only was it held in person from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each weekday for four weeks, it also debuted a partnership with the Marietta City Schools that supported the project by providing breakfasts, lunches and snacks, and buses to get the students to the KSU campus.
“We never had that before,” said Adams. “Previously, parents carpooled or had to find ways to get the students here.”
The partnership also allowed the program to reach a broader range of students, said Adams. “We’d only had children ages 3 to 6, but this year, the Marietta superintendent wanted to focus on more learners. So we worked with kindergartners through sixth graders from two elementary schools who were reading below their grade levels.”
Participants worked on verbal and written instructions, put on performances, did science experiments and honed phonics and word skills. They were guided by KSU students from various programs, including education, science and social work. Elementary education major Denia Carbajal led 17 second graders.
“The main challenge was getting back into a face-to-face setting,” she said. “Along with literacy, students were learning social skills, too.”
Carbajal got to design the curriculum and focused it on reading, writing and phonics. “That was the first time I did that, so I looked at Georgia’s standards of excellence that the district uses and took data such as reading scores to decide on specific content. I want to teach first or second grade, so the experience really helped me think about what kind of teaching I want to do.”
Co-director Rodriguez said the program has benefits beyond what students learn in the classrooms.
“There’s value to being on the university campus,” she said. “These students may never have been on a campus before. Many have parents who have not gone to college, but here they get to interact with college students. We have faculty come and talk to them. The program keeps them engaged, but they can also begin to see themselves on a college campus. It’s something they can do in the future.”
Information about the Academy for Language and Literacy is online at bagwell.kennesaw.edu.
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