ABBEVILLE — “Let me hear some second-grade readers,” Shawri Landry instructed the young students seated cross-legged in front of her.
Landry pointed to a sentence written on a flip chart and in unison, the students began a staccato chorus of the words, “Dan broke his bone so he is lame.”
“You know what I hear?” Landry asked the students when they finished. “You’re reading one word at a time. Let’s hear some second-grade reading.”
On the second try, the group strung the words about Dan’s bad luck into a fluent sentence.
For three weeks this summer, 15 students who struggled with reading and math as first-graders are relearning some concepts to prepare for second grade. The developmental class began last week and ends Friday. A separate developmental class for kindergartners has 18 students.
“This is a jump-start, a fresher for them to get them ready for school,” said Landry, curriculum facilitator for Vermilion Parish schools and a summer developmental program teacher.
The school district began the developmental courses last year for kindergartners using U.S. Department of Education Gulf Coast Recovery grant funding. This summer, the federal grant was directed to expand the developmental course opportunity to first-graders. A $25,000 grant from the United Way of Acadiana helped kindergartners.
Students are recommended for the class either because they barely reached standards for promotion or because they will be retained. The summer session is held at Eaton Park Elementary, but includes students from Eaton Park, LeBlanc and Harrod elementary schools.
Students are assessed at the end of each week and teachers cater lessons and smaller group learning activity sessions that help strengthen skills. After the first week of the intensive review, students in both classes improved, particularly in reading in front of a group, teachers said.
“They’re not afraid to try, so their fluency has gotten better,” Landry said.
Concepts are clicking in place for them — even after the first week of instruction, said Brenda LeDay, a first-grade teacher at Eaton Park Elementary.
Students are able to recall and apply the “rules” of vowel sounds, said LeDay, who teaches the first-grade summer developmental class with Landry.
She used the boy’s name, Cole.
“They may not recognize it, but they see it ends in an ‘e.’ They know the rule, ‘The magic e jumps over the l and gives the vowel power, so then they say ‘Cole.’ They’re not just saying words, they’re reading and they’re amazed.”
Research has linked students’ future academic success to how well they can read by the end of their third-grade year. Low test scores from Vermilion Parish fourth-graders prompted school officials to start the early intervention program last year focused on its youngest students.
A review of the fourth-graders’ performance data showed they struggled in kindergarten with pre-reading concepts like decoding words.
In the summer program, the developmental kindergarten class helps with students on pre-reading skills, such as letter recognition and phonemic awareness, which is the understanding how sounds build words, explained Deanne LeCompte, district kindergarten inclusion facilitator and one of three teachers in the class.
“We look at where they were when the school year ended and prescribe lessons to focus on their needs,” LeCompte said.
On Thursday, the students worked in small groups on different exercises and games, such as handwriting, puzzles that helped them identify matching capital and lower case letters, and identifying common sight words like “go” and “the.”
The teachers also help prepare students for tasks they’ll need to perform in the first grade, such as knowing to write their name at the top of their assignments.
In the past week, the younger students have grown more familiar with recognizing words and have started blending sounds together — which builds the foundation to reading, said Claire Butler, a kindergarten teacher at Kaplan Elementary, works with the kindergarten developmental class.
The class is helping the students catch up to their peers, Butler said.
“What other kindergartners were doing with flying colors in May, they’re doing now,” Butler said. “I hope this program gives them confidence and a better foundation to help them move on.”