Phillips Academy’s Summernet program concluded its seventh session of improving incoming students’ writing by using English teachers and peer tutors as resources. Approximately 40 students each year complete the program, which is open to all incoming Juniors and Lowers during the summer before their first year at Andover. In the course, students read short stories, study vocabulary, take quizzes and produce four original pieces. Summernet is unique in that students correspond with their teachers via the Internet. Also, while English instructors help with Summernet, upperclassmen tutors do much of the teaching themselves. New students post the assignments in a forum where their editors can make changes. Students then post final drafts online in the “showroom,” where they are available for all Summernet to read. Summernet’s founder, Instructor in English Paul Kalkstein ’61, first assigns students an essay topic such as a description of a place, person, or narrative essay. Students are then free to choose their own subjects, however, as this year’s essays ranged from a description of an eccentric sixth grade social studies teacher by Justin Chew ’07 to a narrative of a round on the golf course by Marina Warsaw-Fan ’07. Mr. Kalkstein said, “Summernet has provided benefits–some of them unlooked for by the creators of the program– beyond the ability to write an essay. Summernet students have generally come to perceive the academic rigor demanded at Andover. Their perception is, we believe, largely a result of working with the student tutors. He continued, “The tutors demand a level of proficiency and an attention of detail that may well be more convincing than the same insistence by teachers. In addition, Summernet has proved to be an effective socialization program: friendships made over the Internet in the summer make PA a welcoming place in September, as Summernet students look for their old friends rather than fearing an unknown and large school.” Evaluations from students who participated in Summernet provided overall praise for the program. Kelly Chang ’07 said, “Summernet helped keep my writing in good shape over the summer. I feel as if I am now more prepared for the English classes at Andover. I also met some very interesting, cool people through the forum. In general, it was a really great experience.” Fellow Summernet participant Matt Villanueva ’07 agreed, “Summernet was very helpful to me because I received some very helpful insight not just from my mentors, but from people my age as well. It was interesting to hear people’s opinions from several different points of view.” Peer tutor Jisung Park ’04 reflected on his Summernet experience, “Overall I think it’s a really helpful program for the students, and I would certainly say that I benefited from it as well. … It’s also good when kids come up to me and introduce themselves from Summernet. I can’t say I remember each one, but when they mention something they did for the course, I recall them from their work.”
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