Summer Camp Gives Teacher Candidates Experience, Helps Children with Literacy


More than 80 Dalton State teacher candidates are gaining experience in the classroom while spending their summer helping school-aged children improve literacy skills.

In an effort to fight the summer slide, Dalton State’s School of Education partners with four elementary schools in the Whitfield County School System to run literacy camps for children in kindergarten through middle school. The summer slide, or summer slump, is where students forget some of the material they learned during the previous school year.

Teacher candidates are running the camps under the direction of Dr. Jacquelyn Mesco, an assistant professor of education. They spend two weeks making lesson plans and preparing for the camps then eight days working with students in a classroom setting. Teacher candidates have hundreds of hours of classroom experience before graduating, but the camp gives them a more authentic place to design and teach lessons, Mesco said.

“Dalton State’s education program is the only one I know of where we’re in classrooms throughout the entire program,” said Mollie Snyder, an elementary education major at the College. “So I was prepared for these camps. It’s a more laid-back atmosphere to get this experience, and we’re receiving great constructive feedback.”

Each day centers around a different book with activities that match the story. On a recent day students were studying Aesop's Fables. Some age groups were learning about themes and about fables while another was learning how to use context clues to define a word. Younger children were focusing on how to recognize the alphabet.

“This is their summer break so we want to make it fun, too,” said Laura Resendiz. “We are learning to be flexible and switch lessons if necessary, depending on what the students need. We’re in charge, and it’s nice to be able to do what we need to better serve our students.”

This is the third year of the camp, and this summer it has expanded from Dug Gap Elementary and Eastside Elementary to also include Dawnville Elementary and Cedar Ridge Elementary. The camp is paid for through a portion of a state literacy grant.

“There are many more children participating in the camps this year,” Mesco said. “The camp has grown in a variety of ways. Children receive books, and this year we have a set for younger children and a set for older children. Plus our teacher candidates running the camp also get copies of the books to start a classroom set.

“This camp is important for several reasons,” she said. “The teacher candidates get to plan and implement eight days of reading instruction. They practice strategies with children and figure out what works and what does not. The camp places high-quality literature in children’s hands while providing children with specific skills to improve reading.”

Community involvement is important for teacher candidates. Teacher candidates are getting to know the local community and the children and families who live here. They’re also working one on one with schools in the area.