QUINCY -- Amilia Tournear rushed to finish her writing assignment, furiously writing down a final thought.
The incoming sixth-grader wrapped up her conclusion on which pair of animals featured in "Odd Couples" she found most interesting and why.
The assignment followed a small group discussion about the book Monday morning during Summer Academy, held this year at Rooney Elementary School, for grades K-5. Junior high and high school students are in class at Quincy High School.
Amilia and incoming fifth-grader Jauclyn Jud both like to read and enjoyed reading animal-themed books like "Rescuing Orangutans" and "Odd Couples," highlighting pairs of animals which help on another
So did incoming sixth-grader Carter Klauser, who was most interested in the cleaner wrasse and other fish.
"Usually a lot of fish won't be able to get into the other fish's mouth," Carter said.
Carter likes coming to the academy, which started June 10 and wraps up June 28, because it teaches him more about reading and gives him writing opportunities with teachers Jessica Huckey, a school administration manager at Lincoln-Douglas, and Beth Izzo, a fourth-grade teacher at Rooney. His favorite subject, though, is the math lessons new for this year's session.
Two two-hour sessions cover reading, writing, math and individual work on laptop computers.
"The majority of the day they're in a small group with a teacher. There's not much time for independent time on their own or even a whole class setting," Izzo said.
"It really is team-teaching. What they read with Beth, they're writing about the same subject matter with me. They're on the same topic throughout the day," Huckey said. "We try to tailor books to what the kids like. In this group, the kids said they were interested in animals and history."
Smaller class sizes -- just nine students there for Monday morning's first session -- with two teachers means "a lot more support" compared to the classroom setting during the school year, Huckey said.
"It's just about continuing to apply what they learned through the school year, not lose that little bit of instruction and have a boost when they start again in mid-August to feel confident in reading and writing," she said. "It sets them up for success."
K-5 teacher leader Laura Williams said classes are going "pretty smoothly" so far for students and staff.
"The kids are getting into a groove," Huckey said. "It's nice because you can work at the kids' pace in summer school. You don't have to get this, this and this done. You tailor to their needs and work at their pace."
The students talk about what they've read and share what they've written with the teachers and classmates in their group -- all part of the effort to build enjoyment of learning.
"A lot of times, the reason they get behind is they haven't found a lot of joy in books and reading," Izzo said. "Sometimes it takes being in a group with a teacher and other kids to talk about a book to enjoy it. We want them to have a positive enough experience here to continue to read during the summer and hopefully further on. We want to keep it going."