It’s summer break, but 14 rising third-graders spent a recent morning at Denver’s McMeen Elementary learning about proper nouns. After fastening imaginary bow ties around their necks — a reminder that the nouns were “proper” — the students called out words that fit the bill.
“Denver!” one student said. “Libya!” said another. When the teacher asked for a person instead of a place, someone shouted, “Justin Bieber!”
Some of the 14 students were learning English as a second language. Others were native English speakers who struggle in reading. For 3½ weeks this summer, they all signed up to spend their mornings practicing literacy and language skills, and their afternoons doing fun activities as part of Denver Public Schools’ “summer academy.”
The academy, which is free for families, has several purposes. It started years ago as a way to help English language learners maintain the progress they made during the school year. For nearly 30,000 of Denver’s 93,000 students, English is a second language; the most common first language is Spanish. Denver Public Schools has for decades been under a federal court order to better serve English language learners, and the academy is part of its strategy.
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