McDaniel Reading Clinic helps students become 'thoughtful, deep' readers

Students learn reading, writing at McDaniel Reading Clinic

The walls of Friendship Valley Elementary School were covered in camp-themed decorations — tents, trees, clouds and more.

On the ground of a handful of classrooms sat pretend campfires made from wood and paper flames.


And while the outdoor setting may have been make-believe, for the approximately 40 students enrolled in this year’s McDaniel Reading Clinic, the decorations and summer camp theme were a way to bring fun to four weeks of reading and writing practice.

“The McDaniel College Reading Clinic is a required course for those teachers who are working on … their master’s degree in reading,” said Mel Rhoads, facilitator for the clinic. “It’s a three-year program, and this is their final clinical practicum experience.”

Rhoads said the course is six credits and lasts four weeks. It’s for students heading into second grade through students heading into fifth grade.

This year’s theme — camping — makes the environment fun for the kids, she said. And when it’s fun, it helps the students make more progress.

“The entire goal for the students — we would like them to maintain their current reading level. If they exceed that reading level, that certainly is a wonderful bonus,” she said.

Over the course of four weeks, Rhoads said the students work on interactive writing and inquiry methods; they do research projects — this year on animals — and are making field guides based on what they’ve learned. Students also do read alouds and work on phonetic needs.

This year, she said, a big piece of the camp is comprehension and understanding vocabulary in the text. That work helps a student become a “thoughtful, deep reader.”

Ten-year-old Ezariah Poutre, who attends Robert Moton Elementary School, was working on researching skunks on Thursday.

“Right now we’re learning about animals, about like how they camouflage, their habitat, their protection,” Ezariah said, later adding, “we’re going to do lots of research about skunks.”

For Ezariah, snack time has been one of his favorite things at the clinic, but he’s also liked Flashlight Friday where they get to read books in the dark using flashlights.

And for the teachers, the reading clinic is a chance for hands-on learning.

“It’s practice. These teachers are practicing to become literacy coaches and reading specialists,” Rhoads said.

Rhoads said the program is an incredible opportunity for educators to have an interactive process with students and have a deeper analysis of their strengths and what they need.

Rhoads, who is in her first year in the position and replaced Deb Miller, said she is working with two graduates who completed the program last year to oversee this year’s clinicians. They work to give the clinicians a lot of feedback to help maximize student progress, she said.


“The students are in small groups and the clinicians each develop lesson plans according to those students’ needs,” she said.

Ashlyn Garland, a fourth-grade teacher at a school in Hanover, Pennsylvania, said on Thursday students began working on their field guide for woodland animals. Earlier in the week, she said, they got on computers and were able to choose topics. On Thursday, she said, they worked to transition the facts they found into their own words and sorted them into categories.

Garland said the program is a good learning experience.

“We get to work more in small groups, which is really nice,” she said, because she really gets to see the students and their individual needs.