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Journaling, Imaginations Make Waves of Summertime Learning

Dante Botello may never have entertained the notion of caring for a pet monkey had it not been for his Spanish Elementary teacher, who drove to his house this summer with a stack of books and two lawn chairs in tow.

Fifth-grader Dante Botello used sticky notes to demonstrate he was expanding his base of vocabulary words
Fifth-grader Dante Botello used sticky notes to demonstrate he was expanding his base of vocabulary words

“I would give him lots of bananas and play with the monkey,” the fifth-grader said. Dante shoots a smile after his pet proclamation, then decides he has one more simian on his wish list.

“If I could, I’d have a gorilla, too,” he added.

This was the first summer Spanish Elementary teacher Lorin Sorenson drove to a handful of migrant and Spanish speaking fourth- and sixth-grade students’ homes to forge one-on-one relationships with them and their parents in an effort to boost student reading.

Her connections to the students were made through books they read, sticky notes used to mark new vocabulary words and highlights they made in their journals to mark their use of transition words and other details in their writing.


  • Notice everything! Words are on labels for food or signs on the side of the road. Point out environmental print whenever you can.
  • Make reading a part of your daily routine. Getting cozy with a book at the end of the day or while waiting for a soccer game to start is a great way to enjoy time with your children.
  • Ask your children about what they’re reading. Ask them about the characters and events in the book. Students love to talk about books they enjoy reading.

Source: Kent City Community Schools Spanish Elementary teacher Lorin Sorenson

The Power of Reading

“I noticed during the school year how powerful reading was to a child, as well as talking about their feelings, and about what was happening in the book,” Sorenson said.

“To have all that drop off for three months didn’t seem like a smart thing. These students know how powerful reading is for them, so I wanted to see how it goes during the summer and continue these conversations.”

In addition to reading books, Sorenson also had the students keep journals to document their feelings.

“The journal was apart from what they were reading,” Sorenson said. “I wanted to hear more about the students. I wanted to learn more about them and their feelings.”

What’s your Super Power?

Sorenson also nudged them to answer questions such as: If you were 20-feet tall, what would your life be like? Was there a time you forgot something? What happened?

A student favorite: If you could pick one super power, which one would it be and why?

Fourth-grader Guadalupe Pozas couldn’t whittle her super power to only one. It had to be the ability to fly and become invisible.

“It would be so cool to be invisible,” Guadalupe said. “I’d be able to go outside and play more.”

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