Reading lab teaches strategies for success

Did you know that butterflies have scales?

Did you know that it's surprisingly difficult to write out instructions on how to tie a shoe, even when there's a teacher on the team?

Students taking part in this summer's reading lab at the high school are learning those things and much more, Alicia Townsend said. Townsend is one of five teachers in the program and said this is very different from what people generally think of when they think "summer school."

Reading lab students from grades eight through 12 quickly rattled off their favorite thing this summer: making new friends, math, learning why it's important to keep the environment clean, working in groups and winning prizes.

"When I signed up, I thought we were going to be reading all the time, and it turned out it's a lot more," said Samantha Merett, a freshman attending the lab for the first time. Her favorite subject has been science.

Reading skills are ubiquitous in school. Math problems, geography lessons, social studies and science require a strong vocabulary, comprehension skills and an ability to analyze written information. That's why the reading lab is not just about reading stories.

Students work in groups to solve problems and write stories. They compete for small rewards of soda or candy. They get up and move around. They go on field trips (next week they will travel to Jarvie Ranch and Vermillion Canyon). They cover a variety of topics from child care to local history. One topic that comes up periodically is giving and following directions, which is an area many students need help with, Townsend said.

Working in teams with the teachers, groups developed instructions for activities such as how to entertain and keep children safe while baby-sitting and how to tie shoelaces.

Townsend, who was on one of the teams, said it was challenging sometimes. Instructor Kip Hafey attempted to follow the shoe-tying directions when the groups were finished. One set of directions -- a bit loose on the details -- led Hafey to put a shoe on the wrong foot. None of the directions led Hafey to complete a knot, but the closest team won a prize, Townsend said.

The reward may turn out to be sweeter in next week's exercise in giving and following directions: making ice cream.

Flint Dillon, a sophomore, said he's learning strategies that will help him with organizing his thoughts, writing stories and being more prepared for school next year.

The students aren't the only ones who are benefiting. The laboratory also is a place for teachers to experiment and learn from one another.

"I get to see a lot of other people teach and take the best of what they do and add it to my repertoire," Townsend said, adding that she already has learned new techniques that she plans to use with her students next year.

About 25 students participate in the four-week reading lab that runs through next week. Lori Dodge, Jeff Simon, Nancy McLeay are the other three teachers this year, and Dodge is the program's director. Students in high school receive a credit if they attend every day of the program. Another incentive for perfect attendance is a full refund for the $20 tuition.

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