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Knollwood Elementary School hosts ESL Summer Camp

SALISBURY — Learning and laughter filled the trailer classrooms at Knollwood Elementary School last month as English as a Second Language students from across Rowan County participated in a summer camp.

The ESL program is designed to meet the needs of students who are learning English at the same time they are studying the standard curriculum. Through the program, the students develop English skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Additionally, they are able to become proficient in both social and academic English.

Sixty-four rising first-, second- and third-grade ESL students came to Knollwood to experience a summer-camp atmosphere while expanding and reinforcing the English skills they had gained throughout the school year.

“It’s fun, but it’s still rigorous,” said Katie Gardner, who taught rising first-graders at the camp. During the school year, she teaches ESL kindergartners.

Because the summer camp isn’t standardized, like the ESL classes are during the year, the teachers were given more freedom with their lessons and activities. The teachers as well as the facilitator, Miriam Basso, decided on a fairy-tale theme for this year’s camp. Each class had between 13 and 15 students.

The four teachers were Leia Bruton, Katie Gardner, Emily Rider and Kim Turnbull. Additional staff was Mendy Brady and Martha Vasquez.

Brady, the technology facilitator, spent 40 minutes each day helping the students with technology, math and engineering skills. They even learned to code and program Ozobots to create story maps for stories they had written themselves.

Vasquez helped wherever she was needed in addition to serving as a CPR-certified nurse, bus driver and emergency personnel member.

The camp ran from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday for two weeks. Students began the day with their teacher. They completed centers focusing on English reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Not only were the centers educational, they were also designed to be fun. For example, one of Gardner’s centers involved having students scan a photo using an app on a school-provided iPad. After scanning the photo, a video would pop up on the screen. In the video, a Gardner-esque cartoon character could be seen in a fairy-tale scene. The character would read the students a sentence, and students were to write down the sentence. Each sentence incorporated vocabulary focus words.

“The app uses augmented reality,” said Gardner. “It helps them learn sight words, but in a fun way.”

Although the students said they enjoyed all the centers and activities they were able to complete, several stood out to them above the rest.

“My favorite center was when we wrote what we would ask for if we had a fairy godmother,” said Erick Arriola Cansada, a rising first-grader. “It was just fun for me. And interesting.”

“I like to write and color because the more you read, the more you write,” said Jackman Dang, a rising first-grader. “I love camp and doing stuff at camp.”

On their last day, the students dressed up as fairy-tale characters and read the books they created during camp.

The students were also given activity backpacks containing books, supportive materials and at-home resources to take home to continue practicing their skills and to avoid the “summer slide.”

“This is an experience they wouldn’t otherwise get,” said Turnbull. “These kids just soak up the extra support.”

The camp has run for more than 10 years. Basso plans to continue it well into the future.

“I am extremely excited to be able to do this every year,” said Basso. “The children make it so special, and I look forward to continuing the camp next year.”

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