ESL Department Hosts First Virtual Summer Camp

Prepping ESL Backpacks photo

Concerns about COVID-19 caused the Shelby County Schools’ English-as-a-Second Language Department to shift gears this summer, but it didn’t prevent them from providing a quality summer camp experience for their students.

Unlike past summers where the ESL Department provided an in-person traditional summer camp experience for one week, this year the event shifted to a virtual learning format where students met for two days a week during the four weeks of June.

A total of 397 English learner students signed up in Google Classroom in their appropriate grade level, with 88 percent of them participating regularly throughout the camp.  The students engaged in learning via Google Meet, Google Classroom, and quizzes in Google Forms.  

Twenty ESL and classroom teachers from across the Shelby County district collaborated to make the camp a success. They were joined by 16 interns from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who were working on furthering their education via the online platform. 

The theme for the elementary grade level ESL virtual camp was “Backpacking through Summer”.  Elementary students were given a grade level backpack, which included a workbook, writing journal, strategy card, four non-fiction readers, a heavy-duty plastic plate to serve as a whiteboard, and an expo marker. The workbook included activities to review their learning from the previous grade as well as activities to frontload learning for their upcoming grade.  The workbooks contain six weeks of lessons, which was to sustain their learning during the month of July.

The theme for the secondary grade level virtual camp was “Traveling through Time”. The teachers for these grade-level groups addressed the following periods: American Revolution, Civil War, World War I, Roaring 20’s/Great Depression, World War II, and Civil Rights. 

Within these lessons, the goal was to help students understand that citizens of these eras were primary sources to the history that unfolded, just as they will be to the current COVID pandemic.

“In the past, our camps were located at four sites across the county.  In 2018, we supported 308 students in their summer learning and in 2019 we supported 329 students,” said ESL Supervisor Leah Dobbs Black. “We reached over 349 students this year”

“We are thrilled at the success of our virtual camp and the number of students we were able to support during the month of June,” Dobbs continued. “We want to thank everyone who helped to make our virtual camp a successful adventure.”

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