Summertime reading in the Lowcountry

One-on-one tutoring continues to evolve in its 42nd year

Students and teachers alike are learning how to improve their skills this summer through one Citadel program.

The Citadel Summer Reading Program offers tutoring services to K-9 students who are reading below grade level. The program’s tutors are Citadel graduate students who are classroom teachers working toward their Master of Education in literacy education. The Citadel has provided the program to the community for 42 years and updates it annually.

“Our program is a win-win situation,” said Robin Jocius, Ph.D., coordinator of the Summer Reading Program and professor of the Zucker School of Education Master of Education in literacy education. “Our graduate students learn to better assess students one-on-one to determine their needs while the K-9 students build both skills and confidence in reading and writing.”

Tutoring for the summer began Monday, June 11. This year, 15 students from the Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester II school districts will participate in the program.

Real-world application for teachers

Along with courses like Educational Psychology and Applied Measurement Techniques, students in The Citadel’s Master of Education in literacy education program must also take on fieldwork, such as the Summer Reading Program, to apply their literacy leadership skills to their existing teaching skills.

As the graduate students tutor K-9 students, they incorporate a range of strategies discussed in their classes. Additionally, before the summer program begins, graduate students engage in an intensive literacy intervention workshop designed to build on their skills as classroom teachers. This allows them to learn more about literacy theories and research as well as develop specialized assessment and intervention knowledge.

To show what they have learned, graduate students are assessed on case studies they develop for each student they tutor in the Summer Reading Program. Each study must include an analysis of the assessment results, a description of their intervention work and recommendations for future tutors and teachers, all while connecting their analysis to literacy theory and research.

“Since reading and writing are such complex, multi-faceted skills, it often takes our graduate students quite a bit of experience to be able to create and monitor an intervention plan for their students,” said Jocius. “The case studies they create in the Summer Reading Program are very similar to the professional material they would produce if they were in a literacy teacher or literacy coach position, so they are really able to build essential professional skills.”

Turning students into lifelong readers and writers

K-9 students are also improving their education. Students receive their one-on-one tutoring session four times a week from 10:30 a.m. until noon. The sessions are unique to students based on their assessed strengths and needs.

“We hope to build foundational literacy skills and develop lifelong readers and writers,” said Jocius. “During the Summer Reading Program, we often see growth in student’s phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Many times the student will improve in both their areas of strength and need.”

Generally, between 15 and 30 students are enrolled in the program each year.

“We always keep the student to tutor ratio 1:1, so the enrollment number changes each year with the amount of graduate students available to tutor,” said Jocius. “The ratio helps our tutors focus on individualized literacy assessment and intervention, which is essential to help students get the most out of the program.”

Ever evolving

Though the Summer Reading Program was always envisioned as an opportunity for graduate students to develop and apply skills while helping striving readers, it has grown in size and structure in its 42 years.

“Over the last couple decades, our knowledge base on reading and writing has increased tremendously, which has certainly evolved the content and structure of our tutoring sessions. We now utilize many more methods and assessments that have been proven to be effective,” said Jocius.

One newer change was implementing technology as a tool for graduate students to use while tutoring.

“Recently, we’ve had students with identified needs in writing and strengths in digital tools. Our tutors were able to implement iPads into their sessions to allow students to create stories digitally. It was so exciting to see them build on their strengths and passions while developing essential literacy skills,” said Jocius.

As the Summer Reading Program continues, Jocius says they will keep evolving as information and standards change across the state and the nation.

“One of the biggest goals of our program is to grow and adjust with the needs of our schools and districts,” she said.

To find out more about The Citadel Summer Reading Program for 2019, please email robin.jocius@citadel.edu.