WITS programming does not stop once the WITS school year programs are over! During the summer, WITS hosts a pre-kindergarten readiness program called the WITS Early Childhood Summer Program (ECSP). ECSP teaches foundational literacy skills to rising kindergarteners through fairy tales, movement activities, and art. Over four weeks, WITS helps rising kindergarteners develop emergent literacy skills while introducing them to school relationships, rules, and environments—ensuring a smooth start to the school year in the fall. This summer, after holding two years of virtual ECSP programming, we resumed in-person ECSP at two schools: Jose de Diego Community Academy and Manuel Perez Elementary School.
The Format of ECSP
Over the course of four weeks, the WITS ECSP sessions center around four different fairy tales. On the first day of the week, we read the original fairy tale. On the following days, we read variations of the fairy tale. The fairy tales we read this Summer were The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, and Little Red Hen.
Zoo-phonics at ECSP
Each session starts with students coming to their class and working on their journals. The journal activities include letter writing and drawing related to the week’s story. After journaling, students and mentors gather for the morning meeting and storytime led by the partner teacher. Zoo-phonics, which is led by the Program Coordinator, takes place before and after specific centers. Zoo-phonics combines hearing, oral, visual, and kinesthetic movement for young learners to practice their letters and letter sounds.
There are three different centers: the sound center, the craft/writing center, and the reading center. The sound center is led by the partner teacher. The sound center includes activities where students practice letter sounds, sight words, and rhyming words. The program coordinator leads the crafts and writing center. In this center, students create art based on the fairy tale of the week while also practicing letter writing. The reading center is led by mentors and students choose what books they want their mentors to read to them. At the end of the day, we close out with a whole group activity wherein the students act out the story of the day.
This is the first time since 2019 that WITS ran ECSP in person. Perez’s ECSP was led by teacher Rosalba Granados and WITS Program Coordinator Tra’Lisha Renteria. Perez had nine weekly students and a total of eight mentors. In addition to WITS program in the morning, the Perez students also participated in an afternoon Ready, Set, STEM program with the University of Chicago. De Diego’s ECSP program was led by teacher Amber Olin and WITS Program Coordinator Jessica Giliam. De Diego had six weekly students and a total of six volunteers. The students in this program took an alternative approach to Zoo-phonics. Program Coordinator, Jessica, shared of her method:
We did Zoo-phonics during the first week of program and quickly learned that the students had an excellent grasp of all the letter sounds, so we decided to give them more of a challenge and focus on sight words. We stood on the carpet, and I led the students in this little song:
“Hickety Pickety Bumble Bee, can you say the word for me”? (I hold up a piece of paper with sight word on it, students sound out the word)
“Now spell it!”(students spell out the word as I point to each letter)
“Now shout it” (students shout out the word)
“Now whisper it”
“Now clap it”
“Now stomp it!”
“Now cheer it!”
We repeated the process with a total of five or six different sight words each day. The students really got a kick out of it, and it was a great activity to get their wiggles out after listening to fairy tale of the day.
Finally, after four weeks of the program and similar to our other WITS programs, every student in the program received four brand new books to take home.