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Summer camp helps students, adults with English language skills

Break time: Students at the Clanton Elementary School summer camp take a break to enjoy the school playground. (Photos by Stephen Dawkins)

Break time: Students at the Clanton Elementary School summer camp take a break to enjoy the school playground. (Photos by Stephen Dawkins)

Learning language may not sound like the most fun topic for a summer camp, but organizers of a camp for those learning English are careful to include some fun.

The annual ESL (English as a Second Language) Summer Camp began Monday, hosted by the Chilton County School System.

ESL Specialist Dr. Pam Bearden, who is in her 13th year of organizing the camp, said brushing up on English skills is especially important during the summer.

“Skills are lost in the summertime,” Bearden said.

The camp began as a six-week program at a single location.

The number of participants has grown, as has understanding of the best way to keep participants engaged.

Digital lesson: Ashly Tello (front) and Simoney Morales use a computer program Wednesday as part of an English language camp hosted by the Chilton County School System.

Digital lesson: Ashly Tello (front) and Simoney Morales use a computer program Wednesday as part of an English language camp hosted by the Chilton County School System.

There are now separate camps at Clanton Elementary School, serving students from Clanton, Isabella, Maplesville, Thorsby and Verbena schools; and Jemison Elementary School, serving Jemison students.

Also, a “Mommy and Me” camp is held at LeCroy Career Technical Center. At this camp, adult participants can bring their children, who are overseen by a staff of three teachers.

Depending on the age and skill level of the children, they are also exposed to exercises designed to improve their English skills.

About 40 students total typically participate in the camps, and Bearden said 14 adults and 27 children have attended the “Mommy and Me” camp.

Each year, letters are sent to parents of students in the school system’s ESL program. They are asked to register in advance so that a proper amount of materials can be purchased.

Bearden said participants are sent home with more than five books and other materials, including flash cards and workbooks.

“They’re building their home library,” Bearden said.

The camps for students focus on reading, writing and math skills.

They are in class from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday until June 16.

The adults this year are focusing on areas in which teachers have seen students struggle.

“We’ve got to help them help their students,” Bearden said.

They are also learning useful skills, such as how to write simple notes to their children’s teachers, including “How’s my child doing?”

Two sessions are held each morning for adults, through June 16.

Teachers helping with the program are Connie Sellers, Joy Headley and Tiffany Shannon at Jemison; Andrea Abbott, Lisa Baker and Felicia Powell at Clanton; Kay Hilyer, Sherri Calhoun and Tracy McDaniel at LCTC.

Also, Kelly Cummings and Renee Lenoir are driving school buses to provide transportation for some students.

Bearden said students will often “talk up” the camp to their peers, insisting that it is not like school.

“The teachers do a really good job of taking the books we pick out and creating incredible lessons,” Bearden said. “The teachers are very creative.”