More fun, more hours makes difference for summer ESOL program

June 29, 2021 – On any given day this summer, visitors in Griselda Eire’s summer ESOL class can hear her rising first-graders yelling a simple phrase:

“Tratar, no llorar!”

Or in English, “Try, don’t cry!”

It is a simple message that the 18-year educator at San Jose Elementary School says hits home with her young English Language Learners as they work to learn English.

Especially this summer when she and dozens of other educators are working full time to help approximately 400 non-native English-speaking students recapture any language learning lost from a year filled with COVID-19 concerns and shifts between in-person and online learning.

“The pandemic has been so unpredictable for our students,” said Eire. “It’s had an impact on our children, socially and academically. So, they really, really need this program.”

For the first time, the annual ESOL Summer Maintenance program – which helps English Language Learners gain mastery of the English language – is a full day, 9 AM – 3 PM, instead of a half day.

Another change was to add a day, so that the program is Monday – Friday this year, instead of Monday – Thursday.

At the heart of the changes though, said district specialist Julia Crowe, was to celebrate great in-person, hands-on learning.

“We want educators to love teaching this summer, and we want the students to love learning,” said Crowe. “After the stress of the pandemic, it feels good to see teachers and students really enjoying learning.”

Examples of this, Crowe said, was the district investing in various learning aids such as language acquisition kits from National Geographic called “Explore Our World.” These kits contain workbooks and multimedia tools to help students explore new science concepts and vocabulary.

Students are also participating in activities that help the English language and literature come to life, like Reader’s Theater. One classroom, for example, put on a production of “The Sword and the Stone,” complete with re-enacting the famous scene of pulling the sword from the stone.

“Our goal was to provide our English Language Learners with engaging activities to promote and increase their English language development skills during the summer in a culturally diverse environment,” said the district’s director of ESOL, Ingrid Carias. “Our students are also learning Spanish and Chinese as part of the daily framework.” 

Whether it is building theater props, rehearsing lines from a classic play, or making carbon dioxide with vinegar, baking soda and a balloon…Carias and Crowe said students and teachers in the Summer ESOL Maintenance program are making it a point to increase learning by increasing hands-on fun.

“There is so much joy in the classrooms, and it’s so important, because that is what’s going to make the lessons really stick,” said Crowe.

For Erie, making the lessons stick is going to ensure her young students can be successful in grasping a new language.

“When you are introduced to a new language you are introduced to a different world,” said Eire. “That is going to help them learn more and open their mind to new knowledge.”

The Summer ESOL Maintenance program is running now through July 23. It is available at Crystal Springs, Love Grove, Lone Star, Martin Luther King Jr., and San Jose elementary schools. For more information about all DCPS summer learning programs, visit www.duvalschools.org/summer.

Students in Jean Baker’s class at San Jose Elementary produce carbon dioxide.