About 180 area elementary school children didn't take a full-summer vacation. They remained in the classroom for a special reading program offered by the University at Buffalo in two suburban school districts -- Maryvale and Amherst. WBFO's Eileen Buckley recently attended the program at Maryvale to find out how it improves student reading skills.
Students inside the Maryvale Primary School building on Nagal Drive in Cheektowaga were not distracted by the beautiful summer day outside. Instead they were completely focused on their reading as UB graduate students, studying to be literacy specialists, guided them through a series of reading exercises.
"These children have been struggling with reading and writing for the whole school year, and what we are trying to provide them is additional instruction to help support and help them increase their reading and writing abilities, but in a fun way," said Dr. Liz Tynan, clinical assistant professor at UB's Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction -- or CLaRI.
Tynan was at the site running the summer reading program with 36 UB literacy graduate students at Maryvale.
With many districts dealing with budget cutbacks, some children are unable to receive summer school help. But that's not the case with this UB partnership.
Dr. Tynan noted that with younger children, word recognition is a trouble spot. But for 4th and 5th graders, the biggest problem appears to be reading comprehension.
“The method is we use as far as the reading we use a guided reading approach,” said Tynan. "We have them read materials that is at their instructional reading level, and then have them apply it and do word work along with that, also in the morning we do interactive read-alouds with strategy instruction so they can integrate these strategies into their guided reading."
While attending UB's ClaRI program, student teachers prepare to head into the classrooms for their practicum experience. It's a time where they can get real, hands on experience and reality of a what some children struggle with when reading.
“You can teach a teacher everything single thing they need to know to go out and work with children in schools because every child is different,” said Mary McVee, associate professor and program director of Literacy Education for ClaRI Instruction.
Over the years, McVee has worked on various types of reading methods to zero in on training their literacy specialists so they are effective in the classroom.
"This is usually the last thing they are doing out in the field with children, and they do work with children on campus at UB before they get here, most of the time, but we are constantly changed those things to help them be more effective in practice, so that they are not just doing book learning, so they learn how to teach real children, real things in real classrooms," said McVee.
And in just four short weeks the program was working for the students. Chad White is a UB student literacy teacher working with a small group of seven students on gaining better reading comprehension.
"Right now we are doing guided reading, so we work in small groups “We’re looking at some specific words to build our vocabulary," said White. "Right now we are predicting and visualizing."
The students we met with are all heading into 4th grade this fall. Elisa Whitty was also student teaching in the same classroom with White, guiding another small group of future 4th graders on reading techniques.
"And right now we are reading a non-fiction text, so we are talking about vocabulary words and non-fiction text features," said Whitty. "And just differentiating between fiction and non-fiction."
Students were reading from several different books, with one group reading about animals. Matthew McCuiston made a discovery about the name of a bird.
"I didn't know what this one bird was, but then found out it was a woodpecker," said McCuiston.
Arizo Ghairat didn't mind spending some of her summer vacation in the classroom. She was embracing the reading and writing exercise.
"I learned about the animals, about the babies and glossary, and we wrote about some things and I did some research about tigers," said Ghairat.
This reading process brought light to pronunciation of words for Elizabeth Striejewske. She realized many people mispronounce her last name because of the way it is spelled.
"At first I was saying 'mur-kats' and now I'm saying meerkats," I've been getting use to it because I'm in this group," said Striejewske.
Just a few seats over, on the other side of the classroom, Olivia Burzynski was learning about making an educated guess while reading a story The Chalk Box Kid.
"We learned how to write in paragraphs and how to short out our writing, and we learned how to like predict while we are reading," Burzynski.
The four week program appeared to be effective for student Klya Jackson, who learned to improve comprehension and predicting.
"And now I'm really starting to get the hang of it, with the predicting and the connections and the comprehension with what the book is mostly about. So I'm really not struggling any more," said Jackson.
The reading method taught Theo Marshman who to keep better track of where he is when reading.
"I usually have trouble of keeping track of where I am, but now getting a little better of keeping track" said Marshman.
What was amazing about the result of this reading program was how enthusiastic the students were about reading in the future. They actually wanted to re-read some of the books from the program and pursue other books for reading pleasure.