Extra English dose
Summer programs give kids
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 25, 2003 12:00 AM
Kindergartner Issei Ishihara announced to his summer English class that the
shape in his hands was a blue square.
Issei came from Japan in April speaking only a few English words. The goal of
the new 20-day intensive language program at the Tempe Elementary School
District is to help Issei and his classmates improve their vocabulary, reading,
writing and other language skills before the school year.
For students learning English, summer is time for an extra dose of the language.
Many Valley school districts offer free, voluntary programs for elementary and
middle school students.
Thousands of students are enrolled in English programs. Tempe Elementary School
District has 300 in its program. Balsz Elementary
School District has 485 in its program, and Scottsdale Unified School District
has 400 students. Seventy students are in the Dysart Unified School District
Summer English classes provide some perks for the students.
Students are in small classes. Teachers have 10 to 15 students at Evans School
"There's more one-on-one time with students," program supervisor Sonya Gronning
Summer school teachers are the cream of the crop, said Maria Paredes, community
education manager at the Creighton Elementary
School District in Phoenix.
"To become a teacher in summer school you have to be really good because of
competition," Paredes said.
There was competition to work at the Tempe program, too, Gronning said, and all
of the teachers have certificates for teaching English as a second language.
Another benefit for students is that they are surrounded by peers who face the
Issei's mother, Toshiko Ishihara, said, "In his kindergarten, the kids, their
English is so-so. That doesn't make him alone."
Teachers say they try to make the activities fun.
For example, a third-grade class at Evans School read a story about crickets,
calculated the temperature from the cricket chirps, ate cookies and drew
The Tempe program is a pilot that Gronning said she plans to expand next year.
In other summers, English learners have taken reading and recreation classes in
the regular summer school.
The district saw a rising number of students learning English as a second
language, Gronning said. That prompted the district to start the
new program, which has four hours of instruction a day for 16 days.
Tempe isn't the only one with a new program. Osborn Elementary School District
in central Phoenix is targeting incoming kindergartners in a two-week program
before school starts. Dysart Unified School District, in the West Valley,
started a program in which students study English in the morning and do
recreational activities in the afternoon. Balsz Elementary School District
started a three-week program.
Mesa School District is looking for funding to start a summer English program.
This year, Mesa students learning English attend a 19-day summer school that
focuses on reading and math. Students may be in classes
with seven or eight other students, so they get individual attention for the
language skills, said Sherry Pobieglo, Mesa district elementary
Parent Ofelia Figueroa said she likes the Tempe program. She said her three
children attending the Tempe English classes are making
progress. The family came from Mexico two years ago.
Figueroa said the Tempe program is important for her because she sees the
difficulty she has using English at work and at the store.
Tempe is using twice-weekly tests to show that students are improving. The
testing also gives the district an idea of the level and
rate of progress it should see in the same students during the school year,
Other districts, such as Scottsdale Unified School District, rely on teacher
reports to reveal students' progress.
One of the biggest advances students may make in the weeks of summer school is
confidence, said Melissa Arnold, director of the
summer English program at Madison Camelview Elementary in Phoenix.
"We may see a little bit of a jump in their reading and writing," Arnold said.
But progress may be a student feeling comfortable enough to ask a teacher for a
bathroom pass, she said.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or (602) 444-8014.