Bright Spot: Community partners across Fort Worth provide daily, evidence-based literacy instruction to combat Summer Slide for students

Cross sector community partners mobilize forward a common goal: Boosting literacy for our students

By Art Garcia

While the daily routine of a Literary Support Specialist (LSS) is as varied as the programs that make up Read Fort Worth’s 2021 Summer Scholars Collaborative (SSC), their goal remains the same.

“Words can’t describe how immense the ‘summer slide’ affects students,” said Yasmin Ortiz, one of several LSSs involved in the SSC for several years. “Your average student will lose two reading levels during the summer. These summer programs really help minimize the damage. An added bonus, students begin to see reading as fun. They enjoy the activities that tie into summer camp.”

LSSs, such as Ortiz, work with students across Fort Worth on reading and language skills throughout the summer. This edition of the SSC features 17 programs and 145 sites for children from PreK-eighth grade.

P1013121  Claudia Orcasitas, a bilingual teacher in Fort Worth ISD, is a LSS at the Artes de la Rosa Summer Camp. At Artes, she identifies and creates opportunities for literacy learning around the study of Carmen Miranda, a Latino artist who made a successful career in Hollywood.

“For example, I designed a mini-lesson on Carmen Mirada’s biography,” said Orcasitas, a first-grade teacher at M.H. Moore Elementary. “Students were asked to research about Carmen’s life using an iPad and a Google form. At the end of the lesson, they wrote a letter to Carmen.”

Orcasitas also makes sure students understand instructions and activities given by remote teachers. A morning class taught by a visual artist from Mexico integrates reading and drawing into the lessons. A creative writing class in the afternoon is taught by a Tarrant County Community College instructor.

“I notice students are very motivated in all sessions,” Orcasitas said. “They utilize sophisticated vocabulary and their communication skills have improved so much. I also noticed students enjoy every opportunity they have to read and write diverse material. Many of them respond positively to the literacy activities.”

Students at Artes also explore their acting, painting, filming and dancing skills.

“As an artist and educator, I believe that all types of art offer many opportunities for literacy development,” Orcasitas said. “I am an advocate for art and education. I believe they go hand-in-hand with children education.”

United Community Centers LSS Nancy Adler is a retired teacher with 34 years of experience from Arlington ISD, most coming in kindergarten-second grade. She is working in small group instruction with students who need extra help, providing alphabet practice, read alouds, and literacy games and songs. 

Adler spends three days a week at the Polytechnic Center and two days at the Bethlehem Center.

“The work is meaningful to me because I feel like I am helping the students become successful literacy learners,” Adler said.

P1013270Ortiz is assigned to Project Transformation, working out of the Meadowbrook location. An eight-year veteran with FWISD, she’s a PreK bilingual teacher at the Leadership Academy at Maude I. Logan.

Ortiz typically holds interventions with students in the mornings, reviewing vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. In the afternoons, students build their grammar skills by participating in Reading Rock Stars.

“Students really enjoy having that one-on-one time be it with me or a volunteer,” Ortiz said. “They excited to see their improvement. The want to read so they can level up and build out their avatars and spaceships. I can see how their confidence and fluidity is building.”

Read Fort Worth and program partners co-created a best practices rubric to incorporate literacy instruction into their summer programming. FWISD also provided literacy training to SSC summer programs to ensure alignment in literacy instruction practices. The programs track the reading progress of FWISD students from K-3rd grade using tools such as Fountas & Pinnell Literacy, Lexia, and Reading A-Z online programs.