FALKNER • The sounds of teachers and students can be heard once again through the halls of Falkner Elementary School. The school’s summer reading program is in full swing offering virtual as well as on campus instruction due to COVID-19. This year marks the second year for the program, which is funded by a three-year grant from the Mississippi Department of Education.

“It just great to be able to instruct and hear the voices and see those attending,” said Gidget Mansell, kindergarten through third grade literacy coach for North Tippah School schools.

Mansell noted there have been numerous challenges for the summer reading program due to COVID-19 including limited internet access in rural communities.

“Ms. Emily Eaton, the principal of Falkner Elementary, and I agree that the most momentous challenge will come from the lack of instruction due to the shortened school year,” Mansel noted. “That was one of the deciding factors in utilizing Falkner Elementary’s summer reading grant funds for a virtual reading camp focusing on the five components of reading.”

Mansell believes virtual learning will require a new mind set for administrators, teachers and parents alike. She believes the children at FES have been resilient and have seemed to adapt more easily than the adults.

The summer reading program consists of two sessions; remediation and enrichment. The remediation section focuses on the five components of reading: phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words), phonics (understanding letter and sound relationships), fluency (the ability to read with speed, accuracy and proper expression), vocabulary (understanding word meaning) and comprehension (understanding text). Students receive almost two hours of targeted instruction focusing on deficit area skills where students are given numerous opportunities to participate in hands on activities allowing them to draw and make various things.

The enrichment session provides 30 minutes of grade level instruction and 30 minutes of art and music. Each student who participates receives all supplies and materials needed prior to the beginning of camp. Remediation students who do not have internet access at home are allowed to participate on campus following social distancing guidelines. Students in both groups without computers were allowed to check out devices from the school.

Remediation students have their progress monitored once a week to assess growth. A bus staffed with two teachers is sent to the homes of students who do not come on campus. The teachers do not enter the homes. The students get on the bus to be assessed. Students are also allowed to checkout three accelerated reader books from the bus.

The program is open to students at Falkner, Walnut and Chalybeate. It is held Monday – Friday each week in June. Mansell believes the summer reading program is successful due to the teachers and teacher’s assistants working together.

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