Camp CMS is a free summer learning experience for K-12 students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. While many of the activities are designed to be fun, teachers are laser-focused on academics, delivering instruction to fill in gaps and provide support to those who need it.
Crystal Graham taught first grade in the first session of camp at Westerly Hills Academy. Her class focused on Module 4 of the EL Education curriculum for English language (ELA).
“Due to the pandemic, we did have to adjust some of our instructional time as a district,” Graham said. “Typically, modules are 60 to 80 minutes, depending on the day or the lesson. For our content-building tool, which is modules, we could only teach Modules 1, 2 and 3 during the school year. Module 4 was leftover, so we’re continuing to extend the knowledge they already got in that last half of the school year.”
Graham said the third and fourth modules for grades K-2 use the same topics but teach different skills. While her first-graders were learning about birds, kindergartners were learning about trees, and pollinators were the topic for second-graders. Opinion pieces came next, where students learned to engage and form their own opinions.
“One of the biggest motifs in EL Education is that scholars are to always use evidence from the text to support their thinking,” Graham said. “It may sound hard, but once you get them used to that in the lower grades, it becomes very natural to them.”
Cadijah Bethell is teaching all subjects to third-graders at Torrence Creek Elementary this summer. For ELA, they are covering Module 3, which centers on Peter Pan.
“They love it! It was slated for us to read a chapter a day, but they always want to read more,” Bethell said. “I feel like it’s an extension of the regular school year. The students had already done Modules 1, 2 and 4, so they already knew the setup and the expectations. They were able to make the connection.”
Bethell said she has a full class, and students are enjoying it because they can socialize and interact. Graham said the summer experience has been even better for her than the past school year because even when students were back in the building, her school had a hybrid model, which just wasn’t the same.
“For me, this was a breath of fresh air because I hadn’t had only in-person scholars since March of 2020,” Graham said. “Being in person is really a wonderful thing, but we kept a digital portion and still use iPads to learn. The world we send our scholars into will be digital, so we kept some of those same elements.”
Bethell said she also has been happy with the math setup, and her students have studied everything from fractions and multiplication to multistep word problems. She said small groups have been her main focus in all subjects.
“We have a mixture of ability groups,” she said, “so we have to be able to target each student and meet them where they are.”
That includes adding fun activities where students can apply their knowledge. On Thursdays, Bethell’s students have STEM activities, such as building a pirate ship or making Peter Pan fly, using an assortment of materials. Westerly Hills also has teambuilding challenges and engineering challenges, and students do something every week to build community.
Graham said the district is being very responsive to the need to fill any unfinished learning gaps. It is being very intentional in gathering student data and how it is being tracked, which will give teachers more tools to help their students when the new school year begins.
“We’re going to have a tremendous amount of rich data,” she said. “Whoever these students have in the fall is going to see that data and have a stronger starting point.”