Learning at McDaniel’s reading clinic is two-way street

August 17, 2011

The 62 second- through fifth-graders who attended Camp McDaniel this summer weren’t the only ones to benefit from the reading clinic that is also the practicum for McDaniel’s reading specialist master’s candidates.

During the four-week clinic, supported for the fifth consecutive year by a Bank of America grant as well as a second year of Title I funding, the 18 teachers say they learned as much as the young campers. Beth Keys and Erin Amoss aren’t classroom rookies, but they took away new strategies and materials from their teacher-classmates that they’ll incorporate into their classrooms this fall.

“As a fourth-grade teacher, I teach reading to learn instead of learning to read,” says Amoss, who teaches at Manheim Elementary School in York County, Pennsylvania’s South Western School District. “So it was a large shift for me to work with a second grader on phonics and taking words apart. But, the tools and skills I learned will be invaluable to me in my classroom.”

Dubbed Camp McDaniel, the 38-year-old clinic this year featured a jungle theme complete with tents, trees, bamboo, canopies, pith helmets and woven straw hats and every plush animal imaginable, including Max and a few of the wild things.

The teachers work in teams – coaching and observing each other. As master’s degree candidates, they are already two years into the Reading Specialist program and are ready to apply what they’ve learned to help youngsters in need of reading and writing support and assistance to improve.

“The coaching was excellent – I enjoyed working with peers, observing and being observed and having that feedback,” says Beth Sherwood, who teaches kindergarten at Carrolltowne Elementary in Carroll County Schools. “It was a good experience that showed me some things I would never have thought of doing.”

As for the youngsters from Robert Moton and Elmer Wolfe elementary schools, they seem to grow and bloom right along with the jungle vines decorating their camp. Last year each received 10 books geared to their reading level. This year, their teachers opted to give each student a beautifully illustrated dictionary.

“It was so great to see them walking out the last day so proud with these thick dictionaries in their arms,” says McDaniel Education professor Debra Miller, who has been working with the clinic and the graduate program since the early 1990s, when its founder and now President Emerita Joan Develin Coley was appointed college provost. “Part of the goal of the clinic is to keep them on level during the summer when so many students lose some of what they gained the year before.

“And of course, they have such a sense of accomplishment and are so much more confident than when they started.”