Virtual tutoring from KSU students helps school children boost literacy
KENNESAW, Ga. (Aug 6, 2020) — Kennesaw State University’s Bagwell College of Education continued a summer tradition of helping local children boost their literacy skills, by offering the Fast Start Academy virtually this year.
Fast Start typically is a four-week summer camp on the Kennesaw Campus, providing tutoring and educational activities for children in grades 2-6 who are below grade level in reading. With an in-person camp not an option this summer, the BCOE’s Academy for Language and Literacy transitioned Fast Start to a remote format on Zoom and tutored 26 children for three weeks.
“The connection and the outreach of the KSU students to the community is really powerful, especially in a time like this,” said Megan Adams, co-director of the Academy for Language and Literacy. “I think this was the summer that this program, and others like it, was most needed. It was critical that these children had some sort of summer enrichment program like they would normally have.”
Nine undergraduate students in the Bagwell College of Education provided the tutoring, giving them valuable experience in teaching children. The tutors were hired through federal work-study, and Fast Start was offered at no cost to the participants.
Krissia Simmons, a junior majoring in elementary education, tutored rising third-grade students for three hours a day, Monday through Friday. Simmons concluded each session by asking the students to reflect on that day’s lesson, and one response in particular left a lasting impression on the future teacher.
“One student replied that he enjoyed the day's lesson because it was fun and it taught him about a new concept,” Simmons said. “At that moment, I realized that I was capable of engaging students in instructional learning by creating lessons that were fun. I also learned that I am able to make a difference not only in the academic life of students, but within their life overall.”
Making that kind of impact on school children was even more meaningful under the current circumstances. The so-called “summer slide” – students losing knowledge in reading and math over summer break – is magnified as a result of schools being closed during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Sanjuana Rodriguez, co-director of the Academy for Language and Literacy.
“We know from previous years that Fast Start is something the students look forward to, and, considering the time that students have been away from school, we knew that this is a vulnerable population,” Rodriguez said. “We usually think of the loss in learning that happens in the summer, and that is being compounded with COVID.”
The Fast Start Academy began in 2001 as a community outreach project through Volunteer Kennesaw and transitioned to the Bagwell College of Education in 2016. More than 500 children have participated in the 19 years of the literacy education summer camp, according to Adams.
In fact, Adams added, a number of families have been involved in Fast Start multiple times – with either the same child returning for more than one year or, after that child ages out of the program, a sibling choosing to participate. For those families, it was welcome news that Fast Start still would be held this year, albeit remotely.
“We experienced this outpouring of relief from our returning families, of, ‘We’re so grateful you’re still doing it, I really want my child to be involved,’” Adams said. “Then that continued through the program, as the children were all engaged – they were all logged on, on time and paying attention, and wanting to be there – because they just really needed to feel some sort of connection.”
– Paul Floeckher
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.