Summer Academy puts kids a few steps ahead

Pupils determine plots before reading the books

August 01, 1999|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Matthew Hubbard, 9, examines the cover of his book -- "A River Ran Wild" -- like a detective searching for clues to a crime.

Matthew, a pupil in Pam Gately's reading class in Anne Arundel County's Summer Academy, is searching for hints about a book he has not read. "It is going to tell us, if we don't understand, what the book is about," said Matthew, a fourth-grader, of the exercise in "previewing."

Summer Academy -- an elementary school program to help pupils keep up with their reading and study skills during the summer -- started at the beginning of July and finished at 10 county elementary schools last week.

The classes are not just for pupils who are failing, but also for those who don't want to lose the skills they have learned during the school year.

The reading portion of the academy is meant to improve comprehension and make pupils better readers. Previewing is a technique that can help.

"If you think about what you already know, that helps you understand the book," Gately said while her class worked. "If you just open the book, it will be harder and not as interesting." Gately divides her class at Sunset Elementary School in Pasadena into two groups. The more advanced readers read and work on the assignment with partners. Less-experienced readers gather in a circle with Gately, who helps them through their assignments.

Matthew is one of about 20 pupils in Gately's class. He and his reading partner, Joshua Bowen, 8, also a fourth-grader, have chosen "A River Ran Wild" by Lynn Cherry for one of their reading assignments.

Gately hands each pupil a chart with the letters K, W and L on top. Under the letter K, she asks each pupil to write five things they know about the book, by looking at the cover and reading subtitles.

Under the W, she tells them to write five things they want to know about the book. Under the L, which they will complete after reading, she asks them to write five things they have learned from the book.

Matthew and Joshua have their pencils poised over their work sheets. Before they get to the K-W-L sheet, they must fill out another that asks them about the book -- its title, author, illustrator, number of pages and chapters.

They also are asked to predict what the book will be about. "The book is about a wild river and what the Indians do," Matthew writes.

On the K-W-L sheet -- under the K -- they write what they know about Indians and rivers. "A river is not a pond," Joshua writes. "A river is long. Fish live in rivers. People swim in rivers."

Previewing seems to have given both boys a jump on the material. "I know what this book is going to be about," Joshua said. "It's going to be about Indians and the pioneers take over the land."

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